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Articles by: Natasha Lardera

  • Art & Culture

    Italian Art in NYC. Giosetta Fioroni: L’Argento

    NYC's the Drawing Center (35 Wooster Street ) is now hosting the show Giosetta Fioroni: L'Argento, the artist’s first solo exhibition (April 5–June 2, 2013) in North America. The collection features over seventy drawings, thirty paintings, ten illustrated books, three films, and related ephemera.

    Giosetta Fioroni (b. 1932, Rome, Italy) was the only female member of the Scuola di Piazza del Popolo, a group of artists that emerged in Rome during the 1960s around the famous Galleria La Tartaruga. Fioroni had numerous solo exhibitions at La Tartaruga throughout the 1960s and 1970s and she participated in landmark group exhibitions such as Nuove tendenze in Italia at Galleria del Naviglio, Milan, Italy (1966); and Vitalità del negativo nell’arte italiana 1960/70 at Palazzo delle Esposizioni, Rome, Italy (1970-71).

    Other important solo shows include Galerie Breteau, Paris, France (1963); Galleria del Naviglio, Milan, Italy (1965, 1967, 1969, 1971); Modern Art Agency, Naples, Italy (1968); Galleria Il Punto, Turin, Italy (1970); and Galleria de’ Foscherari, Bologna, Italy (1974). In 1972, a large-scale retrospective of the artist’s work was exhibited at Centro Attivitá Visive del Palazzo dei Diamanti in Ferrara, Italy.

    Fioroni participated in the Venice Biennale in 1956 and 1964, and she was assigned a personal room at the 1993 Venice Biennale. The artist currently lives and works in Rome, Italy. The current show presented at the Drawing center will be on view at Galleria nazionale d'arte moderna e contemporanea in Rome from October 31, 2013–February 23, 2014.

    Working primarily with silver enamel paint and graphite, Fioroni developed a unique aesthetic featuring figures taken from 1960s Italian cinema and magazines, as well as family photographs. Her largely female subjects are frequently caught in the act of looking and, framed with perspective lines and leftover pencil tracings, her paintings and drawings appear to chart the viewer’s imaginative and visual process as well.

    Indeed, the evident drawn lines that define and frame her subjects indicate not just a sustained investment in the handmade, but also, as one critic puts it, “a fidelity to sight,” to the way in which images are transmitted and received.

    Fioroni’s figures are not simply found, they are intended — reconstructed in and through the act of perception. In this way, Fioroni offers an alternative to the pervasive view of Pop art as instantiating a male dominating gaze and passive female subject. She does this, however, not by liberating female sexuality in the manner of American female Pop artists like Pauline Boty and Marjorie Strider, but rather, by deconstructing the gaze and making observation itself her subject.

    Giosetta Fioroni: L’Argento opens with Fioroni’s drawings from the late fifties featuring obscure notations alongside recognizable signs such as hearts and arrows executed in pastel and pen-andink. Immediately after completing these drawings, Fioroni simplified her aesthetic, executing a group of silver monochromes dated 1959-61 empty but for framing lines that foreshadow the work to come.

    Three of these paintings frame the entrance to the Main Gallery which is hung with paintings and drawings from Fioroni’s L’Argento (silver) period (1963-1970). The Drawing Room features twenty of Fioroni’s silver landscape drawings from the early seventies whose lyrical minimalism has inspired texts by such renowned Italian thinkers as Goffredo Parise (with whom Fioroni had a longstanding relationship until his death in 1986), Vittorio Gregotti, and Alberto Moravia.Finally, three of the artist’s films are screened in The Lab.

    The show also features drawings and illustrated books inspired by theater, literature, and fairy tales, as well as documentary material relating to early performances, and miscellaneous objects including a little theater that the artist executed in 1969. Significantly, Fioroni has argued that all of her work has its basis in theater, theater being the art form that, more than any other, unites narrative staging with the act of beholding.

    In addition to the show, the Drawing Center has organized some public programs:

    Wednesday, April 17th at 6:30pm Nicholas Cullinan, Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, will discuss the vital post-World War II artistic developments and exchanges that put Italy on the international map.

    Thursday, May 23rd at 6:30 pm David Forgacs, Zerilli-Marimò Chair in Contemporary Italian Studies at NYU, will speak about the fertile renaissance in Italian film in the 1960s, which boasted such directorial greats as Michelangelo Antonioni, Luchino Visconti, and Pier Paolo Pasolini, and the cinematic influences on Fioroni’s work.

  • Dining in & out: Articles & Reviews

    Directly from Tuscany... Please Welcome Prosciutto Toscano PDO

    “This is our latest and greatest import! A prosciutto from the hills of Tuscany, this type is slightly less fatty and much more flavorful. It's been seasoned with black pepper, juniper, and salt.” The menu at Salumeria Rosi thus introduces Prosciutto Toscano DOP on its menu... yes, indeed, there are so many types of prosciutto hailing from Italy, and this is the latest cured meat delicacy making it to the US.

    Prosciutto Toscano PDO (Denominazione d'Origine Protetta, roughly, "protected designation of origin." The PDO label is given to food products that are produced, processed and prepared within a particular geographical area, and with features and characteristics that must be due to the geographical area. It guarantees the products' authenticity and high quality) has been introduced to the press and trade representatives by chef Cesare Casella at Eataly. This was possible through the hard work of Gruppo Parmacotto (one of Italy's biggest producers of cured meats). It took five years to get the approval of the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) to import this Tuscan delicacy that is new here but a legendary meat back in Tuscany.

    The Consortium for Prosciutto Toscano PDO thus explains its production process:

    “Rules about the slaughter of pigs and the preservation of their meat in Tuscany date back to the time of Charlemagne, but it was during the time of the Medici family that the production of Prosciutto Toscano started to follow strict rules. In this way the production process has remained unchanged until today.

    The production area of Prosciutto Toscano PDO spreads to the whole region of Tuscany. The raw material comes from the regions Emilia Romagna, Lombardia, Marche, Umbria, Lazio and Tuscany. The animals must be at least 9 months old with a live weight between 144 and 176 kg.

    After the selection and the trimming of the pig thighs, the traditional production process requires dry salting with the use of sea salt, pepper and other spices typical of the area of origin, such as garlic, rosemary, juniper and myrtle. Salting lasts from three to four weeks and it is followed by pre-aging, a phase during which there is a gradual maturation of the meat through a slow dehydration. After about six months from the beginning of the process, the phase of "sugnatura" is carried out, by which the ham is smeared with a mixture of pork fat with the addition of flour of wheat or rice, salt and pepper. This is the beginning of the curing phase which lasts at least 10 months and takes place in special rooms with controlled micro-climate. Here the ham will develop all the typical aromas and flavors of the final Prosciutto.

    Once cut, the color of the slice ranges from bright red to light red, with few white lines of fat. The product has a sharp and persistent flavor, the aroma is intense and those characteristics are due both to the use of herbs and aromatic essences during the salting process and to traditional processing and curing methods.

    It is said that this prosciutto is so tasty that it is perfect when combined with the really bland bread typical of Tuscany.”

    The other prosciuttos that are well known already, Parma and San Daniele, are considered sweet, while Prosciutto Toscano is a savory ham that can be enjoyed alone or together with fresh fruit, such as melon and figs, or vegetables and seasonal salads.

    The slogan “Un capolavoro sulla tua tavola” (A masterpiece on your table) used at Eataly could not be more correct... all this work results in a real masterpiece.

    Marco Rosi, president of Gruppo Parmacotto, was proud to say, "I have created the group to bring authentic Italian products to the world and being able to import Prosciutto Toscano to the US is a real victory.”

    At the moment prosciutto lovers can find Prosciutto Toscano PDO at Salumeria Rosi, Eataly, Fairway, Wegman's and Balducci's. By the end of the year it will be available in more stores.

  • Art & Culture

    Adolescence, Immigration and Nature: About the Italian Films at TFFl

    The Tribeca Film Festival (TFF), presented by founding sponsor American Express, will open the doors of its 12th annual edition from April 17– April 28, 2013.

    Founded by Robert De Niro, Jane Rosenthal and Craig Hatkoff in 2001 following the attacks on the World Trade Center, to spur the economic and cultural revitalization of the lower Manhattan district through an annual celebration of film, music and culture, the Festival brings the industry and community together around storytelling.

    The 2013 film selection includes feature films from 30 different countries, including 53 World Premieres, 7 International Premieres, 15 North American Premieres, 6 U.S. Premieres and 8 New York Premieres. A total of 113 directors will present feature works at the Festival, with 35 of these filmmakers marking their feature directorial debuts. Among these directors, 26 are women. The 2013 film slate was chosen from a total of 6005 submissions.

    “Our competition selections embody the quality and diversity of contemporary cinema from across the globe,” said Frederic Boyer, Artistic Director Tribeca Film Festival. “The cinematic proficiency that harnesses this lineup is remarkable and we’re looking forward to sharing these new perspectives, powerful performances, and multifaceted stories.”

    Keeping with Tribeca’s mission of fostering dialogue between US and global film making, half of this year’s narrative competition films are American productions, and half hail from around the world. The fact that consistent themes of love, coming of age, and reinvention of self emerge across these disparate cultures and communities is testament to the universal power of film and storytelling that Tribeca strives to celebrate in its competition. Among the 12 films in the World Narrative Feature Competition we find, for the first time in years, an Italian: Claudio Giovannesi's Alì Blue Eyes (Alì ha gli occhi azzurri), a film about an adolescent who must come to terms with his cultural heritage, and make key choices about how that dictates their actions and identity.

    “Claudio Giovannesi’s award-winning (at the Festival Internazionale del Film di Roma) second dramatic feature captures one week in the life of sixteen-year-old troublemaker Nader (played by Nader Sarhan), who, despite his mother’s threats and family’s insistence that he respect his Muslim roots, fights, steals and pursues an Italian girlfriend. A stunning example of contemporary Italian neo-realism, Alì Blue Eyes is an engrossing coming-of-age story about an immigrant who will stop at nothing to fit in.”

    The film was inspired by Pier Paolo Pasolini's work (it has been described as a modern Ragazzi di vita, literally Boys of Life, idiomatically Hustlers, Pasolini's 1956 novel on the lives of the sub-common man) and is set in Roman ghetto.

    April 22, 6.30 pm, Clearview Cinemas Chelsea
    April 23, 7.30 pm, Clearview Cinemas Chelsea
    April 25, 4.00 pm, Clearview Cinemas Chelsea
    April 27, 4.00 pm, Clearview Cinemas Chelsea

    Italy has more films in competition, all equally interesting and worth of much attention.

    In the Documentary feature category we find The Director by Christina Voros. This Italian-American production will have its World Premiere at Tribeca. The film's focus is creative director Frida Giannini, in this authoritative look at the past, present and future of The House of Gucci. Taking advantage of rare, behind-the-scenes access, Voros shows how the Florentine trendsetter has been re-imagined in the past few years. Co-produced by Hollywood star James Franco.

    April 21, 6.30 pm, SVA Theater 1
    April 24, 8.30 pm, SVA Theater 2
    April 26, 3.00 pm, AMC Lowes Village

    There are two shorts competing in the Shorts Section: a narrative and a documentary.

    The first one is The Nightshift Belongs to the Stars by Edoardo Ponti. In just 23 minutes the director tells the story of Matteo and Sonia, on the eve of their respective open-heart surgeries. The two forge a friendship through a mutual passion for mountaineering and a promise to climb together in the Dolomites, in Trentino, Italy. Will their hearts survive the challenge? Though Sonia’s husband Mark worries about his wife and feels threatened by Matteo, the two aim for the summit, opening the route to a new beginning and a second chance at life. The film was written by celebrated Italian author Erri de Luca and it is based on his short story by the same title. Screening in Shorts Program: Skin Deep.
    For showtimes click HERE>>>

    The other short, Light Plate, is directed by Josh Gibson. This whimsical black-and-white film essay explores the Tuscan landscape and the relationship between tradition, modernity and food. Through shimmering, hand-processed, window-framed ruminations, time passes in licks of light, while a storm gathers and a woman makes pasta by hand. Screening in Shorts Program: Let There be Light: The Cycle of Life.
    For showtimes click HERE>>>

    The festival's program also includes a special screening, or rather an installation, of Alberi, a documentary by Michelangelo Frammartino. Wrapping the audience in waves of sound, Alberi takes us on a circular journey through the countryside of Southern Italy, to the village of Satriano. Historically, men of the town would cover themselves with ivy, transforming into strange, ghost-like walking trees. This ancestral arboreal rite, nearly forgotten as newer generations gradually lost interest, celebrated the connection between man and nature while costuming the men for Carnevale.

    In a triumphant reclamation of the old ways, director Michelangelo Frammartino captures the majesty of this ceremony via his singular cinematic artistry. This dynamic installation is both a mesmerizing homage to nature and breathtaking union of sound and image. Alberi will run as an installation in the VW Dome at MoMA PS1 from April 18 through the end of the festival (excluding Sundays).

  • Life & People

    Vito, The Life and Activism of Vito Russo

    As the Supreme Court readies for gay marriage cases (the first case concerns Proposition 8, a California constitutional amendment which banned gay marriage in the state after it had been legal for a brief time, while the second is a challenge to the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which denies federal. benefits to spouses in gay marriages) and the new play “Hit The Wall,” Ike Holter’s drama about the days of the Stonewall riots, has taken up residence at the Barrow Street Theater, there is a lot of buzz about how things have changed in the LGBT community.

    “On June 27, 1969, a police raid on a Greenwich Village gay bar called the Stonewall took a surprising turn when patrons decided it was time to fight back. As a riot erupted on Christopher Street, a new era in the Gay Rights Movement was born. Vito Russo, a 23-year-old film student, was among the crowd.” This is the beginning of the synopsis of Vito, an HBO Documentary on the life of gay activist Vito Russo by director Jeffrey Schwarz that is being released today in Europe after the success it has had in America.

    The synopsis continues: “Over the next twenty years until his death from AIDS in 1990, Vito would go on to become one of the most outspoken and inspiring activists in the LGBT community’s fight for equal rights. He was a pivotal part of three well-known organizations during their formative years: GAA (Gay Activists Alliance), which staged subversive works of protest performance art to secure rights and dignity for all gay people; GLAAD (Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation), formed to ensure that media representation of gays and lesbians was accurate; and ACT UP (AIDS Coalition To Unleash Power), a guerrilla activist group that turned the fury over President Reagan’s refusal to do anything about AIDS into a series of highly telegenic acts of civil disobedience. In the midst of his commitment to activism, Vito was also a prolific writer. His seminal book “The Celluloid Closet” explored the ways in which gays and lesbians were portrayed on film, what lessons those characters taught gay and straight audiences, and how those negative images were at the root of society’s homophobia. Even before the book was published, Vito was taking “The Celluloid Closet” on the road, traveling to gay film festivals and college campuses for an entertaining and informative lecture-slash-clip show that intertwined Vito’s love of show business and radical gay politics. He continued writing, lecturing, speaking out and acting up until just months before his death.”

    Vito Russo was born in 1946 and grew up in a traditional Catholic Italian family in East Harlem and New Jersey in the ‘50s and ‘60s, yet he never allowed the oppressive influence of tradition, religion, and family convince him that he was born as something unnatural. In a clip early in the film he makes clear what separated him from generations of gay people before him. “I don’t know what was different about the way I was raised or the way I reacted,” he says, “but I never once, not for a second, believed that it was wrong to be gay, that it was a sin, that homosexuality was evil.”

    “The idea of a film came about when I realized that Vito participated in every significant milestone in the gay liberation movement -- from Stonewall to ACT UP -- and that his story was also the story of our community,” filmmaker Jeffrey Schwarz states, “ A documentary could contextualize how he and his gay liberation brothers and sisters were able to begin to overcome homophobia and oppression, and emerge from invisibility to liberation. We are all living the end result Vito's work, and our freedom is his gift to us.”

    The director got his start in the film business working as an apprentice editor on the 1995 Peabody Award-winning HBO documentary adaptation of Vito Russo’s The Celluloid Closet, directed by Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman. “That was where I really got to know Vito, just a few years after he passed away. Rob and Jeffrey had all of Vito's research materials, articles, videotapes, lectures and most importantly, extended interviews with Vito himself.”

    Mr. Schwarz’s film is made of a mix of historical images and interviews with acquaintances and experts. The telling of his story smoothly “juxtaposed against the present day, when gay marriage is sanctioned in some states and gay characters are all over prime-time television.” (Neil Genzlinger, NYT).

    “The things that you think are going to take 10 years take 100 years,” Vito himself has said to the camera, during an interview that took place more than two decades ago but feels as if it happened 1000 years ago. Vito dedicated his life to fighting prejudice and campaigning for equality yet he never got to see the evolution of gay rights and this compelling documentary shows how essential his work was and continues to be.

    If you are interested in booking a screening of VITO, click here>>>

  • Art & Culture

    L'Intervallo: Taking a Break from Life

    Before Sundance and before SXSW, there was New Directors/New Films, Film Society of Lincoln Center and Museum of Modern Art’s annual showcase of work by emerging filmmakers from around the world.

    Each year, for the past 42 years, New Directors/New Films unveils a brand-new lineup of fresh faces on the filmmaking scene. You may recognize some names from past festivals: Pedro Almodovar, Kelly Reichardt, Atom Egoyan, Spike Lee, Richard Linklater, Sally Potter, John Sayles, Steven Spielberg, Wim Wenders, and Wong Kar Wai, for example, were all featured by New Directors/New Films early in their careers.

    This year the dates of the festival are March 20-31 and screenings will take place at the Walter Reade Theater at Lincoln Center and at The Roy and Niuta Titus Theater 1 at MoMA. Among the films in the program there is one Italian jewel, L'Intervallo by director Leonardo di Costanzo (Friday, March 29 at 6.15 pm; Sunday, March 31 at 4.00 pm).

    Written by the director with Mariangela Barbanente and Maurizio Braucci, an important writer of the new Italian fiction genre and screenwriter of Matteo Garrone's Gomorra, L'Intervallo, winner of the Critics’ Prize at the 2012 Venice Film Festival, is a portrait of two adolescents thrown together under the eye of the Neapolitan Camorra. This story of broken love and ruined poetry slowly captures the viewer with its air of menace and sexual tension.

    A young man, Salvatore (played by Alessio Gallo) and woman, Veronica (played by Francesca Riso) are confined in a huge abandoned building, the ex-mental institution Leonardo Bianchi of Naples, in a working-class neighborhood. He is a shy ice-cream vendor, she is a feisty local “object of desire.” One must watch over the other. She is a captive because she allegedly has wronged Bernardino (played by Carmine Paternoster), a local gangster, and he is forced by his gang, who has stolen his cart, to be her jailer. Despite their youth, both act older than their age…Veronica as a mature and uninhibited woman, and Salvatore as a young man who must follow orders to preserve his own well-being.

    The two fifteen year olds react differently to the violence that is all around them. Veronica is restless and rebellious; Salvatore is yielding and more accommodating; but who knows if it is out or fear or pragmatism. Both are essentially victims, but they blame each other for their imprisonment. As time goes by however, the hostility between the pair softens, leading to intimacy, punctuated with mutual discoveries and confessions. In this frightening and isolated place, Veronica and Salvatore surprisingly find a way to reignite the dreams and illusions of their lost adolescences. The two share a welcomed break from their harsh adult lives, a moment of escapism, an "Intervallo" (a break) before having to address the cruel reality of a violent criminal gang ultimately deciding Veronica's fate.

    Director Leonardo Di Costanzo, who has directed many documentaries which have been presented and have won various prizes in some of the most important international film festivals, brings gripping documentary realism and a poetic eye to this quietly intense drama. “L’Intervallo is my first fictional feature film,” Di Costanzo stated, “up till now I had only made documentaries, but my approach to this project has been with the same curiosity towards reality and the unlimited inspiration it can give, and with the same faith in it's endless narrative possibilities. Therefore, in this movie as in any documentary, I begun by observing and listening.”

    Closeness to reality was achieved not only in the way the film was shot, but also by the choice of the two main actors, two non-professional kids from the hood. To find the two protagonists, a coaching laboratory for improv acting was held: it involved a group of teenagers of the “Spanish Quarters” with the help of the Teatro Stabile of Naples. The laboratory, which lasted over three months, was directed by Alessandra Cutolo and Antonio Calone, who have been organizing drama lessons for street children in Naples for many years now.

    “When we begun writing, we immediately knew that we would have to leave enough space in the screenplay for the actors to create their own characters and back stories,” Di Costanzo stated, “We thought the script as a sort of canvas for the plot, precise, but open enough for the characters. Even if the film was supposed to be acted in Neapolitan dialect, the screenplay was written in Italian, so that the actors -when preparing for the role- would have to translate it and make it their own. To make this possible, from the beginning I decided the two main actors would have to be amateurs.”

    The film was shot without any added lighting, with the exception made for some shots at night, and with a shoulder-mounted camera, to better adapt to the way the actors would interact with the location, the ex-mental institution Leonardo Bianchi of Naples, built in the nineteenth century and abandoned many years ago.

    “All this to tell a story about teenagers, where adults are absent, and are considered a menace or harbingers of laws and customs that must be followed,” Di Costanco concluded, “Here in the south, the laws are those of the Camorra, which tempts and threatens, and with which anyone must come to terms, in one form or another, when choosing to live in this city.”

    Di Costanzo will be present at both screenings at new Directors/New Films:

    Friday, March 29 at 6.15 pm
    Sunday, March 31 at 4.00 pm

  • Life & People

    Waiting Tables and Waiting for a Brighter Future: This is Waiting

    Three Italian immigrants and one City: A journey surrounded by everyday victories, nostalgia and the fear of failure. This is Waiting, the story of three contemporary Italian immigrants in New York City. Their day-to-day lives are filled with hard work and many challenges as they pursue better lives. While working day (and night) jobs in restaurants, each follows his personal dream.

    Waiting is a work in progress, a documentary by Italian filmmaker Cristian M. Piazza that features the everyday, each individual's journey through little victories, nostalgia, and the fear of failure, of an opera singer, a boxer, and an aspiring entrepreneur.

    The film we have a peak at them preparing for a big event, something important for their careers and lives. Who knows, something that could change their lives forever.

    Floriano Pagliara is a professional boxer from Cecina (Tuscany) and he is captured on film as he works in a restaurant, at home, during training sessions and as he prepares for an important match.

    Paolo Buffagni is a tenor from Modena and, during the documentary, he is preparing for a main role in the opera, La Traviata. It is an important step for a singer who has often performed for free in hundreds of locations (including the NYC subway) just to get his name out there.

    Paolo Inferrera, instead, has a more troubled history but equally interesting. The filmmaker sees him as a “hamster in a wheel,” always running, stopping would mean dealing with some serious issues... and indeed he has had quite a few. Now that he is doing better he wants to open his own restaurant.

    We had a chance of speaking with director Piazza and ask him a few questions.

    How did you get the idea to shoot this film?
    “I think nobody has told this story before. Maybe I’m wrong but it seems so personal and I’m so involved that it makes it original. When people refer to Italian immigration and Immigrants they usually explore the old waves of immigrants, those that came here at the turn of the XX century or after the world wars. On the other hand they refer to the wealthy ones; the big trendy companies that made Italian lifestyle so famous: Ferrari, Armani, Prada, and so on. I’m ok with that! However, there is this group of people, quite young, mostly middle class, quite anonymous I would say, almost underground. They keep coming, they seek luck, they want to try new things and start from scratch. I know plenty of them. I’m one of them too. Nobody talks about them and they are an essential part of NYC.”

    How similar or different is their story to your personal one?
    “I can relate to their stories just for the fact that we have emigrated and moved to NYC. Then, there are many aspects of their path that are quite akin: finding a purpose, pursuing a goal, sacrifice, being far from family, and of course being Italian. But audiences can feel related with them and being from someplace else. That is what makes you a New Yorker, for example. Relating to this idea of starting from scratch, giving yourself a second chance or a third...

    I had great responses from people from South America, whose grandparents emigrated there (Italians or not) a few generations ago. The same thing has happened with Italian- Americans who somehow see their ancestors reflected in this modern version of an immigrant. Although, the reasons that brought them here are completely different, still the process of adaptation and fitting into a new culture and mingle with their differences is pretty much the same.

    On top of that we found the sense of community, which is the real lifesaver for an immigrant or for a human being in general. I strongly believe in that and you can see it in the film. The singer is doing this within a community of singers and musicians who share their love for Opera and they walk together and support each other. Also, ethnic groups gather and survive, people with whom you share a language and a bunch of memories.”

    Are you an immigrant who came to the US to have a different life?
    “My case is a little different. I’ve lived in many cities including places in South America. I visit Italy as much as I can but I never escape from it. I wish there were more opportunities for young professionals but it’s not the case right now. “Change is never linear,” says Chomsky and that is true for Italy and for us here living in NY.”

    How did you select the characters in the film?
    “The idea was born in 2008 when I worked with one of the guys. He was so sociable and funny with everyone, and still is, that a thought crossed my mind: “someone should make a movie about him” (I was really thinking about Italians in NY restaurants). It remained in the back of my mind for a couple of years and then one day it just came back.

    After brainstorming with a friend about production, we searched and talked to many people. More than talking, we thought of which of our friends would be a match for the project and we took it from there. So I approached Paolo, the tenor, and suggested the idea of ​making a film about his experience in New York.

    Regarding Floriano, the boxer, it was a stroke of good luck, a fluke. Initially we had a different boxer in the lineup. He accepted to be part of the doc and then he opted out before we started filming. We were in deep trouble and so inadvertently someone told me about this Tuscan guy who worked in Brooklyn and was also a boxer. We went to talk to him and were amazed by his unassuming nature. The first boxer was an amateur and Floriano came here already as a Pro. Everything happens for a reason.”

    You played several different roles in the production of the film, how was it?
    “Sometimes I feel like an orchestra man: playing many instruments at the same time. I created this project from scratch in a moment where I found myself jobless after working for a nice online project for RAI here in NY. I sat down and said “I have to do something for myself, this is a perfect time,” so somehow I turned my disappointment into positive energy and tried to move forward rapidly from those circumstances.

    I shaped the idea, my friend Tommaso was also part of it at the beginning, and from there it was hands-on camera with plenty of ups and downs. There were times when I wanted to let go of the project; it was time consuming and not profitable at all. If you want to make a Documentary to make money you’re making it for the wrong reasons. But I got over those moments of weakness and kept going. Now we are starting to see the results. So I’m directing but I’m also producing and helping with the editing. I’m managing the Social Media sites and working very meticulously with everyone.

    Initially I thought of filming everything in 6 months and that it would take probably another 6 months to cut it. After a couple of months I was without a cameraman and I felt lost for a while. I decided to get my own camera and be my own cameraman. At the beginning, I’m sure, I took it personally but then I realized not only that it was part of the experience but it gave me the chance to observe closely each one of the characters and learn an immense amount of things from them.”

    Tell me about the title, Waiting?
    “If you ask me why the title is in English I can tell you that this is a film made in New York, by someone who has lived here for many years, opposed to someone that would come from abroad to look at these episodes of life. I have lived here and I understand the rhythms of the city; how people think and behave, the famous New York State of Mind.

    There is a play on words. As you know, Waiting refers to those who serve in restaurants and the guys in the film belong to this field, and then the expectation of a better life, to achieve what they are looking for.”

    Waiting is almost done filming. “I could say that we have completed 99% of the footage,” Cristian added, “Right now we are editing and promoting the film on Social Media. We would like to send the Doc to festivals all around the globe and see the reactions. We are getting the Website ready: Waitingdocumentary.com and we are also preparing a Soundtrack with songs from a band from Bologna called Mr.Brace led by Davide Brace Rastelli and we want to include other artists.

    I’ve practically funded the film myself so far. I started to shoot three years ago with no financial help. We are definitely looking for funds. We applied for a film grant but we have to wait a few months for the answer. We plan to launch a Crowdfunding campaign as soon as possible (April?). That’s why we want to build an audience on Social Media before launching the campaign.”

  • Art & Culture

    Garrone's Reality Comes to American Cinemas

    “After Gomorrah I wanted to do something different, most likely a comedy but I am not sure I succeeded. As things progressed the comedy got a little darker.” With these words Italian award-winning film director Matteo Garrone described his latest film Reality, the winner of the Grand Prix at the 65th edition of the Cannes Film Festival , that will open in movie theaters in New York City on March 15th and in Los Angeles on march 22nd. A national release will follow.

    Garrone was in New York to promote the film and shared with the audience of the Italian
    Cultural Institute
    , during a conference led by journalist and professor Antonio Monda, some interesting insight.

    “The story was inspired by real events,” the shy director explained, “Luciano's story is the story of my brother in law. It's a bit more tragic on screen but it is real.”

    The film is the darkly comedic tale of a Neapolitan fishmonger with a burning ambition to be famous. It is about the role of reality TV in today's society and what regular people would do to be in a show. “Reality is born from a simple but true story that we transformed in order to move through and reflect on the landscape of today. It is a journey of anticipation, of hopes and dreams,” Garrone explained, “This is a film about how we perceive the real, the story of a man who departs from reality and enters into his own fictitious dimension.”

    “Never give up, hold on to your dreams,” is what the fictional character of Enzo (Raffaele Ferrante), a former Big Brother contestant turned into a wedding party celebrity tells Luciano (Aniello Arena), the story's main character, when he is not sure if the show producers will ask him to participate. This gives him more hope. With growing hope there is lasting illusion.

    Luciano runs his small fish stand in the town square with effusive charm, doing his best to support his family. A natural-born performer, Luciano never misses an opportunity to entertain his customers and countless relatives. One day, at the urging of his children, he tries out for “Big Brother,” where they believe he’ll be a hit. After a successful first audition, he eagerly awaits the call that he and his excited clan are convinced will come and rocket him to fame and fortune. As time passes with no word from the producers, Luciano becomes increasingly paranoid (for example, Luciano thinks the TV production has hidden a camera in a cricket to see his every move. As the insect is “singing” he feels under scrutiny. These scene was based on what really happened to Garrone's brother in law) and consumed by this ever-elusive dream.

    “Reality is not a film on Big Brother,” Garrone really cared to sfecify, “It is not an exposè or something against TV. This was misunderstood and the film was less successful in Italy because of this.” The show itself is just in the background, it never steals the scene but is just something that causes Luciano to act a certain way and he simply can't let go of it. “It is more a film on capitalism. It tells how people want to escape everyday life to follow a fake Paradise. What they have is not enough and they always want more.”

    “I think of Luciano, the star of the film, as a modern-day Pinocchio, one of childlike innocence and naïveté,” Garrone added, “I followed him with my camera as if he were living a fantastic adventure. During the shooting, I was constantly striving for that delicate balance between dream and reality, always searching, even figuratively, for a certain fable-like quality, a sort of magic realism.”

    And the real story that inspired the film? When asked about the current situation of his brother in law, Garrone explained that he participated in the writing of the film and also consulted with the actor who was playing Luciano. With the money earned from the film he was able to open a fish shop. “The circle is closed,” Garrone concluded.

    Oscilloscope Laboratories has acquired U.S. rights to Reality. Oscilloscope's David Laub called the film “a complex, provocative, and deeply compelling look at our media-obsessed culture, executed by one of the most interesting and talented filmmakers working today. Garrone pays homage to classical filmmakers such as Fellini and Scorsese while crafting a fresh and very relevant contemporary story.”

    Reality has created buzz not just for its story but for another reason as well: its leading actor. Garrone found him performing in a prison acting troupe as he is currently serving a life sentence for double murder. According to the Internet Movie Database Arena has been hailed as an unlikely blend of Robert de Niro, Mr Punch, and Totò, Italy's best loved comic actor. “It was he (Arena) who really developed the character of Luciano. He gives an extraordinary interpretation of a very complex role. This is a man who, having been in jail for nearly 20 years, has discovered a world that he had no idea about,” Garrone told The Telegraph in the past.

    115 minutes. In Italian with English subtitles. An Oscilloscope Laboratories release. Rated R for some language.

    The film opens at the Angelika Film Center on 3/15/20103. for tickets click here

  • Events: Reports

    The Flavor of Authenticity at the New York Wine Expo

    The Italian Trade Commission, in collaboration with the New York Wine Expo, presented a much anticipated Italian Pavilion this March 1st-3rd on site at the Jacob Javitz Center Galleria. Over 8,000 consumers, trade representatives and members of the press flocked to the Expo over the weekend to experience and certainly indulge in a taste of authentic Italy. Indeed, the Italian Pavilion featured indigenous and international wine varietals from Abruzzo, Emilia Romagna, Friuli Venezia Giulia, Lazio, Lombardy, Le Marche, Piedmont, Sardinia, Sicily, Tuscany, Veneto and Umbria but also showcased several types of what many have dubbed Italy’s Liquid Gold from award winning olive oil producers from Abruzzo, Calabria, Campania, Le Marche, Sicily and Umbria.

    “The beginning of our collaboration with the organizers of the Boston Wine Expo and the New York Wine Expo dates back to three years ago,” Italian Trade Commissioner, Aniello Musella tells i-italy, “At first our contribution was much more limited, yet it grows every year. This year our partnership is much larger and Italy has the largest pavilion at the show. We have 41 Italian companies, 39 out of them are producers hailing directly form Italy. The rest are importers, representatives of the olive oil and cheese industry and even magazines. They all relish the opportunity to discuss their products and provide a guided tasting experience to visitors. Mostly, we are representing wines, the majority already are available on the American market, others are looking for importers.”

    Analysis of 2012 data published by the US Department of Commerce for US wine and vermouth imports reveals Italy retains its market leadership position carving out a 29.5% US market share valued at an estimated 1.5 billion dollars. Further news that certainly bodes well for Italian wine exports to the US were recent comments made by respected market analyst Jon Fredrikson at the Unified Grape Symposium noting that America is the largest wine market in the world; consuming 13% of global production.

    “Italy’s ample array of quality wines directly responds to the growing interest in wine stateside,” Italian Trade Commissioner, Aniello Musella comments, “This interest has been partially fueled by high quality Italian restaurants and someliers who seek out interesting wine offerings and millennials’ adventuresome spirit and purchasing habits; by a strong group of American foodies who totally cherish Italy's food culture and work hard for its promotion on the American tables; and to improved marketing efforts made by Italian producers.”

    “Together they have highlighted amazing lesser known Italian wine regions and wines creating a demand for these wines as well,” the Commissioner continues, “in the last fifteen years we got to know wines that were virtually unknown. Primitivo from Puglia or Nero D'Avola from Sicily are an example of this. Another example is Prosecco, cherished by younger generations who enjoy a high quality sparkling wine available for a better price than champagne.”

    Mr. Musella particularly wanted to emphasize the goal of participating at events like the Wine Expo. “The Italian Trade Commission works hard on the continuous promotion of authentic Italian products and wines. We do it on a daily basis and then we have some important events, like this expo, were our efforts are even magnified. We are here to help importers and consumers in promoting and recognizing the authenticity of Italian products. We fight hard against imitations. The phenomenon of Italian Sounding is a real plague that causes serious economic damages.”

    “The olive oil industry is one of the most affected by this curse,” Nazzareno Callipo owner of Gourmet Cooking & Living, an importer and distributor of Italian extra virgin olive oils, says “Italy is said to sell more oil than it actually produces. If we just rely on math, things just do not add up. If a product is not guaranteed as original by the European Community or other recognized government institutions it can be easily falsified. That is why both the American and the European governments are working hard in protectign producers and their products. We are here at the show to educate consumers, answer all their questions and promote high quality Italian products. This is the best place to be right now.”

    A special addition to the New York Wine Expo this year, was the Italian Cheese Road Tour and POP UP SHOP featuring Asiago, Piave, Valtellina Casera, and Grana Padano DOP cheeses presented by Agriform in collaboration with e‐tailer igourmet.com. The Italian Cheese Road Tour aims to engage and educate attendees about Italy’s bounty of quality cheeses. New York’s beloved Italian Cheese Guru, Lou Di Palo, was the featured speaker at the Expo’s sold out seminar Italian Cheese’s X Factor presented by Agriform in collaboration with the Italian Trade Commission. Lou discussed how typicity, provenance and maturation regimes contribute to the irresistible taste of DOP cheeses.

    The show's program also welcomed the participation of cookbook author and host of PBS’ Stress Free Cooking‐ Barbara Seelig Brown. She was on hand to share tips, discuss authentic Italian ingredients and personalize a copy of one of her latest acclaimed cookbooks. Another terrific addition to the Pavilion was Italy’s premiere food and cooking magazine La Cucina Italiana Magazine. Staffers were on hand to share product picks and consult visitors on all things Italian including wine, travel, gastronomy and more.

    Overall, under the guidance of the Italian Trade Commission everybody was working hard on promoting the high quality and authenticity of Italian products. “It is easy to do when you are representing such a fantastic array of wines, cheese, olive oil and other authentic delicacies,” Callipo concludes.

  • Art & Culture

    On Shelves 3.5.2013: If You Knew Me You Would Care

    “The women in this book are an inspiration to all of us who aspire to triumph over adversity. It is a personal peek at the most intimate stories as told by women who have survived war. It is a tribute to them, to their survival, their achievements, and their dreams. I hope people everywhere will take away the powerful message of survival this book inspires,” Zainab Salbi, a women’s rights activist, humanitarian, and writer said in a public statement. Salbi is also the founder of Women for Women International, an organization providing women survivors of war, civil strife, and other conflicts with the tools and resources to move from crisis and poverty to stability and self-sufficiency. Salbi served as the organization’s CEO from 1993-2011. Among her numerous honors, Salbi was named as a “21st Century Heroine” by Harper’s Bazaar in 2010. Newsweek, The Guardian, and the Economist Intelligence Unit each named Salbi as one of the most influential and inspirational women in the world in 2011.

    The book was presented by her and photographer Rennio Maifredi at PowerHouse Books. The two, who met on a photo shoot, traveled to Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, and Bosnia and Herzegovina to seek out women who have been subject to the worst trials individuals must ever face, and yet overcame this adversity. Salbi conducted interviews with women about their definitions of war and peace, about their horrific and tragic pasts and their hopes for the future, and Maifredi photographed each of the women interviewed. The interviews and images together create a compelling, global, first-person account of what it means to be a powerful, female, survivor.

    Rennio Maifredi is a photographer, originally from Brescia, who is well know for his fashion work: his photographs have been featured in Allure, Vogue, and Marie Claire, among others. He has a particular passion for portrait photography and his work in that area has been featured in The New York Times Magazine, Time, and Wired. One day, after having photographed a portrait of Zainab Salbi and chatted with her about her work he said the magic words: “I would love to be involved in your next project.” Needless to say he soon got a call and he packed his things to travel to war zones with Salbi.

    “Obviously the world of fashion is drastically different from that of war,” Maifredi said at the presentation, “but I was able to capture the beauty of every woman that stepped in front of the camera no matter what.” He was able to do it in silence and peace, with total respect for the survivor standing there. Although an interpreter was with him on set, often words were not necessary. Those women communicated with their eyes, their muscles tensing, their shy smiles and so forth.

    At the presentation, a slide show that paired the portraits with Salbi reading her text as the pictures were shown, it was possible to imagine what the atmosphere was like on set. Maifredi is very quiet but always alert, looking through his interlocutor.

    “If you knew me, you would know...” each woman seems to scream out of the page when she tells the reader her story. This direct approach humanizes faces that we are used to see and we have detached from. One is looking for any type of job, one has seen all her family die in front of her eyes, ones has buried her mother with her own hands but is now happy to be a “fashion model,” another was sold as a young bride at the age of six. The stories, unfortunately, are cruel and countless.

    All women featured in the book have been served by Women for Women International. WfWI delivers a tiered, year-long program that begins with identifying those communities that are most socially marginalized and works with women to reach their full potential. Book proceeds will go to Women for Women International.

  • Art & Culture

    Fellini's 8 ½ on the Big Screen

    Federico Fellini's 8 1/2 (1963) is a film that juxtaposed dreams, visions, fantasies, and realities in a cinematic version of the director's own stream of consciousness. A film that left audiences guessing what was real and what imagined, with little help from the director. A film that was “described at the time of its release as a "spectacle of the spirit," but in retrospect it was also the moment of creative implosion when Fellini lost his way in a maze of Jungian archetypes, Freudian fixations, and Sartrean despair.” (Alan A. Stone, Boston Review).

    “Federico Fellini tops even his trendsetting La Dolce Vita in artistry,” a review in Variety from 1963 says, “And he confirms himself one of the few undisputed masters of the visual-dramatic medium. For here is the author-director picture par excellence, an exciting stimulating, monumental creation which is likely to unleash almost as many controversies and discussions as "Dolce Vita" did some time back.”

    A film about film-making... enter the world of Guido Anselmi (played by Marcello Mastroianni). At the peak of his career and experiencing a mid-life crisis, Guido is unable to commence his next film project. At the urging of his doctors, he takes some time off to rest from his hectic schedule of film production, only to find escape from his throng of staff and idlers impossible. Retreating from reality, Guido assimilates himself in a cerebral world where his fantasies compete against his sense of urgency to make any kind of progress on his new movie. Masquerading through his memory are many characters and personalities, each having a unique influence on the master director.

    A film that parallels director Federico Fellini's own creative struggles, 8 1/2 is one of the films that most defines his career. It is a comedy-drama co-scripted by Fellini, Tullio Pinelli, Ennio Flaiano and Brunello Rondi. Shot in B&W by cinematographer Gianni di Venanzo, the film features a soundtrack by Nino Rota with costume and set designs by Piero Gherardi. 8½ won two Academy Awards: for Best Foreign language Film and Best Costume Design. It was also nominated Best Director, Best Original Screenplay and best Art Direction. The film screened in April at the 1963 Cannes Film Festival to almost universal acclaim but no prize was awarded because it was shown outside the competition.

    “The film's title refers to Fellini's eight and a half films as a director: his previous directorial work consisted of six features (Lo sceicco bianco (1952), I vitelloni (1953), La strada in (1954), Il bidone (1955), Le notti di Cabiria (1957), and La Dolce Vita (1960)), two short segments, and a collaboration with director Alberto Lattuada, the latter three productions accounting for a "half" film each.” (Wikipedia)

    “What is this 8 ½? It can be described as something between a muddled psychiatric visit and an orderless examination of conscience, with Limbo as setting. A melancholy film, almost funereal, but emphatically comic,” Federico Fellini wrote in the original 1963 Embassy Pictures Press Book. “Most people have written that s autobiographical. In a certain sense I am autobiographical even if I am telling the life story of a sole. And yet I swear that this is a work of fantasy and of all my films this is the one which has least reference to little personal facts. I have put a bit of everything into it: things I have experienced, things I have heard, things I have imagined. Maybe it is a naive hope on my part but I would like to think that people will go to see this film with a completely open mind, recognizing that I have just been telling a fable and that there's nothing in it beyond what is to be seen on the screen. I wouldn't want anyone to think that the film was the secret biography of an erotic. Absolutely not.”

    A new restored version of Federico Fellini's 8 1/2 is opening on March 22nd (http://www.quadcinema.com/coming-soon/) at the Quad Cinema (34 W 13th St.). Corinth Films is responsible for bringing one of the masterpieces of our time to the big screen once again, in a beautiful new 35mm restoration. This is the opportunity to view a masterpiece firsthand on the big screen and relive some moments that have made film history.