Nothing is better than a good ol’ Italian feast – Pizza, Pasta, Vino, and a quality Italian Film! We got to talk to Festival Director, Elysia Zeccola, all about film, family and food.
The Italian Film Festival was founded in 2000 by Antonio Zeccola who, in one of Australia’s many migrant success stories, built Australia’s only national boutique cinema network, which now encompasses more than one hundred screens nationally. After realising that Australia had a range of different festivals, but none dedicated to Italian cinema, he had an idea. Thus, the Italian Film Festival was born, and it was a huge success!
The festival is a celebration of Italian culture: the cinema, language, music and cuisine that all play a part in creating that Italian experience. It thrives on it’s handpicked selection of films from other prestigious film festivals around the world, such as Cannes, Berlin, Venice, and Rome, and brings them to Australia’s big screens.
Festival Director, Elysia Zeccola, has close family ties to cinema and film, as well as the Film Festival itself, growing up watching Italian film and now working with her immediately family to produce the Festival!
The Italian Film Festival appears to be quite a family affair. What is it like working with so many members of your family?
I like it! I see my immediate family six days a week: five days in the office, and then lunch every Saturday so that the cousins (my kids and my brother’s kids) can all run around together at Nonno and Nonna’s house – while we continue to talk about work! We have a professional respect for each other and we treat each other like colleges in the office and like family on the weekends.
What made you so passionate about film, and in particular, Italian film?
I grew up watching foreign-language films from a young age, films like Indochine, La Haine and Cinema Paradiso were some of my favourite films growing up. I still get butterflies in my stomach when the lights darken and the curtains open and a film is about to start. In that moment I always think that there is nowhere else I would rather be than in the cinema. I love Italian films because being Italian is a strong part of my identity. I always felt that I should be living in Italy, I have always felt like a fish-out-of-water here, so watching films from my father’s homeland make me feel at home. It’s a hard feeling to explain.
Why are people so drawn to Italian film?
Throughout the history of cinema, Italian films have ranked among the most influential and important. Our audiences are attracted to typical Italian comedies such as the hilarious It’s the law! from comedic duo Ficcara and Piccone or the stunning dramas which echo a new neorealism emerging from the new generation of directors telling their stories with themes reflecting the issues in Italy today such as waves of immigration, deep-rooted regional differences, and the difficult economic climate, for example Sun Heart Love and Pure Hearts.
Some people may be hesitant to come along if they can’t speak Italian. Is the festival exclusively for fluent Italian speakers?
Absolutely not! I love Russian films too but I don’t speak a word of Russian. All films are subtitled and you really don’t notice reading them after a few minutes.
Pizza or Pasta?
BOTH! You can’t make me choose. And bread and cheese and vino and dolci, I eat everything and I’ve never been on a diet. I believe Italian cuisine is one of the healthiest in the world.
What is your must see film this year?
Roberto De Paolis’ feature debut Pure Hearts really moved me in Cannes this year where it screened in Directors’ Fortnight. I highly recommend it because it is a very engaging boy-meets-girl story that is beautifully acted by two newcomers, and the director weaves in many of the issues facing Italy today so it is an excellent example of contemporary Italian cinema.
Can I mention two? I also loved Indivisible a dark and beautiful story of twins joined at the hip, it is set in Napoli and they are singers that perform at events so their family make money off them, but when a doctor tells them they look like they could be separated, one twin wants this more than the other. It’s an unusual story with a wonderful sense of place and stunning cinematography.
Italians do it better! Come and experience something a little different from a classic Italian comedy to new neorealism, enjoy their Italian hospitality (real coffee, a nice glass of vino), experience a little bit of la dolce vita!
The Italian Film Festival is an event not to be missed, and will be held in Brisbane from the 20th September to the 8th October. Get your tickets here www.italianfilmfestival.com.au