As Italy’s film and TV industries start to bounce back from the pandemic with a verve reminiscent of the country’s postwar economic boom, the fourth edition of the Filming Italy Sardegna Festival is pulling out all the stops to support this effort.
The event is being held mostly in person July 21-25 on the emerald island that is becoming a prime destination for international shoots, such as the George Clooney-directed TV series “Catch-22,” and more recently Disney’s live-action adaptation of “The Little Mermaid.” It aims to serve as a catalyst for the local industry’s restart, while also fostering the formation of new talents and professionals. The fest will also serve as a campus of sorts for 2,000 ltalian film students.
As for well-established talents Tiziana Rocca, the former Taormina Film Festival chief who three years ago launched this international shindig combining film and TV with a strong accent on women in the biz, is managing the feat of flying over several U.S. actors, including Harvey Keitel, who will serve as this year’s honorary president.
“It’s particularly tough to bring American stars to Sardinia since there are no direct flights,” Rocca says. For her this edition “has a special meaning, because it’s a symbol of the [industry] restart and the cultural rebirth of the entire country.”
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Screenings will take place outdoors in the Forte Village resort near the capital city of Cagliari, which is the fest’s main hub, but also indoors mostly for the students in a UCI multiplex in the city.
“Avengers” star Elizabeth Olsen is expected in Sardinia to receive the Filming Italy Woman Power Award; and Heather Graham will preside over a jury awarding prizes to student shorts. Also making the trek are Rachel Brosnahan and Ana De La Reguera.
Roughly 50 film and TV titles will unspool, the opening movie being French directorial duo Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo’s buzzy chiller “The Deep House” that revisits the haunted house genre with a twist since it is almost entirely set — and shot — under water. That pic and also Australia-set Eric Bana thriller “The Dry,” directed by Robert Connolly, are among those unspooling in a Variety Focus on Films section of titles deemed of special interest and merit chosen by Variety editors.
The Sardinia shindig will also feature the Italian premiere of Jon M. Chu’s adaptation of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Broadway musical “In the Heights,” from Warner Bros., and John Krasinsky chiller sequel “A Quiet Place II,” distributed in Italy by Eagle Pictures.
The standout among Italian cinema offerings is Claudio Cupellini’s post-apocalyptic sci-fier “Land of the Sons,” set in a rural northern Italian wasteland where a young boy embarks on a journey beyond the confines of his home environment driven by his father’s legacy. Valeria Golino, who plays a witch, will be coming to promote.
Highlights from fest’s ample TV component include the Italian premiere of Eva Green drama “The Luminaries,” from Starz, which is based on the eponymous novel by Eleanor Catton set in 19th century New Zealand; British Ancient Rome drama “Domina,” to be presented by its male star Matthew McNulty; and “Anna,” the Sicily-set show centered on a 13-year-old girl who must contend with a viral contagion that kills off all adults on the island. Italian writer-director Niccolò Ammaniti will discuss it in a masterclass.
The Filming Italy Sardegna industry panels fully reflect the event’s spirit. One will look at the challenges faced by European TV series in the global market at this time of great opportunity and feature high-caliber speakers including Maria Pia Ammirati, head of drama at Italian pubcaster RAI; Nathalie Biancolli, senior VP international fiction at France Télévisions; Simone Emmelius, senior VP international fiction at German pubcaster ZDF; and Fremantle COO Andrea Scrosati. Another panel will see top film executives such as Luigi Lonigro, the chief of Italy’s distributor Anica, and Chiara Sbarigia, president of Luce-Cinecittà, discuss the challenges of bringing domestic audiences back into theaters, while U.S. producer Adam Leipzig (“Dead Poets Society,” “March of the Penguins”) will lead the discussion in a third confab titled Getting Your Movie Made in the Post-COVID World.