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Movies, food and more: Italian Film Festival ready to start in February

Editor’s Note: To celebrate 2013’s “Year of Italian Culture,” Davide Arminio, an Italian journalist studying in Albuquerque, is finding stories with an Italian connection in New Mexico.

Frank Capra, renowned Italian-born American film director, once said, “Cinema is, along with mathematics and music, one of the three universal languages.” Cinema can straightaway convey not only universal messages, but can also describe so much of the culture to which it belongs.
In this sense, that’s the bet of the New Mexico Italian Film & Culture Festival, which is ready to roll out its seventh edition in February, promoting Italian culture and a view of Italian life through some of the best contemporary films, most of which will have their first premieres in New Mexico.

The festival was founded in 2007 by Ronaldo Patrizio-Steiner, and is now organized and produced by the non-profit corporation, Italian Festivals of New Mexico.  Its primary purpose, along with promoting Italian culture, is to raise funds for the University of New Mexico Children’s Hospital. “Since its inception, the festival has raised more than $170,000 for the hospital,” Maria Arancio Berry, managing director of the festival, said.

The 2014 edition will feature some first-ever events. The most significant is the visit of the award-winning screenwriter and director, Demetrio Casile, who will be Guest Director-in-Residence during the Festival, screening one of his best-known works, “Melina, with Anger and with Knowledge,” at the festival and in four local high schools. The film tells the story of three youths in Calabria who fight for their dreams against the hardships of life. Casile will run motivational discussions with the students, focusing on the meaning of the movie – do not let obstacles prevent you from reaching your dreams. The schools involved in the project are Manzano, Cibola, West Mesa and Rio Rancho High School, and all of them have Italian classes.

“We’ve dedicated the past year to putting together a program with broad appeal – to movie lovers, music and art lovers, foodies and italophyles. There’s something for everyone” Arancio Berry said.

The festival’s inaugural evening is scheduled for Saturday, February 8, with a colorful musical event at the KiMo Theatre. The stage will host the New Mexico Symphonic Chorus and Keshet Dance Company performing Italian traditional songs and dances and well-known opera choruses. There will also be a very special musical video greeting sent to New Mexico from the acclaimed Coro Illersberg of Trieste. Following the concert, the Hotel Andaluz will host a gala reception.

The UNM Children Hospital will be the beneficiary of the money raised during the Festival. Since 2007, the Italian Film Festival has raised nearly 170.000 dollars for the hospital. pvc120810d/12-8-10/asec.  Building mug of UNM Hospital on Lomas NE, photographed Wednesday Dec. 8, 2010.  (Pat Vasquez-Cunningham/Journal)

The UNM Children’s Hospital will be the beneficiary of the money raised during the Festival. Since 2007, the Italian Film Festival has raised nearly 170.000 dollars for the hospital. (Pat Vasquez-Cunningham/Journal)

Film fans are expected to be delighted by the 2014 Festival. The film selection committee is offering an intriguing list of recently released films that portray Italy, its culture and the new century’s challenges it faces from various and engaging perspectives. Among the others, four of those movies are worth mentioning here. “Shun Li and The Poet” (Io Sono Li), the Festival’s showcase film to be screened on February 9, features the

moving relationship between a young Chinese immigrant and a disillusioned poet in Chioggia, near Venice. This film was a multi-award winner at the prestigious Venice Film Festival.  The Guild Cinema will host “Days and Clouds” (Giorni e Nuvole), displaying the struggle of an Italian couple to survive the sudden loss of the husband’s job, and the challenge to gain back serenity, both economically and emotionally. Italian-style giggly comedy, “The Immature” (Immaturi) fictionalizes a group of former class-mates who are unexpectedly told by the Ministry of Education that, due to an administrative error, they must retake the high school exam. This shocking event is the chance to meet again after twenty years, only to realize that time has gone by and none of th

em is as the same as he was in school. Focusing again on the theme of the immigration and associated with the painful tragedy of the thousands of people who cross the Mediterranean heading to Europe, is Emanuele Crialese’s “Terraferma,” a special award-winner at the 2011 Venice Film Festival.

The Festival will also expand to Santa Fe, where on February 9 “Li and The Poet” will be showed at the Masonic Temple theater, followed by a dinner at Osteria D’Assisi.

The 2014 Festival will also offer several special pre-film features to complement the films. Donatella Davanzo, the official Festival photographer, will screen her photo exhibit “Tango Dancing in Venice” on film at the South Broadway Cultural Center on February 9. The exhibit features the popularity of tango in Italy in the charming setting of Venice.
On February 11, Davanzo will show another Venetian exhibit, “Carnevale in Venice,” at the Guild Cinema following a reception in her honor at Scalo Northern Italian Grill.

On Valentine’s Day, the African American Performing Arts Center is the venue for a special pre-film feature of Neapolitan love songs, performed by John Zito. Now an Albuquerque resident, Zito became famous in the New York area during 1960s with his Italian trio, The Valentinos. Another special pre-film feature will the contemporary Italian music videos of Elena de Candia at The Guild Cinema on February 12, 13 and 15.  De Candia is a young, award-winning director who lives and works in Naples.

Sport will also make its appearance during the Festival with The Marchiondo Family Bocce Tournament, presented in partnership with the Albuquerque Bocce Club. The day-long indoor tournament at the city’s Convention Center will be open to players and to spectators, providing them the opportunity to get acquainted with this increasingly-popular game.

Tickets for movies, dinners and extra features are already on sale on the Festival’s website  through Moreover, the Festival’s site provides complete information about sponsors events and films, along with movie trailers.