Filipinos flock to Cinema Italiano

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Davide Lacopini, Jennifer Ulrich and Andrea Bosca

At one point in the Hollywood musical drama inspired by Italian master Federico Fellini’s “8½,” “Nine,” one of the characters sings, “My life is real with Cinema Italiano.”

When explaining the distinct mark of the Italian silver-screen to Filipino audiences, Italian Senator Goffredo Bettini buttressed the line from “Nine” by recognizing realism as their cinema’s strong suit and applauded Filipino filmmakers for upholding the same quality in their work.

“This characteristic is actually love for the camera… this characteristic, I find it very strongly in directors like [Brillante] Mendoza and many other young Filipino directors,” said Bettini. “Mendoza shows love for the things he shows. There is no division—the way the director intends to show it and the way it is shown—it is seamless.”

Bettini was also the general director of this year’s Moviemov Italian Film Festival, held at Greenbelt 3 Cinemas Dec. 5-9.

With the theme “Celebrating Spaghetti Westerns and Other Tasteful Genres,” Moviemov paid homage to renowned Italian director and the Father of the Spaghetti Western, Sergio Leone, by holding screenings of his films. Among them were “The Colossus of Rhodes”; “A Fistful of Dollars”; “For a Few Dollars More”; “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly”; “Once Upon a Time in the West”; “A Fistful of Dynamite”; and “Once Upon a Time in America.”

Alongside Leone’s movies were contemporary Italian films, which showcased the current language of Cinema Italiano.

“This is a cinema that is not ideological,” said Bettini. “Cinema is always what you see. Those who always try to build external ideas on top of the reality shown by the film usually do not do good films, and this is where I find a [similar] dimension between Filipino and Italian cinema.”

Vanessa Gravina

The film festival opened with the award-winning docufiction “Caesar Must Die!” by Paolo and Vittorio Taviani, which was also voted Best Film by Filipino audiences in Moviemov 2012.

Other contemporary Italian movies shown were “Diaz: Don’t Clean up This Blood” by Daniele Vicari; “The Entrepreneur” by Giulio Montaldo; “The Interval” by Leonardo di Costanzo; “Magnificent Presence” by Ferzan Ozpetek; “A Flat for Three in Paradise” by Carlo Verdone; and “Piazza Fontana: The Italian Conspiracy” by Marco Tullio Giordana.

Joining Senator Bettini in the presentation of Moviemov were actors Alessio Gallo, Andrea Bosca, Davide Lacopini, Jennifer Ulrich, Salvatore Striano and Vanessa Gravina. Italian journalist and film critic Piera Detassis also flew in for the event.

Docu on G8 Summit

German Ulrich and Lacopini (who was born in Genoa) represented “Diaz: Don’t Clean up This Blood,” an Italian co-production with Romania and France, where the two co-starred. The sociopolitical film tackled the police brutality that occurred during the 2001 G8 Summit in a school-turned-media-center in Genoa, Italy.

Aided by the real trials held to examine the extent of police brutality during the demonstration, Vicari, the film’s director, wanted to bring audiences back in time so that they could see for themselves what really happened then. He did so through the various viewpoints of those who witnessed the event—the Italian security forces, the journalists, the protesters, and the human-rights advocates.

Despite the continuous shifts in time and perspective all throughout the film, Vicari ably maximized a hodgepodge of details and effectively created a coherent weave out of all the personal accounts they came across during research.

Sen. Goffredo Bettini, director of Moviemov Italian Film Festival. PHOTOS BY JILSON SECKLER TIU

“I think what’s going to happen to the viewers is the same thing that happened to me when I was reading the script,” said Ulrich. “It’s really shocking, and it hits you so strong in your heart. It’ll make a big impression—raise questions about how democracy works and how we can prevent things like that. It’s emotional, very strong and intense.”

The actress was not mistaken when she said that the film would stir strong emotions among audience members, as they were eager to give feedback and ask questions after the screening, much to the delight of the actors. After all, a film like “Diaz” would, indeed, be well-received by a people who have known something similar, with the likes of martial law.

Another film that won audiences over was Ozpetek’s “Magnifica Presenza.” The comedy plays out the quaint life of Pietro, who is an aspiring actor by day and a croissant baker at night. Entering the monotony of middle age, he discovers that the flat he had recently moved into is actually occupied by spirits with the oddest of unfinished businesses. In his attempt to help the ghosts find peace, he also finds himself.

Bosca, who plays the role of Luca Veroli (one of Pietro’s love interests) in “Magnifica Presenza,” saw how Filipinos could easily relate to the film because it brought together themes that were otherwise considered solely Western or distinctly Asian.

“Just to be here and to be able to listen to the people—how they live, what their values are—I think it is exciting because it makes you face the other part of the heart, the other world,” said Bosca. “Your stories are very interesting for us in this way, and I hope that we can share these [stories], ours and yours. I hope that you will enjoy the movie because it’s a link, it’s a bridge for two different countries, two parts of the heart, two ways to see reality, and to just live.”

Bosca, along with the rest of the Moviemov ambassadors, stressed the importance of bridging the gap between European and Asian cinema. He also revealed that, like in the Philippines, government support for culture and the arts in Italy had diminished, and their film industry was feeling the crunch.

Over the years, the Italian budget for culture has been cut, with only a few members of parliament fighting for it to be replenished. Among them is Senator Bettini, who has made his support and stand on the matter clearly by organizing Moviemov and bringing it beyond their homeland.

Filipino features

On its second consecutive year in the Philippines, Moviemov sought to expand the dialogue between the Italian and Filipino movie industries. The film festival also featured a wide range of local movies. Included in the lineup were “Genghis Khan” by Manuel Conde; “Dekada ’70” by Chito S. Roño; “The Mistress” by Olivia Lamasan; and “Qiyamayah” by Gutierrez Mangansakan III.

Two winners of the Film Development Council of the Philippines’ Sineng Pambansa-National Film Festival: Ikalawang Yugto were also presented during Moviemov—Grand Prize winner “Anac ti Pating,” by Martin Masadao; and Best Documentary, “The Return of the Star” (Ang Pagbabalik ng Bituin), by Sherbien Dacalanio.

Baguio-based Masadao set his film in his hometown. It follows the blossoming of young Sixto Mangaoang, a fifth-grade math whiz who had a keen interest in the arts. As the school year comes to a close, Sixto does not only find a mentor in an aging neighbor, but also goes through puppy love and learns the true story behind his birth.

“In 2011, I was art director for Loy Arcenas’ ‘Niño,’ and during our shoot, I was thinking that one day I would want to work on a film about the coming-of-age of a pre-adolescent boy,” Masadao said.

While local films met their expected fanfare, reception for the Italian films was quite overwhelming, with each free screening earning a full-house. It even came to a point when some of the Italian representatives and VIPs willingly gave up their places during certain shows to accommodate those who waited outside the theater for seats to open up.

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