Articles by: Natasha Lardera

  • Art & Culture

    Emerging Film Talents and Esteemed Veterans

    “We’re excited that Open Roads is returning with such a wide range of films and talent coming out of Italy today,” said Isa Cucinotta, co-programmer, with Dennis Lim, of the 2015 edition of Open Roads. “From genre films to experimental works, returning masters to new voices, the scope and talent on display is unprecedented. Ermanno Olmi and Mario Martone present gorgeous period films, while newcomers Duccio Chiarini and Roan Johnson’s hilarious comedies explore the tribulations of young adults. For families, there is The Invisible Boy, the newest superhero to arrive on screen!”

    Now in its fourteenth year, the festival is organized by the Film Society of Lincoln Center and the Istituto Luce Cinecittà in collaboration with the Italian Cultural Institute of New York and with the support of Antonio Monda, Casa Italiana Zerilli-Marimò, the Italian Trade Commission, Kim R. Brizzolara and The Blanche & Irving Laurie Foundation.

    “This year’s program strikes a satisfying balance,” Isa Cucinotta continued, “between emerging talents and esteemed veterans—as well as (at least) one master: Ermanno Olmi, among the nation’s leading lights for over half a century. As always, the series includes both commercial and independent fare, ranging from stage adaptations to biopics, warm human comedies to experimental dramas.”

    “This year is remarkable not only for the variety of genres,” said Antonio Monda, “but also for its diverse settings, in both time and space, and stories.” Monda has been crucial to the creation and development of the festival over the years. The various “stories” include the haunting World War I meditation Greenery Will Bloom Again, by 83-year-old master Ermanno Olmi; The Invisible Boy, a sci-fi comic adventure about a young teen with supernatural powers, by veteran director and Oscar winner Gabriele Salvatores; Sabina Guzzanti’s The State-Mafia Pact, a hilarious political-documentary hybrid starring the director herself in the role of Silvio Berlusconi.

    This year’s edition of Open Roads has a bevy of films by female directors, a first in the history of the festival. Opening night kicks off with Latin Lover by Cristina Comencini, followed by An Italian Name by Francesca Archibugi, N-Capace by newcomer Eleonora Danco, and the aforementioned The State-Mafia Pact. “We tried to really focus on female creativity in Italian cinema,” explained Monda. “It is time that female directors are given their due. And we are happy to say that the Italian film industry is expanding to make room for these amazing directors.”

    Among the films of note are 9x10 Novanta, nine short films made by 10 young Italian filmmakers (Marco Bonfanti, Claudio Giovannesi, Alina Marazzi, Pietro Marcello, Sara Fgaier, Giovanni Piperno, Costanza Quatriglio, Paola Randi, Alice Rohrwacher & Roland Sejko) in honor of the Istituto Luce’s 90th anniversary. Many of the filmmakers, including Francesca Archibugi, Duccio Chiarini, Cristina Comencini, Roan Johnson, Mario Martone, MASBEDO, Ivano De Matteo, Lamberto Sanfelice and Gabriele Salvatores, will appear in person to speak to audiences about their films.

    Along with the screenings, the program features a photo exhibit to be held at the Frieda and Roy Furman Gallery. Looking with Michelangelo Antonioni is an exhibition of Renato Zacchi’s

    rare photographs of Antonioni taken during the shoot of one of his final documentaries, Sicily (1997).

  • Art & Culture

    WEBulli: Tackling the Issue of Cyberbullying with Theater

    “Bullying, especially in schools, has always existed, this is nothing new, and adolescents have this inherent need to be noticed. But how has this changed with the rise of social networks and new technologies? 

    Once upon a time bullied kids risked beatings at school or to be excluded from the group of the "coolest" ones and in class they were teased or given mean nicknames that stuck, at times, for the longest time. Secret journals, thoughts written on notebooks and notes passed from hand to hand collected the most hidden thoughts. 

    Today physical 'slaps' have become intangible; they have been replaced by embarrassing videos posted online, anonymous messages, stolen photos and fake identities. Physically they hurt less, but how much do they hurt morally? Today people's most intimate confessions and images are posted on the web without any kind of filter, they are accessible to anybody and often there is no awareness of the consequences that some posts may have.”

    The show WEBulli, was just presented in New York during the theater festival In Scena! It investigates the current phenomena of cyberbullying and sexting, in other words, acts of bullying and harassment and the exchange of explicit content of a sexual nature made through the new digital media. Two actors, Serena Facchini and Ermanno Nardi, who happen to also be the writers of the play, address the issue with an irreverent language, that is light and poetic at the same time. 

    WEBulli brings theater and video art together, it tells a story alternating history with personal anecdotes and bringing on stage an exaggeration that makes you smile but that gently brings out something tragic. We had a chance to ask Serena Facchini and Ermanno Nardi a few questions upon their return to Italy.

    You act in the show but you also created it, how did you get the idea of WEBulli?

    The show WEBulli is a piece of a bigger puzzle; a major project centered on the prevention of the cyberbullying and sexting phenomena among adolescents in middle and high school in the region of Lombardia. Hence the idea to present this issue in a show, starting from the world of social networks how we change our identity for them, and how some of use experience these dramatic developments. We try to weave a light and comic language to a more poetic and dramatic one. We organized some labs with the students and that gave us a lot of material to work with; including the music, the language and even the stories.

    How did you pick the title?

    The title WEBulli come from putting together the words WEB and Bulli (Bully in English); a new term used to indicate cyberbullies, today's new virtual bullies.

    You use humor and lightness to talk about something tragic, how important is it to tackle the issue of cyberbullying?

    Unfortunately the phenomenon of cyberbullying is becoming increasingly potent in Italy and abroad. We believe it is very important to talk about this subject but that's not all. It's important and vital to raise awareness among young people and to educate them to proper use of their image online.Today's social networks are becoming the personal and intimate journals of yesterday, often there is no understanding that all that is posted online becomes public knowledge.

    How important is theater in educating kids?

    We think that theater is a great way to talk about such an emotionally compelling topic. We tell a story that could be the story of anybody, of my friend or of your friend. It's a story that can be familiar to us all. In this way we have opened a window of opportunity, and it is the opportunity to say: “this is not fiction, this is something that can happen to all of us.” And also: “We don't have to be bullies to play the game. If we like something, if we post something or we share something else we are playing the game, and so we all are responsible.”

    How did the audience react to the show here in the US?

    We got an amazing reaction. Although the show was in Italian with English subtitles, the audience was very attentive and they reacted to both the lightest and most comic moments and the most dramatic ones. We often debate with the kids in Italian schools and we did the same here after our shows at the Staten Island College and at the Bernie Wohl Centre. Kids here and there have the same issues and talking about this is essential both here and there.

  • Art & Culture

    All the Best of Titanus at the Film Society of Lincoln Center

    What do films like "Le Amiche" by Michelangelo Antonioni, "The Bird" with the Crystal Plumage / L’uccello dalle piume di cristallo by Dario Argento, Totò Diabolicus by Steno and Two Women / "La Ciociara" by Vittorio De Sica have in common? They were all produced by the Italian film studio Titanus, also known as “the Italian MGM.”

    Starting on May 22, and ending on the 31, the Film Society of Lincoln Center presents an all-Italian film series: Titanus, A Family Chronicle of Italian Cinema. 

    Featuring works by filmmakers like Federico Fellini, Vittorio De Seta, Michelangelo Antonioni, Ermanno Olmi, Dario Argento, Vittorio De Sica, and Mario Monicelli, among others, the series focuses mainly on the films produced at Titanus from the late ’40s to the early ’60s, when the studio was arguably at its best.

    The Titanus retrospective was launched at last year’s Locarno Film Festival, and following the presentation at the Film Society of Lincoln Center, it is then set to travel to the American Cinematheque and the USC School of Cinematic Arts in Los Angeles.

    Organized by Isa Cucinotta and Dennis Lim for the Film Society of Lincoln Center, the program was selected from the Titanus retrospective curated by Roberto Turigliatto and Sergio M. Germani at the 2014 Locarno Film Festival, organized in collaboration with the Cineteca di Bologna, the Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia – Cineteca Nazionale (National Film Archive), the Istituto Luce Cinecittà, and the Cinémathèque suisse in Lausanne.

    “Titanus, which was the equivalent of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and 20th Century Fox—studios with whom Titanus co-produced several films in the 1960s,” representatives of the Film Society have declared.

    “Was responsible for early works by Antonioni, Argento, De Sica, Fellini, and Luchino Visconti, as well as provided a production home for a number of other notable directors, including Mario Bava, Giorgio Bianchi, Luigi Comencini, Vittorio De Seta, Riccardo Freda, Alberto Lattuada, Camillo Mastrocinque, Ermanno Olmi, Brunello Rondi, Francesco Rosi, and Agusto Tretti. During that time, the studio was noted for a robust combination of lowbrow comedies and sword-and-sandal epics, which would later be deemed classics.”

    Founded in 1904 by Gustavo Lombardo and run by him until his death in 1951, when his son Goffredo took over, Titanus remains in the family to this day, but its glorious days definitely were the first 15 years of Goffredo’s administration, “a time when soul-searching works by Fellini and Antonioni alternated with gruesome fright fests by Argento and Mario Bava, and transatlantic co-productions occurred long before they were common.”

    Among the selection of famous classics and lesser known films, there are many different gems, including Vittorio De Sica’s Two Women (1960), for which Sofia Loren won an Academy Award for her heartbreaking portrayal of a widow struggling to survive with her daughter in World War II, Dario Argento’s The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (1970) starring Tony Musante as an American writer who witnesses a knife attack on a woman and gets caught up in an investigation to find the culprit, Michelangelo Antonioni’s Le Amiche (1955), an adaptation by the filmmaker himself of Cesare Pavese’s novella Among Women Only, the story of a young woman who returns to her native Turin to set up a new fashion salon which won the Silver Bear at the Venice Film Festival and Giuseppe De Santis, Mario Serandrei, Marcello Pagliero & Luchino Visconti's Days of Glory (1945), a documentary, rarely screened in the U.S., which captures the  German occupation of Rome and the Italian resistance in World War II. 

    Screenings will take place at the Walter Reade Theater (165 West 65th Street). 

  • Art & Culture

    Mia Madre: a Tale of Unconditional Love, Movie Sets and Loss

    “From Cannes, I would accept anything.” With these words, Italian filmmaker Nanni Moretti had, a couple of months ago, anticipated his participation at this year's Cannes Film Festival with his latest effort, “Mia Madre.”

    The relationship between Moretti and Cannes is a fortunate one: the director has already won the Palme d’Or for “The Son’s Room” (2001) and has had five previous films in competition at Cannes: “Ecce bombo” (1978); “Dear Diary” (1994), which won him a directing prize; “Aprile” (1998); “The Caiman” (2006);  “We Have a Pope” (2011). In addition, Moretti has also presided the Cannes jury in 2012.

    At the premiere of his film, which has opened in Italy back in April and has been pretty successful, Moretti seemed touched by a 10 minute long applause and the emotional reaction of the audience. 

    “When you come to Cannes you realize how cinema is being treated abroad: by journalists, critics, producers, politicians alike,” Moretti told the Italian press agency ANSA, “There is great care, great joy but also great professionalism. In Italy instead there is so much sadness and so much sloppiness. I return to Italy happy for seeing that all this is possible but also sad because I know how things are in my country.”

    “'This international audience, watches my film and that's that, they judge it for what it is,” he continued to say, “Nothing else is taken into consideration, which is different from what happens back in Italy where people don't judge only my film but also my public persona, my political views, the interviews I give, my level of likeability, my attitude towards the press and much more. In Italy more factors influence the reception of my films, here a film is a film.” 

    Starring Moretti himself along with Margherita Buy and John Turturro, “Mia Madre” tells the story of a film director having to deal with a dying mother and other crises. That of the mortality of a parent who represents unconditional love is a theme that has a universal appeal - a troubling topic that all of us will face. Moretti's telling is sweet and sentimental and pretty biographic. This is a film that faces reality head-on.

    The main character is Margherita, played by Margherita Buy, a film director who is stressing out on the set of her new movie (which is very reminiscent of Moretti). Her brother, Giovanni, payed by Moretti, represents much-needed stability and is the one who brings home-cooked meals and good humor. The two have to deal with the impending loss of their mother, s a former teacher, like Moretti’s own mother. Margherita tries her best to cope with everything but the real headache comes when American actor Barry Huggins, played by John Turturro,  arrives on set to play the role of a factory boss. Turturro's presence gives that touch of humor that is necessary to provide a break from more somber moments. 

    “There is a lot of me in Margherita,” Moretti has declared, “When I was writing the script I had Margherita Buy in mind. Giovanni is the Nanni I would like to be. Margherita has a certain uneasiness, as well as nervousness and inadequacy. She's not a caregiver, she's not able at keeping it all together but she's always having a tough time and she is always somewhere else with her mind, thinking about something else. Yes this is a film about death but it is also about what is left behind to those who are still living.”  

  • Facts & Stories

    Tackling the Issue of Immigrantion with Canzoniere Grecanico Salentino

    Set to text by Neapolitan author Erri de Luca, and directed by actor and director Alessandro Gassmann, "Solo Andata" (One Way Ticket) is the latest video, for the song by the same title, by Canzoniere Grecanico Salentino, Italy's leading band on the world music scene. "Solo Andata" is the first single from the group’s album Quaranta (40) which celebrates 40 years of activity.

    The video addresses the ongoing issue of immigrants arriving from North Africa to Italy's shores. The setting is in Sbiaggiabella, in the province of Lecce, Puglia, we see an old man, portrayed by Manrico Gammarota, is going fishing in an area marked by a NO FISHING sign.

    From the dark and agitated sea, he sees emerge between the waves the figures of some migrants, who, with anxious strokes, reach the shore. The desperation of the shipwrecked reminds the fisherman of his mother, an immigrant herself.

    Her appearance, first in a photograph and then “in person,” brings forth an imaginary bridge between past and present, a present similar to the past where the others were not welcome but there were always people able to see their humanity and helping out.

    At the end of Canzoniere Grecanico Salentino’s song we see Erri De Luca himself, looking straight at us, in in voice over we hear his words. “Embraced by the Mediterranean, migrants from Africa and the East sink into the hollow between waves. The sack of seeds brought from home goes scattered through seaweed and hair. Dry land in Italy is a land locked down. We let them drown to drown them out.”

    Every day hundreds of migrants, the ones who make it to shore, seek refuge in Italy. On a daily basis we hear news similar to this one: at least ten victims of a shipwreck were found 40 miles from the Libyan coast… all the others, who knows how many, are lost at sea. A boat full of migrants has capsized and sunk.

    The night before a couple hundreds reached the shore: a few were sent to the hospital while the rest were transferred to the nearest city’s sport facility. Some are trying to reach another destination, some just want to stay.

    “In Italy, the doors are closed to migrants,” Erri De Luca has said in the past, “People know who these others are: they’re new citizens who have come here to give a jolt to a society that is tired and old.” But not everybody sees it that way, and Canzoniere Grecanico Salentino wanted to share their vision.

    i-Italy had the chance to ask Mauro Durante, the group’s leader and offspring of CGS's founding members, a few questions.

    Currently, how’s the migration issue viewed in Italy?
    There is a heated debate on the subject. Unfortunately some politicians are trying to feed on the fear of the moment, sending out messages that are xenophobic and racist. There is no space for questions of color or political affiliation, this issue is one of the greatest tragedies of history… regardless. These people should be helped, by the entire European community, that’s what it exists for, otherwise this “community” is false and useless.

    Can you tell us more on Solo Andata? How was this song conceived and how did you decide to collaborate with De Luca?
    "Solo Andata" is the story of many meetings. The idea was of the pugliese journalist Gabriella Della Monaca, following the meeting of my father Daniele with Erri De Luca. We planned to set Erri’s poem, taken from his book Solo Andata, to music: consequently we met with the Canzoniere, Alessandro Gassmann and Amnesty International. Everybody joined in with enthusiasm and faith, as this project wants to give human dignity back to all migrants. It’s our way to say “Stop Indifference.”

    Who’s different is seen as the enemy. How do you address this with music?
    Both music and dance, but dance most of all, have the power to eliminate distances. Through the symbolism of dance we want to convey our effort to recover a strong spirit of solidarity and community. In dance there is no difference in age, social class, race, sex; we all are in the same condition, with our feet on the ground, looking at each other as we “touch.” We must rediscover the importance of real contact.

    Solo Andata  has already earned Amnesty International Italy's 2014 Arts and Human Rights Award Riccardo Noury of Amnesty International Italia called it an “extraordinary piece, it talks about immigrants and refugees trying to give them back some dignity, rights, humanity that are taken away by those who see them as a problem, a number, a menace and a danger.”

  • Life & People

    Viola di Mare: For the Love of a Woman

    Isabella Carloni is the writer, director and interpreter of Viola di Mare a one of a kind play that opened the third edition of In Scena! The Italian theater festival in  New York at Casa Italiana Zerilli Marimo'. Viola di Mare is based on the novel Minchia di re by Giacomo Pilati.

    This is the story: on a Sicilian island, at the time of the Italian Risorgimento, Pina falls in love with another woman. In order to live this forbidden love, safe from the rage of her father and the judgment of the town, Pina decides to become a man...she will do so for the rest of her life. So she becomes Pino, a “man” who inherits his father's powers and who rules a bunch of workers. Appearance is what dictates the rules of the game...

    Isabella Carloni penetrates in this reality, a  reality where Sicily is a wonderful place but also a
    harsh place that does not accept, does not have room for what is different.  We asked her a few questions.

    How did you discover Viola di Mare and how did you decide to bring this story to the stage?

    I read the book Minchia di re by Giacomo Pilati and I was immediately enraptured by this incredible story, a real story that took place in Sicily during the Italian Risorgimento. Using Italian History, History with a capital H, as a backdrop, to be specific, a historic moment when people were working on building a national identity, I tell a Sicilian story, a story of identity set in a harsh and sunny Sicily, where Pina decides to become a man because of her love for another woman.


    Yet, regardless of all historical references, Pina's story is timeless, as it talks about human condition, our present, our restlessness, our universal search for freedom and love. I think that the first impulse that brought me to stage this story, even before thinking about the topic itself, was my desire to wear a different skin, to become a man just like Pina does because of her love for Sara. And then I was attracted to all the contradictions, all the conflicts and all the different points of view - there are several characters and I portray them all, therefore my body undergoes many different transformations. At first I did not think of the play being a monologue but the more I worked on it the more I realized that was the way to go: Pina is alone on stage and she has decided to tell everybody the truth. But all the surfacing memories have their own effect on her, the event becomes a sort of judgment day and, in the end, she makes a different choice.

    How difficult was it to detach yourself from the literary text and tell this story with the language of theater?

    Before I started writing I went to visit the wonderful Island of Favignana, the setting of the story.
    The colors, the island's different smells, its scenery and tufa queries were essential in giving me inspiration and helping me dive into my work. I believe that images inspire the creative process both in writing and in acting.

    My body immediately became both voice and space, both voice and rhythm: I had to find Pina's body which is also Pino's body and the body of all the other characters that take part in the story. It was necessary from the very beginning to find the appropriate dramaturgical idea that would help the story present itself: the protagonist is waiting for a painter who is going to paint her portrait and unveil her true identity. I had to detach myself from the literary text in order to find the right language.

    I had to find direct and specific words that give life to the different characters of the play, each with their own characteristics, vacillating between the most poetic moments between Sara and Pina, between the most crude and cruel moments between her father and her mother and with Cecé, the old man who gives Pina, as if he were giving her a gift, her new identity... that of the sea purple, that fish that changes its color for love (this is a male fish who, for love, becomes female, lays eggs, and then becomes male again). The play tells a story but not in a naturalistic language, but rather epic-narrative where the body becomes stylized and symbolic, almost like a dance.

    How did you succeed in diving into a Sicilian reality and how was it different back then compared to now?

    I know Sicily really well and for a long time, thanks to local friends but also to my theater work. What has been crucial in order to work on this project was the collaboration and the closeness with the book's author, Giacomo Pilati. When I was rewriting the story for the theater I could reach out to him and ask him any question I had – mostly when I was looking for a word in Italian because it exists only in Sicilian dialect. If you say "tuppulìo" instead of " busso"  (knock) or if you say "ciàuro" instead of "odore" (smell) things just are different: because you feel those words with your whole body, you almost touch them and you know that they're better conveyed that way. Regarding Sicilian reality back then and now, I can say that yes, forms of oppression and negation of freedom have changed but the constraints of the social rules we undergo, the difficulty of living in freedom or living according to our own diversity are still present. Maybe they're more subtle but not less powerful and at times our society is as intolerant as back then.

    Appearance vs. identity, who wins?

    Complexity wins! Because life in all its forms is in a continuous flow and it cannot be crushed into some sort of confine. Our definitions, the labels that we attach to people are only a mirror of our fears or of our desire for order... but life cannot be bossed around easily. Pina will learn this at her own expense. In the end she will accept to coexist with the different aspects of her identity and she will learn to escape the trap of roles. This will cause her a lot of pain but it will also give her hope for the future.

    How important was it to you to bring your show to the US? How was it received and how did audiences react, here vs. Italy?

    The opportunity to open the festival with my show in such a prestigious place like Casa Italiana Zerilli Marimò, has made me incredibly proud. Performing in Italian, with only some inserts in English, has been a real challenge, but also a great emotion and a real enrichment.

    The audience in New York is very attentive and aware, some are particularly interested in the dramaturgical aspects, others in the themes and the emotional aspects of the story but it's hard to say more because each person has his/her own take on the show, everyone is touch differently. In Italy, actors can tell the audience's appreciation by the number of times they have to come back on stage... I was told before the show this does not happen here so I knew what to expect... I got one applause, but it was long and warm-hearted. I am looking forward to my next two performances, one in Manhattan and one in Brooklyn... different audiences... different alchemy.

  • Art & Culture

    Massimiliano Finazzer Flory: Bringing Leonardo to Life

    One of the Italian “stars” America loves the most was a Tuscan genius who died in 1519: Leonardo da Vinci. The painter, sculptor, architect, musician, mathematician, engineer, inventor, anatomist, geologist, botanist and writer has been brought to the stage and given a voice by Italian actor and playwright Massimiliano Finazzer Flory. 

    His show "Being Leonardo da Vinci" depicts the Renaissance Man in all his glory as he is interviewed by a modern day journalist. The format is rather unique: old Leonardo sits across a reporter who asks him about anything, partly in English, partly in Renaissance Italian and partly in dance.

    Sponsored by Acqua di Parma, "Being Leonardo da Vinci" begins with a contemporary choreography by Michela Lucenti that is inspired by Leonardo's famous drawing “the Vitruvian Man.” “With this tribute we try, with absolute rigor and lightness, to look at tradition from a contemporary point of view, keeping "the man figure" as a reference point while looking at the future,” she said in the past. Leonardo and the journalist watch the dance carefully before the questioning starts.

    And then they touch all different issues: Leonardo's childhood, his activities in the civil and military field, but also how to be a good artist, on the relationship between painting and science, painting and sculpture, painting and music...

    After a glorious performance held at The Morgan Library which was part of a tour that Finazzer is having in Italy and in the US, we had a chance to ask the author and actor, who physically became Leonardo for the performance, a few questions ourselves.

    How did you get the idea to do something on Leonardo and in this format?

    The idea was not mine, it was Leonardo's. It is pretty obvious all through his work that men are made to be connected and linked within a harmonious whole. His universal science asks at least three questions: 

    what is life? What is man? And what is sanity? There are answers to these questions within this project. I first got the idea back in 2010 and it finally came to life in January 2012, in London, with a reading titled Trattato della pittura (Treatise on Painting). 

    How did you bring Leonardo to life?

    I pictured him in my mind and thought of his legacy. In other words I pictured giving a voice to many different Leonardos: as if they were sitting at a roundtable. There is the inventor, the botanist, the engineer, the art critic, the scientist, the geologist, the painter, the doctor, the architect... Leonardo is all this. But this is not all. Because most of all he is a dissatisfied man who is looking to find out what unifies all of us. In his own words “the desire to know comes naturally to the good man.”

    If you had the opportunity to meet Leonardo and ask him a question, what would you ask?

    I've already done so. I have asked him 67 questions , one for each year of his life. I put those questions and his answers in this play. Actually now that I think about it, I would ask him where could he find, today, an enlightened patron capable of ensuring him the independence to work on his research and, at the same time, to guarantee him the adequate funding to its development.

    In the show, there is a mention of social media. What would Leonardo think of it?

    He would only think good of it. As long as they do not spread lies about dreams but only provide empirical truth. According to Leonardo communication is a human dimension. The Vitruvian Man does not represent only harmony, order and proportion through nature but is, most of all, a symbol of man's desire and need for communication. The calling into question of time and space that today happens through the digital, the world wide web and social media is none other than an extension of biotechnology that Leonardo himself had foreseen.

    In Italy "Being Leonardo da Vinci" will be playing every Saturday starting on May 9th at the Museo della Tecnica e della Scienza in Milan. It will also be held on July 1st at the historical Teatro La Fenice in Venice. On October 13th Finazzer and his Leonardo will be in Houston and then back in NYC.

  • Events: Reports

    Looking Forward to In Scena! Italian Theater Festival

    Presented by Kairos Italy Theater (KIT), the preeminent Italian theater company in New York, for the third consecutive year, In Scena!, the Italian Theater Festival in New York is about to start (May 4 – 20). 


    In Scena! will bring 8 shows to be performed, in English, Italian, and in different Italian dialects, in over two full weeks. Each show will have at least two performances, one in Manhattan and one in an outer borough. Some of the venues are The Secret Theater, The Theatre For The New City, BAAD, Brooklyn College, John Jay College, and Center of the Arts at College of Staten Island.

    Opening night will take place on May 4 at Casa Italiana Zerilli Marimo' and it constitutes of a  double-bill: the evening will start with Homage to Pasolini (6.00 pm), a staged reading directed by Marco Calvani, starring Jacopo Rampini, Carlotta Brentan and Rocco Sisto. This will be followed by Viola di Mare (7.30 pm), by and starring Isabella Carloni, based on the novel Minchia di re by Giacomo Pilati.

    As she is finishing up with the organization, artistic director Laura Caparrotti, had the chance to answer a few questions.

    Why is it important to have an Italian theater festival?

    It's crucial and useful to see what is produced and how much is produced back in Italy. Lately the image of Italy abroad is pretty negative and it's important to show that there are good and interesting companies making good theater. We need to prove that Italian genius is still alive. It's also important for Italian theater to leave its footprint in this city. It's a way of saying “Hey, we're here ad we're doing something good.”

    What is new in the 2015 edition of the festival?

    Definitely the number of shows. We had 6 in 2014 and we are going to have 8 this year. We have scheduled 3 seminars, a stop in New Jersey and one in Washington. Also the festival will last two and a half weeks with no interruptions.

    How did you select the two plays that are opening the festival?

    This year we received about 60 applications and for the most part all shows were centered around women. Of course we had to select only a few, a manageable amount. So se ended up selecting 8 shows and they do indeed all focus on women. We decided to open with Viola di Mare because it's a play that is current, poetic, intense and simply beautiful. It is based on the book by the same title by???? That also inspired a movie that has been shown at Casa Italiana before. It's the story of a woman who falls in love with another woman in Sicily at the beginning of the last century.

    Not being able to show their love in public, one of them, the one who tells their story in the monologue that opens the festival, ends up living her life as a man. You'll see the rest of the story a Casa Italiana... The Pasolini reading is our way of dedicating the festival to a figure who has brought Italian culture abroad and made it great. I know that Pasolini is less known for his theater work, but on the 40th anniversary of his death we had to celebrate it. Indeed this edition of the festival is dedicated to him. Mario Calvani, an amazing director who works both in Italy and in the US, has accepted to direct the reading, which centers on Pasolini and New York City.

    How important is it to open the festival at Casa Italiana?

    Opening at Casa Italiana is obviously the best thing that could have happened. Casa Italiana is our home. It's like starting again and again at the start line.

    Casa Italiana will also welcome three more shows: on May 7 at 6.00 pm, Angiulina The Mule by and starring Rossella Raimondi. This is the story of a country girl who moves to the city where she is cursed to become a “mule.” On the same day at 7.30 pm, it's the time of Cingomma, by and starring Jessica Leonello. This comic monologue tells the stories of migrants returning home to their roots. On Friday, May 15 at 7.00 pm it's time of Chez Dimì by Giuseppe Sinatra/DimiDimitri Company. This is a fun show that shows what a butler can do to lift the spirits of an old lady on her birthday with sketches, jokes and circus-like stunts. Some of the events are free and open to the public, whereas others require to buy a ticket.

    For the complete calendar of events:

  • Art & Culture

    Sworn Virgin in Laura Bispuri's Words

    “We are awarding a film that is exquisite in its broadness and its intimacy, with a truly original story that touches on gender identity and oppression in a way that members of this jury have rarely seen before. The film constantly surprised us and made us question our own positions through a confident, passionate, and beautifully nuanced vision that showed a real respect for the audience.” With these words the Jury of the 2015 Nora Ephron Prize at the 14th edition of the Tribeca Film Festival awarded first prize to Italy's Laura Bispuri and her film Sworn Virgin (Vergine Giurata in Italian).


    Sworn Virgin, whose U.S. rights have been acquired by Strand Releasing for a run at the end of  2015 or the beginning of 2016, is a co-production (Albania, Germany, Italy, Kosovo, Switzerland) that was penned by Bispuri herself with collaborator Francesca Manieri. Based on Elvira Dones’ novel “Sworn Virgin,” the film brings to light the issue of Albanian sworn virgins, “women who take a vow of chastity and wear male clothing in order to live as men in the patriarchal northern Albanian society.” This is the tale of Mark, played by Alba Rohrwacher, who used to be a girl with long black hair called Hana. The film follows his voyage to Italy where he is reunited with sister Lila, played by Flonja Kodheli, and meets her inquisitive daughter, Jonida, played by Emily Ferratello. In this indefinite northern town he slowly reaches adulthood and discovers his true nature, where both of his identities melt together.

    Sworn Virgin was shot in Bolzano, although the setting of the film is unspecified, in four weeks and two days, in a language unknown to the director who had to trust translators for her script and interpreters on set. Laura Bispuri is inspired by the people she sees on the streets, builds strong bonds with her actors and believes that the beauty of cinema is that is transcends language barriers.

    We met her at Tribeca after a successful screening of her film.

    How have audiences American welcomed your film?

    “The reaction here has been more than amazing. Our screenings were all successful, and I noticed that the film is watched with great attention as it transmits a certain tension. Every time I am in the cinema during a screening I can feel the audience's emotions at the end and that makes me proud. At The Hong Kong International Film Festival we were awarded the Firebird Award, the top prize in the young filmmakers’ competition section, and that showed us that audiences of a completely different cultural background got really involved as well.

    It was a bet I made with myself and I won! I'm always a bit concerned because the film is in two different languages, it represents two different worlds but the story has proved to be universal. My work was to start from a very specific story and give it a universal meaning and I think I was successful.”

    After each screening there is always a Q&A, what do people ask you all the time?

    “There is a lot of curiosity about the tradition of Sworn Virgins because it is not a well known topic. People want to know if they really exist, who are they and what do they do, why? I didn't know of them until I read Elvira Dones’ novel. I immediately dove into it and felt the need to tell this story; I went to Albania and I studied different texts. I am glad the film has raised more awareness on the issue, films do that.”

    I heard there is a real sworn virgin in the film...

    “Yes there is one, the character named Pal. At the very beginning you see this man but he's actually a woman, a real sworn virgin. Getting her involved was not too difficult, we met and spent time together. We immediately liked each other and he accepted to be in the film. Usually sworn virgins are not so approachable, they are complex creatures. When you are with them they keep you at a distance, they don't let you in.”

    How is working in a foreign language?

    “We wrote in Italian, had it translated in Albanian and then they worked on the dialogues and put them in the dialect spoken on the mountains. While filming we had two girls who were checking that everything was correct. Alba learned Albanese and natives always compliment her because her accent is basically perfect. It was not easy because on set we spent more time on each take, just to make sure the language was correct...even the tone something was said in had to match the words. I didn't feel helpless even though I did not have total control, but some things can be understood even without words.”

    In the film there are numerous silences, pauses, and gazes, yet they speak a lot

    “There aren't only words to communicate, there are feelings, moods. I work on layers. When we met earlier you told me the film made you think, it stayed with you and you still think about it days later. What I try to do is to work on different levels.”

    You mentioned this film is about the thawing of a body. Mark's. What starts this process?

    “The interior reason why Mark leaves the mountains behind is because he finally starts listening to his body... a body that is trying to push through. When Hana decided to become Mark, she turned her body into a stone. But as time goes by this body wants to be heard. In Italy, his body starts hitching, even reacting to the bandages he keeps around his breast. There are many different elements that bring this thawing: another one is his relationship with Jonida, a curious teen who asks a lot of questions and helps him out. When Mark lived in the mountains he lived in a state of apnea, and Jonida, who is a swimmer, lives in a state of apnea as well. The relationship with Lila is also important as it is a reminder of a childhood lived as a girl. With Bernard, the pool boy, Mark experiences a physical awakening but notice, Bernard is no Prince Charming, Mark “saves” himself. The pool itself is important as are all the swimmers it welcomes... half naked bodies in colorful suits. Mark is surrounded by bodies and he observes them. Mark is a creature who in Italy faces numerous stimuli that have an effect on him. In the end he doesn't pick one or the other, male or female, he is both Mark and Hana. Getting rid of Mark would have been wrong. So we don't see Hana wearing high heels in the last scene of the film, but a changed Mark.”

    What hitches the most, the bandages or the bra, once he puts it on?

    “That bra embodies Mark's difficulty. He wants to try, he wants to change but it is also scary and difficult. After years and years living in a different body it is impossible to adapt immediately.”

    Albania Vs. Italy. One is very definite, the other unspecified.

    “In this story the setting is very influential. The role of both countries is very specific, nonetheless this is the story of Mark and of his interior journey. The northern Italian city helps me maintain the audience's concentration on the character with no distractions.”

    That way we all can slowly follow Mark as he integrates into contemporary society as his transformation progresses. And feel with him and for him.

  • Dining in & out: Articles & Reviews

    Nutrition Milestone: the First Mediterranean Diet Roundtable

    Participants came from all over the nation and representing major colleges and universities, with giants of the leverage of Premier, Sodexo, Compass Group and elite health care facilities like the Memorial Sloan Cancer Center. It was a great networking opportunity for those interested in doing business with the food service as well as retail and government contract. In attendance also representatives of different trade missions: Greece, Cyprus, Spain but also France and Turkey. Italy was represented by iconic sponsors Barilla and Colavita.

    It all started with a glamorous night the day before the symposium delicious appetizers and got a chance to meet. Then the first national event took place at the Graduate Center of CUNY University, the MDR was not a scientific gathering but an informative and resourceful setting and especially a networking event.

    “The fact is that obesity in America is indeed an issue,” Daniela Puglielli, pr
    esident of Accent PR told i-italy, “and, paradoxically, people who live in economically poor countries facing the Mediterranean live better and longer! It's been scientifically proven that nutrition and has a decisive effect on that. That got me thinking and I realized that it's important to introduce, in places like schools, hospitals, work cafeterias, as well as restaurants and cafes, meaning all places where food is prepared for you, new, healthy products. Of course, people also have to learn how to use them in order to eat less but to eat better, using high quality products.”

    In 2010, the Mediterranean Diet was recognized by UNESCO as a “Global Intangible Cultural Heritage,” and it is a world-renowned symbol of a unique synergy between nature and culture, distinctive of Mediterranean countries. Research has shown that the traditional Mediterranean Diet reduces the risk of certain illnesses. A study conducted on more than 1.5 million healthy adults, demonstrated that following a Mediterranean Diet was associated with a reduced risk of death from heart disease and cancer, as well as a reduced incidence of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases (source: Mayo Clinic, ranked #1 Hospital in the nation).

    “The goal of the MDR is to increase the presence of healthy products, distinctive of the Mediterranean Regions, in American cuisine and menu choices.” Puglielli continued, “The full-day program includes a discussion on all levels of nutrition aspects, menu engineering, stores and cafeteria strategies, best practices in mass feeding programs: attendees gain a better understanding of the health values and commercial benefits of sourcing Mediterranean products for their respective clients/customers.”

    The day started with Sara Baer Sinnott, President of Oldways, a real icon of the Mediterranean Diet in America. They are the ones who came up with the Mediterranean Diet Pyramid, the nutrition guide that suggests the types and frequency of foods that should be enjoyed every day. The scientific panel was led by Italian professor Giovanni Scapagnini, M.D. Ph.D. who also serves on the “International Network of the Centers on Genetics Nutrition and Fitness for Health,” in Washington, D.C. The panel focused on both the positive and negative elements found in food and their effect on our organism. Among the speakers was the scientist Artemis Simopoulos, the founder and president of the Center for Genetics, Nutrition and Health, a nonprofit educational organization in Washington, DC, and the first who spoke about the importance of a balanced ratio of omega-6/omega-3 fatty acids in health and disease and in growth and development.

    The day continued with more panels: one dedicated to the culinary system in colleges and universities (among the participants there were representatives of U-Mass Dining, Yale, Davidson College and Rice University). The second panel was for the procurement business with representatives from Premier, Sodexo, restaurant Associates/Compass Group and Memorial Sloan Cancer Center.

    The event was an opportunity to witness the dynamics that guide each sector in the realization of different menus, in the choice of ingredients and in the strategies used to “pilot” the people's preferences for certain foods.  The afternoon, preceded by a delicious lunch featuring Mediterranean specialties hailing from Italy, Spain, Greece, Cyprus and Turkey, continued with an analysis of the classification of foods within the Mediterranean Diet presented by nutritionist Elena Paravantes, who came directly from Greece! Following that there was the presentation “Mediterranean Diet, consumerism and the secret world of food safety” by Susan Reef (President, U.S. Food Safety) which focused on the culinary routine of the American population and how they developed through the years.

    Last bu tnot least there was a presentation by the Camera di Commercio di Campobasso and one by Anna Rosales of Barilla, who spoke about the benefits of pasta.

    “Two words come to mind to describe the first MDR – educational and inspirational, as well as a wonderful opportunity for networking. I learned so much more about the health benefits of the Mediterranean Diet and additional attributes of some of the main components such as olive oil. I came away from the Summit wanting to implement even more Mediterranean concepts on our menu,” Ken Toong, Director of Dining Services at U-Mass, said.

    “After participating in the first Mediterranean Diet Roundtable event, I came away impressed by the scope of the material presented. The agenda provided an excellent mix of scientific research, culinary overviews and practical application case studies, all focused on the role that traditional Mediterranean regional cuisines can play in a healthy diet. I particularly liked the scientific overviews of recent research and the noncommercial market segment case studies that showed how these principles can be adapted for large-volume meal production in real life circumstances,” John Lawn, former editor in chief of Food Magazine added.

    “We are working on two formats of the MDR ” Daniela Puglielli concluded “The first featuring a tasting of several recipes, the latter presenting further insight into the topic in order to increase awareness and get things moving along.”