Two decades after its launch, Italy’s National Film Museum in Turin is pushing out into VR and looking to boost its role as a magnet for global movie lovers and a catalyst for the local film industry.
The venerable cinematic shrine housed in the iconic Mole Antonelliana domed tower, which is the Northern city’s main landmark, has long been known as a treasure trove of movie memorabilia, including pre-cinema magic lanterns and Federico Fellini’s red scarf and letters, as well as for its sleek glass elevator leading to a stunning view of Turin and the Alps in the surrounding Piedmont region.
As an institution, the Turin museum also serves as the core organization behind a trio of festivals: the Torino Film Festival, which is Italy’s leading indie cinema event; the ecology-themed CinemAmbiente; and the Lovers Film Festival, Europe’s first fest dedicated to LGBTQ+ films, a standout on the international circuit.
The museum also runs the three-screen Cinema Massimo movie theater, a film restoration laboratory, and has a hand in the TorinoFilmLab, a prominent incubator that supports global talents with several programs.
Turin, the city of big boulevards, truffle risotto and Barolo wine that will be hosting the 2022 Eurovision Song Contest, is where Italy’s first blockbuster, the 1914 Roman epic “Cabiria,” was made. Local honchos have long been aching for the city to regain status as a moviemaking hub, especially after the multinational repositioning of automaker Fiat, that once gave it cachet as the country’s automaking capital.
“We have a complex eco-system that comprises the museum, our festivals, TorinoFilmLab and the Torino film commission,” says the museum’s director Domenico De Gaetano.
De Gaetano notes that since reopening the museum after COVID-19 struck, he’s stepped up efforts to innovate by adding two VR screening rooms that currently offer titles/viewing experiences programmer with the same criteria used by movie theaters thanks to an agreement with pubcaster RAI’s RAI Cinema film unit that provides the museum a steady stream of fresh VR fare every two weeks.
“We are the only film museum in the world that regularly programs VR titles,” says De Gaetano, who also points out that during the Venice Film Festival in September, the Turin museum became the satellite host venue for Venice’s entire VR competition section that was moved from the Lido to Turin due to COVID constraints.
During the pandemic, in June 2020, to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the museum, which at the time was shuttered, De Gaetano started a series of high-tech so-called video-mapping screenings that involved movie icon stills and clips, including a montage of the best kisses in film history, beamed on each side of the museum’s cupola.
Then this summer he enlisted ace choreographer Luca Tomassini, who has worked with Madonna, for a video-mapping extravaganza where real live acrobatic “vertical dancing” on the tip on the tower was integrated with projections of movie icon stills and of a montage by Italian videomaker Donato Sansone, titled “Red Cars,” that draws from a David Cronenberg art book of materials for an eponymous film by the Canadian director that was never produced.
Plans are now underway for the “Red Cars” Cronenberg tribute, which is produced by the Turin museum, to be beamed next year during the Toronto Film Festival via high-tech projectors onto four buildings in central Toronto’s Bloor Street, said De Gaetano.
There are also big plans to renovate and overhaul the film museum by tapping into post-pandemic European Union funds, an opportunity “that we have to seize,” says the institution’s president Enzo Ghigo, who is a former Piedmont region governor. The overarching ambition is to take the Turin film shrine, and the film industry ecosystem it stands for to the next level.