The Italian film industry, which did not pause during the pandemic, is clearly a top priority within the country’s post COVID-19 recovery plan. The plan sees Rome’s Cinecittà Studios set for a €300 million ($358 million) cash injection earmarked by the European Union’s post-pandemic recovery fund for a radical overhaul of the famed facilities.
In June European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen and Italian premier Mario Draghi jointly visited the Cinecittà lot and held a press conference in its vast Studio 5, known as the late, great Federico Fellini’s second home. Italian culture minister Dario Franceschini announced still undeveloped plans to upgrade and expand the iconic studios “in order to adequately meet the growing international demand” for studio space.
Meanwhile Cinema Italiano will be out in full force at Cannes. Veteran auteur Marco Bellocchio will present his personal doc “Marx Can Wait” out-of-competition and be feted with an honorary Palme d’Or; Nanni Moretti is in competition with ensemble drama “Three Floors”; Alice Rohrwacher (“Happy as Lazzaro”) is back as a co-director of doc “Futura,” which is one of four Italian entries in the Directors’ Fortnight; and newcomer Laura Samani is in Critics’ Week with the fablelike “Small Body,” involving a journey by a young woman to a magical mountainous place where she hopes to have a stillborn baby baptized.
“Italian cinema has grown a lot over the past decade thanks to strong innovative stories and a burst of creativity that simply wasn’t there before,” says Carla Cattani, the head of promotional entity Filmitalia. She notes that “Small Body” and several other Cannes titles by younger directors veer away from the country’s longstanding naturalistic canon.
That is certainly the case with “The Tale of King Crab,” a pic rooted in folklore set in the 19th century about a rebellious young drunkard who accidentally kills his fiancée in a fight with the village chief. He is forced into exile on an island off the Tierra del Fuego province in the extreme south of Argentina, where he embarks on a search for a hidden treasure. And this turns the second half of the film into an homage to Italian Westerns, Cattani says. “King Crab” is directed by Alessio Rigo de Righi and Matteo Zoppis in their feature debut.
Jonas Carpignano’s “A Chiara,” also in Directors’ Fortnight, is deeply steeped in neorealism, albeit with a distinctly fresh approach. It closes Carpignano’s trilogy set in the Southern Italian region of Calabria, following “Mediterranea” and “A Ciambra,” which also launched from the Croisette.
Also bowing in the Fortnight is Iraqi-Italian director Haider Rashid’s “Europa,” about a young Iraqi man who is caught by police after entering Europe through the border between Turkey and Bulgaria. He manages to escape into a wild forest underworld, only to become wounded by Bulgarian migrant hunters.
“Futura,” the high-profile doc co-directed by Rohrwacher, Pietro Marcello (“Martin Eden”) and Francesco Munzi (“Black Souls”) is billed as a “collective investigation” by the three auteurs into expectations and prospects for the future of present-day Italian adolescents. Doc is believed to be loosely inspired by Pier Paolo Pasolini’s 1965 documentary “Comizi D’Amore” (“Love Encounters”).
Segueing from Cannes, Filmitalia will hold its annual Italian Screenings showcase of new Cinema Italiano from July 21-25, as a physical event in the hillside town of Frascati, near Rome. Besides the well-known local white wine select buyers will get a full immersion into the latest Italo pics in a state-of-the-art multiplex, including sneak previews of titles that will soon launch from Locarno, Venice, Toronto and other top international fests. There will be no shortage of fresh fare on display.