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Italian Film Festival invites audiences to dream now, travel later

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Nobody does soaring landscapes, azure waters, glorious architecture, mouthwatering pasta and sweeping romance like the Italians. And with audiences unable to get their fix of la bella Italia due to the impacts of Covid-19, the director of the Studio Italia Cinema Italiano Festival says coming to the movies is the next best thing.

Paolo Rotondo, who has lovingly selected the films for this year’s programme, says its 2021 theme - "dream now, travel later" - is a reminder that good things will come to those who wait, even though jumping on a flight to Roma or his hometown, Napoli, is still many months away. "It may sound sentimental, but working on this festival constantly reminds me to have gratitude" begins Rotondo, whose sixth Cinema Italiano kicks off in New Plymouth before travelling the country. "I’m talking to Italian and international distributors all the time, and they often remind me that sharing cinema together here in New Zealand - where Covid is no longer a large-scale threat - is rare and unique. They look to us with wonder, and therefore I am compelled to appreciate it!"

New Zealand’s most romantic film festival, visiting 20 centres nationwide, begins its run at the beautiful Govett-Brewster Art Gallery on June 17th. Rotondo says its line-up of films is designed to compel audiences to laugh, cry, dream and fall in love all over again.

"There were undoubtedly fewer films available this year due to the restrictions in Italy, and many filmmakers were forced to release their films online instead of cinemas," Rotondo says. "My approach was to find films or directors that really appealed to me personally, and that 's why you will see more classics and contemporary classics - all of which help viewers escape to Italia, at least in their hearts and imaginations."

Such masterpieces include the opening night film La Dea Fortuna - presented by major sponsor, Italian interior design specialists Studio Italia, and continuing a long-standing association with the festival. "It’s a truly romantic story", says Rotondo, "because it contains so many of the triumphs and tribulations that real relationships experience. It’s a sophisticated, grown-up celebration of love and life, never afraid to soar with beauty but equally heartbreaking and somehow both a comedy and truly profound drama."

The film is set against a backdrop of classic Italian architecture, including a 17 th century villa in Bagheria, near Palermo.

The Embassy of Italy Wellington and L’Istituto Italiano di Cultura Sydney, the festival’s cultural sponsors, present three must-see masterpieces - two of which feature the

talents of screen siren Sophia Loren - Marriage Italian Style, and La Ciociara, for which she won an Oscar. "If any actor had been in these two films alone, they would be considered a star. Still, for Sophia Loren, they are just two highlights among so many matchless performances."

Rotondo, who is currently preparing to direct a film made entirely in te reo Maori and Italian, says he and his partner - Cinema Italiano Festival Artistic Director Renee Mark - are certainly missing taking their two children to visit family in Italy this year. His tūrangawaewae is, he says, "the sea at Posillipo in the Bay of Napoli. Those crystal-clear waters under the eye of the Vesuvio are my waters. And I really miss them."

But, as he notes, a shift is afoot - and right now is Kiwis’ time to dream, imagine and engage with everything the festival has to offer. "I feel very distinctly that another pervading theme this year is ‘change’. Il Gattopardo shows change through the fading aristocracy during the infancy of the republic, and The Goddess Fortune speaks of the changing structures of what family is today. Another example is The Traitor, which chronicles the first Mafia turncoat. Revolution, transformation and challenges seem to be peppered thematically in every film, from comedies to documentaries.

"Our change - the ability to explore the world again - is not too far away either."

The Studio Italia Cinema Italiano (Italian Film Festival) screens in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, Waiheke Island, Matakana, Tauranga, Whakatane, Taupo, Napier, Havelock North, New Plymouth, Palmerston North, Masterton, Nelson, Blenheim, Dunedin and Arrowtown.

Times and ticketing information available at:

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