Back in the fascist era of the 30s, an Italian Youth Center was opened in Trastevere, these days considered a cool, but also touristic side of Rome. Then a more popular neighborhood, which also consisted of housing projects. Architect Luigi Moretti was in charge of the structure and what is today the WeGil was inaugurated in 1937. Imposing and clearly fascist look and feel, the structure was supposed to house equipment to train Italian youths for sports but also battle. WeGil therefore has a strange, complicated background to contend with and the feel within the structure is at once one of awe and discomfort.Read More
One of the most beautifully mysterious actors of our time, Mr. Ralph Fiennes will be in Cairo, presenting his latest directorial project ‘The White Crow’ — about a childhood idol of mine, ballet dancer Rudolf Nureyev — and for a conversation with the audience inside the massive Cairo Opera House. Moderated by yours truly.
It’s a momentous event, but I almost missed it.Read More
If ever there was an upcoming event that felt outrageously exciting, almost too jam packed with greatness (could there ever be such a thing!) it’s the Marrakech International Film Festival — which will take place from November 30th to December 8th, 2018 in the beautiful Moroccan city. Now in its 17th edition, the festival took a year off in 2017 and is coming back stronger, better and more action-packed than ever.Read More
You talk exceptional women and few garner as much unanimous adoration as legendary filmmaker, photographer and artist Agnes Varda. Then you think versatile actresses, women who have transformed themselves from super popular soap opera stars to beloved movie icons and the name Robin Wright immediately comes to mind.
Well, as it turns out both of these legendary women in their own right, or “Wright” if you pardon the pun, will be honored with the Etoile d’Or Award under the starry sky of the Moroccan city of Marrakech this December.Read More
That I’m excited about the upcoming Marrakech Film Festival — which will take over the Moroccan city from November 30th to December 8th — is no secret. Apart from loving this country of spices, colors and incredible food, the Marrakech Film Fest has always held a special kind mystique for me. And with their new reorganized staff and crew, some of the most prestigious names in cinema circles (see all of them listed at the bottom of this post) my excitement has only grown stronger.
But this morning, when the festival announced director James Gray at the helm of their Competition Jury, I burst into downright joy. Let me explain.Read More
Sight and sound are definitely a part of our earliest memories. They say children can remember only from the age of three and a half upward and I have to say, my first memory has to do with sticking my finger in the electric socket and feeling the jolt. I remember feeling like someone had pushed me and apparently — this is my parents’ memory of the event — I ran to the living room crying holding my index finger, utterly frightened.
But how much does scent, the smells around us, have to do with our individual memory bank? Personally, I can’t help but remember my favorite uncle Pippo every time I smell a certain brand of cigarette smoking up the air. And I go back to my childhood quickly, as soon as I step off the train in Florence and smell the city’s distinctive scent of, well how do I put it nicely, sewer… Just recently I was told why that smell is so intrinsically Florentine and it has to do with the lack of a sewage system dating back to Medici time. Apparently, every time the system fills up, giant trucks come to gather up the goodies and carry them away. There are serious studies done on it!
So it’s no surprise that the Florentines were some of the first people to use scents, ambiance fragrances and perfume to change the air around them.Read More
This year, the iconic once-a-year fragrance fair Pitti Fragranze, which is held in Florence every September, incorporated the entire city into its scent design. Thus, in the process, let the select audience of buyers and journalists that attended the event, in on the secret nooks and crannies of the great renaissance town. From the Officina Profumo Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella, to the church of San Miniato al Monte, from the center to the outskirts, Florence became the “City of Fragrances” and in the process, reclaimed its scent, health and beauty heritage.
Following are a few personal highlights from this incredible journey of scent.Read More
How would you cope with being told you have a terminal illness?
That is a question I’ve asked myself often these days, as I deal with people I love getting ill and the recent death of my father. Where do you find the strength to go on, when you know the days are numbered and how do you continue to be a functioning member of society when probably all you wish to do is go into the woods and hide?
Well, in Natalya Merkulova’s and Alexey Chupov’s haunting, beautiful and at times painfully truthful film ‘The Man Who Surprised Everyone’ which screened in the Orizzonti section in Venice, the real life husband and wife team tackle the difficult question.Read More
This year's Venice Film Festival seemed to carry a special soundtrack, like a mixtape of our collective thoughts and hopes and wishes. For a future where we are finally able to learn from our past and stop thinking that our opinions count individually. For a world where we will discover, finally, a middle ground in shades of grey, instead of living everything in either black or white.
Here is my Venezia 75 Mixtape.Read More
'The Day I Lost My Shadow' by Soudade Kaadan won the Lion of the Future – “Luigi De Laurentiis” Venice Award for a Debut Film Jury at the 75th Venice Film Festival. It's a win to be celebrated for all women filmmakers, of course, but also for Syrian filmmakers who, since the start of the war in 2011 have all but disappeared. Scattered around foreign lands, their voices and visions have become the true casualties of this conflict.
In her film, which world premiered at the festival in the Orizzonti section, Kaadan uses the metaphor of personal shadows as a way to show how the war strips people of their humanity and hope. When Sana, played by the beautiful Sawsan Arsheed, goes out looking for a gas canister so she can cook for her son, she is pulled into a three day nightmare that eventually ends the way everything ends in Syria... I'll leave that to your imagination and perhaps your first viewing of the film.Read More
Think back to the last time a film redefined love for you. That felt like a magical discovery then, didn't it? For me, cinema exists at its best when it does something that changes me -- and of course I want that change to be for the better.
In Claire Burger's touching follow up to her Cannes Camera d'Or winner 'Party Girl' -- which she co-directed with Marie Amachoukeli and Samuel Theis -- I found a new fatherhood role model. For a woman whose own father was at best unavailable throughout my teenage years and beyond, Burger's wondrous father figure Mario (played by the spellbinding Bouli Lanners) is a revelation and offers a sense of newfound hope. His quest to be a good father to the young Frida (the perfectly rebellious Justine Lacroix) and the teenage Kiki (cool and flirty Sarah Henochsberg) takes the audience on a journey of discovery along with the characters.
But 'C'est ça l'amour' is a multilayered film and so it's no surprise that, among quite a few strong and beautiful stories featured in this year's Giornate degli Autori line up, Burger's film ended up walking away with the top prize -- the GdA Director's Award.Read More
As we watch our nightly dose of immigration porn fed to us by the local news channels, particularly those of us who live in Europe we see row after row of young men stepping off boats and assorted vessels. We could be mistaken into thinking that they left their women safe at home, in their country of origin, the wives and girlfriends and mothers awaiting their return, as well as their paycheck. That's so far from the truth and if you ever held such a wrong opinion, 'Joy' by Sudabeh Mortezai will set you straight.
In her beautifully shot and perfectly told film premiering in the Giornate degli Autori, Venice Days sidebar at the Venice Film Festival, Mortezai shows us the complex network of Nigerian women who virtually invisibly inhabit our European streets. 'Joy' is as much about the oldest profession in the world, the prostitution networks these women get sucked into and then, once they have paid off their debts, also manage and run in Europe, as it is about womanhood itself. We follow the story of these young women from the juju ritual they are subjected to at home, in Benin City Nigeria, to the streets of Vienna where they owe their traffickers the kind of money one wouldn't spend traveling around the world for a year and staying at the best hotels.Read More
I'm a sucker for a great love story. But often, the films that hit me deepest aren't filled with happily ever after endings and the perfect romance between a handsome boy and a beautiful girl. It's the redefinition of true love that gets me to my core.
In Mikhaël Hers' latest 'Amanda' which premiered in the Orizzonti section at this year's Venice Film Festival, the filmmaker reworks the idea of family and in the process, also rewrites the perfect romance. Of course Hers' film is not missing out on a handsome boy -- the charming Vincent Lacoste breaks hearts as David -- and a pretty girl -- with the striking Stacy Martin playing his love interest Léna. But at the center of 'Amanda' is the title character, a little girl played beautifully by Isaure Multrier, a child who suddenly goes from being an occasional playmate in the life of her somewhat immature uncle David, to being entrusted to him permanently.Read More
Of all the films we watched at this year's Venice Film Festival Roberto Minervini's was the most important.
For two very specific reasons. One, it's a documentary, and while many narrative films did explain my own personal struggle as a modern woman in today's world, those fictional stories can be dismissed by their critics as simply made up. 'What You Gonna Do When the World's On Fire?' cannot, since it's real life, it's in your face and it's downright true.
Point number two follows closely my first point, in that while watching the press preview of Minervini's film, which premiered in Competition at the festival, I saw more of my colleagues shift in their seat and -- after what appeared like much inner debate and a prolonged anxiety -- leave the theater than ever before. The answer is not a reflection on the quality of 'What You Gonna Do...' which is visually stunning, features a terrific soundtrack and makes its two hours duration fly by in what seemed like fifteen minutes.Read More
The first ever Venice Film Festival was held in 1932, from the 6th to the 21st of August and it opened with 'Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde' -- the Fredric March version. March went on to win favorite actor and since there were no official prizes, he was picked by the audience.
In that magical moment, during the first edition of the first ever world film festival our own profession -- film criticism and film writing -- was also born. There hadn't been a true need for it before, think about it.
When I come to Venice, I realize this is where it all comes from, and despite some problematic years in our history, we should remember the heritage of the Venice Film Festival. All journalists should take a moment and think about that when they first set foot on the Lido. Without Venice, we probably wouldn't be here. They started it. All.Read More
As I sat down to meet legendary fashion photographer Bruce Weber I said "Mr. Weber, I can't say I grew up with your photographs because I'm older than I look, but I definitely grew into my sexuality thanks to your iconic images." It's true. Those NYC billboards in Times Square of underwear models for Calvin Klein, the Ralph Lauren "out of Africa" campaign, Kate Moss in the bathtub, the beach scenes, the catalogues I devoured before the advent of the internet, I grew into my skin thanks to Weber's images.
Today, Weber has helped me to rediscover the beauty and genius of classic American actor Robert Mitchum. 'Nice Girls Don't Stay for Breakfast' screens at the Venice Film Festival in the Venice Classics section and is co-produced by Weber's wife Nan Bush. In the documentary, Mitchum is shown as never before, a singer, a lover and a poet, aided in part by cameos by Johnny Depp, Benicio Del Toro, Polly Bergen, Brenda Vaccaro and Liam Neeson, among many many more.
So why a film about Mitchum, why from Weber and why now?Read More
Filmmaker Rick Alverson has never made films that are easily comprehensible to an audience. His work is the antithesis to the American superhero movie. From his first work 'The Builder' in 2010 he's proudly yet quietly worn the "independent filmmaker" badge of American moviemakers. In the tradition of greats like Dennis Hopper and John Cassavetes who came before him.
In his latest film 'The Mountain' which premiered in Competition at this year's Venice Film Festival, Alverson throws the audience a proverbial bone. What I mean is that 'The Mountain', starring Jeff Goldblum and Tye Sheridan, is as close to a traditional film as we will ever get from Alverson. While he still describes it as "an anti-utopian film" in his director's statement, 'The Mountain' takes the audience through a hippie trippy ride on a sparse, pastel hued rollercoaster with few words, great acting, haunting images and sounds and by the end, leaves us feeling lobotomizes. I could swear the entire crowd of the Sala Darsena, where the press and industry screening took place the day before the film's official premiere, walked out with a very specific look on their faces. Not unlike that of the leading character of Andy, played by Sheridan.Read More
It is immediately clear, from the beautiful black and white shots and the poetically intimate details that 'Roma' is a very personal film for Alfonso Cuarón. At times, the real-life inspired story of a middle class family in the Colonia Roma neighborhood of Mexico City, told through the eyes of their housekeeper Cleo, felt so private, so confidential, it seemed like I was intruding on something really special. But I still could not bring myself to look away, I didn't want to stop watching, I also didn't want the film to end because for more than two hours, Cuarón paid homage to womanhood. It takes a big man to do that and an even bigger filmmaker to get the message across.Read More
So you may have read by now that the Venice Film Festival is being singled out for not having enough women filmmakers in their Competition line-up. One publication even went so far to criticize Italian culture as a whole, and they used two non-Italian reporters to write the story of course -- one the token male journalist. Because a single, lone, able woman journalist would not have been able to do the job?
Ever hear that saying "don't talk bad about my mama?"
Anyway, while everyone is up in arms for yet another slight at womanhood, I say, get over it! I'm a woman, I'm Italian and I feel very well represented in Venice -- thank you very much. In fact, I have never seen so many beautiful women's stories, so much truth for our gender and so much care in telling those stories as I see in the various line-ups and sidebars this year at La Biennale del Cinema. But of course, you'd have to look beyond the media-selling headlines, watch deeper, dig in the sidebars too and know in your heart that great cinema was never about gender, rather about quality and vision. Just like it ain't about politics, even when the subject is political.Read More