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Articles by: Joelle Grosso

  • Art & Culture

    The Children of Rome: Photographs by Jeffrey Blankfort

    Jeffrey Blankfort is a San Francisco-based photojournalist who arrived in Rome during the winter of 1966 for a six month long stay with the hopes of learning the language, enjoying the tasty food and taking in the Eternal City’s remarkable beauty but most of all, he was eager to get to know its people. In particular, Blankfort was fascinated by the Roman children he encountered throughout his journey. 

    Becoming Acquainted with Rome

    Blankfort recalls this special time and says, “for the first two weeks, I walked through the streets of the city, leaving my camera behind, wanting to first see and become acquainted with the city without the intrusion of a camera lens. One of the first things I noticed was the way Romans cared for children, not just their own but everyone else’s. Seeing them walking through the streets of Rome or in the parks by themselves or with friends, it appeared that passing adults were never a threatening presence but more like uncles or aunts or surrogate parents there to help them if necessary."

    Blankfort’s Mission

    The photos Blankfort took during his six months in Rome were first exhibited at the popular Focus Gallery on Union Street in San Francisco the following year. The rest of his career was mainly dedicated to documenting the political and social strife during that time period which included the protests against the Vietnam War as well as the Black Panther movement. 

    Blankfort says, “Since the early 60s, I have documented social and political realities in many parts of the world and in a wide variety of circumstances, both as an observer and as a participant. In that time, I have tried never to lose sight of the aesthetic values that can make a photograph communicate something more than what is happening in front of the camera.” TIME, Rolling Stone, and The New York Times are just some of the biggest magazines in which his work has been published.

    The opening night and artist reception of The Children of Rome will be on Wednesday, May 10th at 6:30PM and will continue to be on view at the Italian Cultural Institute of San Francisco until June 9th.

  • The cast of "The Godfather" on closing night of the Tribeca Film Festival
    Art & Culture

    Godfather Reunion Closes Tribeca Film Festival

    After a back-to-back screening of Part 1 and 2 of The Godfather during the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival, what better way to end the annual affair than by inviting the whole cast and crew of the iconic mobster saga to New York City? Co-founder of the festival as well as one of the stars of The Godfather, Robert De Niro, organized a special reunion for the grand finale at the famous Radio City Music Hall. He was joined by the entire star-studded cast which included Al Pacino, Robert Duvall, James Caan, Diane Keaton, Talia Shire, and director Francis Ford Coppola

    45 Years of The Godfather

    2017 also signifies the 45th anniversary of Part 1 so it was the perfect occasion for this special Q&A moderated by director Taylor Hackford which allowed fans to catch a glimpse of what went on behind the scenes during the making of the legendary movies. The series is based on Mario Puzo’s best-selling novel of the same title and follows the story of a fictional New York crime family, the Corleones. The movies not only went on to achieve critical acclaim, including a total of nine Academy Awards, but more importantly, they left a mark on popular culture forever.

    The Discussion

    The conversation focused on the first film, possibly one of the most influential cinematographic masterpieces of all time, and its director, Francis Ford Coppola, led most of the dialogue. He talked about his thoughts on the original novel on which the movies are based as well as his phone conversation with Marlon Brando who was actually turning down a different role Coppola had in mind for him at the time. He even mentioned how he had to convince Paramount Picures that Al Pacino was the right choice for the lead, despite the fact that they thought he was way too short for the part. It was a night to remember as all the cast members exchanged personal stories from the set and the best part about it was that even if you couldn’t make it to the discussion, it was streamed live on Facebook so that anyone can join in on the fun.

    Diane Keaton closed the night by telling a story about how she recently rewatched The Godfather from her laptop after not seeing it for a long time. She said how in awe she was at how “every choice Coppola made was so authentically perfect.” For those who missed out on the biggest reunion of the year, it can still be viewed on Tribeca Film Festival’s Facebook from the comfort of your home. 

  • Art & Culture

    Pecore in erba: A Satirical Work by Alberto Caviglia

    Casa Italiana has recently organized a brand new series called “Primi al Cinema” which aims to bring Italian films to the States as well as other cinematographic novelties from and about Italy. This week, Pecore in erba, a highly satirical piece was screened for the first time in New York City and was followed by a Q&A with the mockumentary’s director, Alberto Caviglia, as well as its screenwriter, Benedetta Grasso. For those who don’t know, a mockumentary is a film where completely false events are presented in the style of a documentary and although the genre is becoming quite popular here in America, Pecore in erba is the first of its kind in Italy. 

    Sheep in Grass

    The film traces the life of Leonardo Zuliani, a man who happens to be born as an anti-Semite. As he grows up in the Roman neighborhood of Trastevere, Leonardo almost becomes some sort of national hero for his antisemitic activism. Caviglia chose to tackle the issue of anti-Semitism with satire in order “to bring to light and make fun of this hypocrisy while hopefully prompting reflections on the subtle nuances of antisemitism can have and on our way of dealing with it.” He risked conducting this controversial experiment not just to bring awareness to antisemitism but with the hopes that it leads to understanding the absurdity of many common attitudes, the hypocrisy that causes prejudices and the distorted way in which reality can be presented by the media in general.

    A Satirical Gem

    Pecore in erba presents a society that is the opposite of ours where antisemitism is not viewed as something negative but more like a personal skill. Since Leonardo was born an anti-Semite, people believe that he should have the right to express his nature and everyone who doesn’t allow him to do so is considered to be an oppressor. Caviglia admits that he was scared to use a satirical point of view but that it allowed him to “face and fight all of these taboos while talking much more deeply about the things I wanted to say but couldn’t using normal language.”

    Making the protagonist out to be bad guy would’ve been the easiest thing to do but Caviglia actually portrays him as an endearing character which was the real challenge. “I think this is the main provocation of the movie because presenting an anti-Semite as a positive hero is something which brings the audience to hope that he succeeds in what he does and this is what creates this strange feeling.”

    The pair ends the discussion by commenting that although the film is about a fake society, it is only a fake society up to a point. “In some moments you realize that it’s just an exaggeration of something that already exists and I hope that this movie can be seen as a tool of reflection about how society is evolving and the direction in which it’s going,” Caviglia concludes.

  • "Ocho Pasos Adelante" by Italian director Selene Colombo
    Art & Culture

    Ocho Pasos Adelante: Dealing with Autism

    Before the screening of Selene Colombo’s documentary Ocho Pasos Adelante, a panel discussion was held where the director herself was accompanied by the Consul General of Italy in New York, Francesco Genuardi; Consul General of Argentina in New York, Mateo Estreme; Commissioner of the New York Mayor's Office for People with Disabilities, Victor Calise; and the Head of the School of Italy G. Marconi, Maria Palandra. They focused on the importance of raising awareness on this often misunderstood neurodevelopmental disorder that has become alarmingly common in the past few decades, with approximately 1 out of 88 children now being diagnosed with autism.

    Inside the Documentary

    Ocho Pasos Adelante deals with autism and its symptoms by exposing the history of the disorder while inviting the audience to experience the struggles as well as the triumphs of five Argentinian children, their families and the professionals who help them. Each child in the documentary has been diagnosed with autism yet they all fall on different areas of the spectrum. Colombo breaks barriers in the most touching way by completely removing the fear of the unknown and allowing us to see how these kids are the same as us, they just see the world differently. It is essential that autism is viewed as an opportunity to learn because it is only with this mentality that we will not only grow to be better parents but better human beings.

    Awareness, Detection, and Inclusion

    The biggest messages Colombo hopes to put forth with this documentary are awareness, detection, and inclusion. The director is extremely proud of the awareness the film has raised thus far and says, “after four years of screenings, we got two laws approved so we couldn’t ask for more.” One includes a national law in Argentina that makes it mandatory for pediatricians to test for early detection of autism for all children within their first 18 months of life. Colombo says that it’s crucial to be diagnosed as soon as possible because there is not much that can be done after the five year mark. The documentary provides clear tips on how to identify autism early for effective intervention which includes infants who make little eye contact and show less attention to social stimuli. 

    Most importantly, Colombo fights for inclusion. “I hope for inclusion in school and in society, acceptance and inclusion are the keys to make the family happier and remove separation.” It is not by accident that she frequently screens the documentary in schools, preferring the scholastic setting because she believes that it is a way to decrease that feeling of disconnection with autism. 

    Colombo plans to continue making documentaries and she even has a new project in mind that will take place in Africa. Unfortunately, she says her ideas must remain a secret for now so be sure to follow her work for any updates!

  • Artist William Papaleo in front of his oil paintings

    William Papaleo Breaking Walls with New Exhibition

    For those who don’t know, William Papaleo is making a wave in the art world by completely transforming the way Italians Americans perceive their relationship with Italy. The artist made a bold decision over 20 years ago to move to Naples, the land where his ancestors came from. However, his intention was not to rediscover the city of his great grandparents but rather to learn what modern Italy is all about. As the children of immigrants living in the United States, the connection to our land of origin is often distorted. Today, Italy is drastically different from the country it was just 50 years ago. Instead of being a land of emigrants, it is now a land of immigrants, with huge influxes of people arriving every single day from Africa and the Middle East. This change is what the oil paintings and ceramic pieces in Papaleo’s exhibition “Break Walls” communicate to its viewers. 

    In Search of Truth

    When asked about the inspiration behind this exhibition, Papaleo references protests that are currently taking place in Italy in defense of the 34-year-old journalist, Gabriele del Grande. The Italian reporter was doing independent research on a book about the creation of ISIS by interviewing common people throughout the Middle East and then weaving their stories together in order to make sense of the geopolitical situation. However, instead of being awarded for such courageous and insightful work, he was put in prison upon his arrival in Turkey earlier this month. Italians are taking to streets at the moment with the hopes of having del Grande released. 

    Papaleo believes his journey is similar as an artist and says, “I started gaining political awareness just by being an artist, by walking down the street and listening to people. That’s the key. We’re bombarded with so much fake news but this is the way to get to the truth. You can figure out a lot of things with these basic soul connections, without having to be manipulated.”

    The Stories Behind the Paintings

    The work displayed in this exhibition are real depictions of the encounters Papaleo had with the immigrants he met living in southern Italy. From the hardworking olive picker who refuses to take a vacation to the ship builder who came to Salerno in order to escape the bombings in Libya, the authentic way in which Papaleo manages to humanize immigrants is absolutely remarkable. 

    Distinguished Professor Fred Gardaphé adds, “viewing Papaleo’s work takes us beyond a fear based on not knowing, and to the realization that they who have been driven here, often for reasons beyond their control, are really not that different from us, in spite of their skin color, their dress, or their customs.”

    For those who are interested in seeing these fantastic pieces up close, the “Breaking Walls: An Emigrant/Immigrant Journey through Southern Italy” exhibition will be on display at the John D. Calandra Italian American Institute until August 31st. More information can be found at John Calandra Italian American Institute.

  • Art & Culture

    Salone del Mobile in Milano. Some of the Best Highlights

    Milan’s design week has officially concluded but as always the Salone del Mobile made a great impression on design lovers from all over the world. The 56th edition of the annual international furniture fair took place at the famous Rho Fiera exhibition venue and featured approximately 2,000 diverse exhibitors and a wide range of innovative concepts for living as well as tons of gorgeous accessories for the entire home furnishing system. 

    Salone del Mobile constantly aims to be “a global platform for truly top-notch products with the emphasis on innovation.” The showcase was split into three sections (classic, design, and xLux) and promoted goods that combine quality and technology shaped by the creativity of leading sectoral companies. 2017 welcomed more guests than ever with over 300,000 visitors from 165 different nations.

    Some of the best highlights from this year’s design week include Spazio Krizia’s exhibition entitled “Foundation” which focused all on light with a series of installations by the popular design duo, Formafantasma. One of the designers, Simone Farresin, called the project, “a careful investigation on the properties of light- reflections, shadows, colors, space- and how to modify it by using mirrors and other optical instruments.”

    Another trend that stood out at the 2017 Salone del Mobile was the ever increasing collaborations between top designers and brands. It was in Milan that British designer Tom Dixon finally released his super secretive project with the extremely well-known Swedish company, IKEA. Their partnership resulted in the debut of the “hackable” flatpack Delaktig sofa which allows for easy clip-ons like lamps, armrests, and tables.

    For more information on what went down last week, check out Salone del Mobile’s official website: https://www.salonemilano.it/en/.

  • "Viola, Franca" a short film by up-and-coming director, Marta Savina
    Art & Culture

    "Viola, Franca": Italian Film at 2017 Tribeca Film Festival

    Movie buffs are anxiously awaiting the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival which will start at the end of April, running from the 19th to the 30th. This year will be a special one because Viola, Franca is the only Italian film that has been chosen to participate in the Shorts Narrative Competition.

    A Must-See Short Film

    After being nominated as Best Short for a David Di Donatello and winning top prizes at UCLA’s Spotlight showcase, it is safe to say that it has already been a big year for Viola, Franca. However, the film’s most outstanding highlight for 2017 will most likely be its world premiere on April 22, as part of the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival as the only Italian title in the official selection.

    Viola, Franca is based on a true story and takes place in 1965 Sicily, where the protagonist finds herself being forced to marry her rapist in order to avoid becoming an outcast in her very conservative community. Her decision to rebel against her town’s traditional views ends up altering the course of Italian history while paving the way for women’s rights forever. 

    Marta Savina - A Rising Star

    The short film which was directed by Marta Savina opens up a dialogue about women’s rights, gender stereotypes, and the struggle to defy well-established societal roles. The young Italian writer and director is eager to share stories that revolve around feminine identity with the hopes of shedding light on these complex issues that are becoming more and more apparent in contemporary society. The Tribeca Film Festival says that, “the short strives to represent a type of femininity that deviates from binary clichés, and is able to firmly assert itself without denying its own vulnerability.”

    History of the Popular Festival

    The Tribeca Film Festival was founded by Robert De Niro and Jane Rosenthal back in 2002. Their goal has always been to “help filmmakers reach the broadest possible audience, enabling the international film community and general public to experience the power of cinema.” The festival prides themselves on being inclusive and featuring a wide range of artists from all around the globe while supporting both emerging and established directors.

    The Tribeca Film Festival will run from April 19th to April 30th. For more details about the schedule, please check out: https://tribecafilm.com/festival

  • Facts & Stories

    Barack Obama to Attend Global Food Innovation Summit

    After the success of the Milan Expo in 2015, mayor Giuseppe Sala recently announced that the city of Milan would have a special guest visiting as part of the Global Food Innovation Summit this May. Barack Obama has rarely been seen after the end of his presidency in January but he will be making an appearance in Italy with the hopes of promoting innovation in the food industry.

    More About Seeds&Chips

    The Seeds&Chips Global Food Innovation Summit is extremely proud to be one of the biggest events about food innovation worldwide. They are dedicated to showcasing national and international talent as well as introducing cutting-edge solutions from around the globe. “We bring food and technology together, from farm to fork and beyond” is their motto and it perfectly sums up what this progressive organization is all about. The four day long exhibition will be jam-packed with panel discussions which will allow startups, investors, visionaries, entrepreneurs, and policymakers alike to come together to positively change humans’ relationship with food.

    Obama’s Schedule in Milan

    Along with his White House chef and senior nutrition policy advisor Sam Kass, Obama will continue his going green commitment and hold a conference on the impact of technological innovation on climate change and food on May 9th. The mayor will also be giving the keys of the city to the former US President in a momentous ceremony. Sala has commented that, “it will probably be his first public outing since being president, and the fact that he has chosen Milan seems extraordinary to me," describing the visit as "an honor.”

    The Obama’s have a great rapport with the northern Italian city, as he attended the Expo during his presidency and former First Lady Michelle promoted her “Let’s Move!” initiative there which encouraged children to maintain a healthy diet while getting active.

    This special meeting will allow the United States and Italy to network, explore new solutions, share ideas, and build together in order to create a world where we are more conscious of what we put into our bodies and of the effects the food industry has on the environment. 



  • Events

    Spring Italian Style in Milan, New York, and San Francisco

    Look around this spring; design is everywhere. From the building you’re in to the coffee cup in your hand, design is an essential part of life. Some of the biggest and brightest companies are celebrating and promoting the art of design all across the globe. Milan, New York, and San Francisco are just three of the cities whose exciting programs will help everyone better appreciate the art of design—and take part in the creative process as well.

    Starting in Milan

    In one of the great capitals of design, Milan’s Design Week encompassed both the Salone del Mobile—the annual international furniture fair at the Rho Fiera exhibition hall—and Fuorisalone, a variety of events held in venues around the city.

    This year’s Salone del Mobile featured some 200 exhibitors showcasing a wide range of innovative concepts for living as well as tons of gorgeous accessories for every corner of the home. Just as the right pair of shoes or an eye-catching purse can make an outfit, this exhibition demonstrates how the choice of a rug or the placement of a pillow can bring a fresh change to any living space.

    For Fuorisalone, twelve different areas in Milan are busy all month long. In the Brera Design District alone, known as the city’s artistic and historical core, 190 events are free and open to the public. Just to name a few, the Barbara Frigerio contemporary art gallery is hosting the 2017 exhibition of the best in packaging, with nineteen pieces selected for their inventive use of materials, de- sign, and sustainability. And it’s not just about Italy. The Dreamfactory Laboratory on Corso Garibaldi celebrates 60 years of the revolutionary “Mole” armchair, designed in 1957 by the “father of Brazilian furniture,” Sergio Rodrigues.

    Meanwhile in New York City...

    Design Week in New York unites all the disciplines of design in a collaborative global platform for culture and commerce. This year’s edition includes more than 500 events throughout the five boroughs. As always, the goal is to spotlight established and emerging design practices and increase everyone’s appreciation of design. The Italian presence this year is strong. One of the biggest events will highlight Italian creativity with an authentic aperitivo at Gaspare Asaro-Italian Modern, one of New York’s most important collections of Mid-Century Modern and Contemporary limited edition Italian furniture and lighting. Times Square will become a playground of design with the arrival of the famous “Spun Chair” created by Thomas Heatherwick for the Italian furniture company Magis. Then head to Brooklyn for PBA’s party at their Industry City showroom. PBA, an Italian designer and manufacturer of advanced door hardware, is launching a new product line called STEEL ALU. Their new line offers designers “the flexibility of anodized aluminum finishing, while using a stainless steel base” in a typically Italian solution that combines high performance and tons of style.

    One intriguing program will be a special collaboration between Miniwiz’s Arthur Huang, an expert in engineering, and Bonotto, one of the most important textile firms in Italy. At the GCU Fair Fashion Center, “Gardening the Trash” will

    showcase the science of transform- ing waste into treasure in the future of fashion–tools to help the industry become completely sustainable, both environmentally and commercially.

    ... and in San Francisco

    From tech inventions to culture changing products, human centered design, emerging fashion to international architecture, San Francisco Design Week is an opportunity to experience the regions unique design talents, impact and innovations.

    Anticipating design week, earlier this year a major worldwide initiative was launched by Italy’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Triennale Design Museum, with March 2 declared as “Italian Design Day.” For this special project, the Consulate General of Italy and the Italian Cultural Institute of San Francisco held a screening of Stefano Boeri’s film Tell Me about Vico, about the influential Italian industrial designer Vico Magistretti. The screening included a conversation with Milanese designer Giulio Iacchetti and art historian Marina Pugliese about the evolution of Italian postwar design and its distinctively sleek sophistication, a perfect blend of classical elegance and modern creativity.

    For the first time in the United States the exhibition "Vivere alla Castiglioni" pays tribute to Achille and Pier Giacomo Castiglioni, undisputed Italian masters of twentieth-century design. Achille's daughter and son, Giovanna and Carlo Castiglioni, will visit San Francisco during San Francisco Design Week as representatives of the Fondazione Castiglioni. Within a "familiar" space recreated with objects designed by their father and uncle, Giovanna and Carlo will bring to life some of the Castiglionis' best-known creations in a small theatrical performance. Italian design culture and the unique Castiglioni approach to design and lifestyle will merge in an entertaining and engaging dialogue about design.

    June 14 - 15 Lecture/performances by Giovanna and Carlo Castiglioni at the Design Hub

    Pier 27, San Francisco

    June 16 - 5:00 PM Reception, 5:30 PM Lecture/performance by Giovanna and Carlo Castiglioni

    151 Vermont St, #10, San Francisco

    June 17 - 12:30 PM Aperitif & Lecture/performance by Giovanna and Carlo Castiglioni

    Italian Cultural Institute, 601 Van Ness Avenue, Suite F, San Francisco

    June 17 - June 22
    The exhibition will be on view at the Italian Cultural Institute;

    For more information please click here.

  • A look into the work of Jean-Michel Basquiat
    Art & Culture

    Basquiat: The Legacy of an American Icon

    Approximately 100 works have been selected to be displayed at an exhibition entitled “Jean-Michel Basquiat” which pays tribute to the iconic American artist. Basquiat was a popular, and often controversial, figure who was famous in the New York City street art scene during the 1980’s before his career was tragically cut short in 1988 after a heroin overdose at the young age of 27. This exhibition serves as an analysis of the artist’s relationship with his native city as well as an exploration of the importance of street art and graffiti in his work.

    Inside the Exhibition

    The Chiostro del Bramante has always been a space that is open to the public and dedicated to offering a comprehensive range of cultural services right in the heart of Rome. For this particular show, Basquiat’s masterpieces are on loan from the Mugrabi Collection, one of the world’s largest collections of contemporary art. “Jean-Michel Basquiat” takes a deeper look at the origins and importance of street art and graffiti, mostly through large-scale works that represent the artist’s relationship with New York and the streets that inspired him so much. The symbol for the exhibition is a crown, a motif that pops up frequently in his paintings as it signifies the pride he felt belonging to Afro-American culture.

    Curated by Gianni Mercurio, “the show provides insights into various aspects of Basquiat’s oeuvre, charting his meteoric rise to fame, from spray-painting epigrams on the streets of Lower Manhattan in the late 1970s to his recognition by New York’s top gallerists and art dealers less than a decade later.” The exhibition will provide a closer inspection on the social messages that lie behind the many layers and wildly contrasting colors of Basquiat’s striking work.

    The Genius of Basquiat 

    Jean-Michel Basquiat was born in Brooklyn in 1960 to a Haitian father and Puerto Rican mother. In the early part of his career, the walls of New York City itself were the “canvas” on which he recorded the distinctive and indelible features of his art that would soon become recognized all around the globe. 

    “The mixed-media pieces on display demonstrate the artist’s mixture of abstraction and figuration, his marriage of image and text, and how his contextual use of words – from verse to voodoo – are employed effectively to attack repressive power structures, social inequality and racism, evident in works such as Job Analisis and Procession.”

    Basquiat’s dramatic pieces manage to be edgy and hard-hitting while maintaining a childlike freshness which is perhaps what draws so many people to them. Despite his death at such an early age, the “Jean-Michel Basquiat” exhibition at Chiostro del Bramante in Rome is a fine tribute to the troubled artist almost three decades after his death. For more information, please visit http://www.chiostrodelbramante.it/