header i-Italy

Articles by: Natasha Lardera

  • Art & Culture

    Maestro Morricone Wins Best Original Score

    The 88th Academy Awards will be remembered in Italy as the year that Maestro Morricone won the coveted statuette for Best Original Score for Quentin Tarantino's film The Hateful Eight.

    “This is a great acknowledgment,” Morricone later said in one of the many interviews, “It is great for cinema itself as cinema always needs to be promoted. Nastri D'Argento, David di Donatello (Italian film awards) have the same scope as the Academy Awards. They help cinema.”

    At 87, Morricone has more than 500 movie credits to this name including scores for Sergio Leone’s so-called “Dollars Trilogy” – “A Fistful of Dollars,” “For a Few Dollars More,” and “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly and Leone’s “Once Upon a Time in the West.” Other unforgettable scores are for Brian De Palma’s “The Untouchables,” Barry Levinson’s “Bugsy,” and Roland Joffe’s “The Mission.”

    The Maestro received his first nomination in 1979 for the score to Days of Heaven directed by Terrence Malik. In 1984, the U.S. distributor of Once Upon a Time in America failed to file the proper paperwork so that Morricone's score to Leone's film, regarded as one of his best, would be eligible for consideration for an Academy Award. In 1986, Morricone received his second Oscar nomination for The Mission, followed bynominations for his scores to The Untouchables, (1987), Bugsy (1991), and Malena (2000).

     

    Back in 2007, Morricone received a Honorary Academy Award, presented by Clint Eastwood, "for his magnificent and multifaceted contributions to the art of film music.”

    That time, as well as last night, the Maestro received a heartfelt standing ovation after his name was pronounced by Quincy Jones and Pharrell. He was led to the stage by his son Giovanni and, in Italian, he thanked the other nominees, singling out the great John Williams, and explained that “there is no great music without a great film that inspires it. I thank Quentin Tarantino for choosing me and the great team that made this extraordinary film.” He then dedicated the award to his wife of sixty years. Maria.

    2016 has been quite a year for the maestro who stared award season winning a Goden Globe.

    “I'm very happy, and I wasn't expecting it. You never expect this sort of thing.” This is what Maestro Ennio Morricone said a couple of months back. That time Director Tarantino accepted the award on Morricone's behalf and has been criticized for calling film composers “ghetto” while trying to explain that Morricone is the real thing. "As far as I'm concerned,” he said “he's my favorite composer. And when I say favorite composer, I don't mean movie composer, that ghetto. I'm talking about Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert. That's who I'm talking about." He then continued to say that Morricone has never won for any individual film, and their collaboration marks the maestro’s first original score for a Tarantino pic, and his first for a Western in decades. In reality, prior to “Hateful Eight” Morricone has previously won Golden Globes for Roland Joffe’s “The Mission,” in 1987, and for Giuseppe Tornatore’s “The Legend of 1900” in 2000.

    Morricone's response? "Tarantino is exaggerating, we have to let history judge. His was an immediate judgment, the judgments of a nice person who was kind enough to praise my work, but we have to wait two centuries to prove that what he has said about me is true.”

    A couple of days before the Oscars, the Maestro was also given a star on the Hollywood walk of fame.


  • Art & Culture

    Talking Books with Dacia Maraini

    Third time's a charm. And it was charming indeed. This past week one of Italy's leading intellectuals, writer Dacia Maraini, visited for the third time NYU's Casa Italiana Zerilli Marimò not just to present her latest book, La Bambina e il Sognatore, but to “talk books” in a lively conversation.

     
     

    Led by the questions of  Michelangelo La Luna(University of Rhode Island), Rebecca Falkoff(NYU) and Sole Anatrone(UC Berkeley), Maraini eagerly discussed her entire career, which started in the 1960s, and her body of work, which includes novels, plays, essays, articles and poetry.

    Although her debut novel, La Vacanza, translated by Stuart Hood as The Holiday: a Novel, was written between 1960 and 1961, Maraini was a true storyteller even before official publication. She learned that from her parents whom she referred to as “Libri Parlanti,” Talking Books. When she was only 7 years old, Maraini and her family, her parents and her two sisters, were interned in a concentration camp in Japan. “There were no books, but coming from a family of intellectuals we found a way,” Maraini explained. “Our parents were trying to teach us something. And like the characters of Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451, who, in order to keep literature alive, had to memorize their favorite books, they'd become talking books and tells us stories. This not only helped with literature but also with the Italian language which we did not want to lose.”

    The art of storytelling thrived in the household, before Maraini herself her grandmother and her father had been writers, along with the ability to observe the world with wide open eyes. “We were not a rich family and the only richness we owned were books,” Maraini added when recalling some of the family memories that shaped her and her art, “They were always there, even when everything else was lacking.”

    And just like a member of her family, Nani Sapienza, the teacher who happens to be the Sognatore (dreamer) of La Bambina e il Sognatore, is a storyteller whose method of teaching is based on tales and stories that stimulate the children's imagination and make them reason just like adults. Sapienza, a father whose daughter was taken away by a cruel disease, becomes obsessed with the disappearance of a little girl and enlists not only his classroom but the whole town in her search.

    “Reading the news everyday I learned that a lot of children disappear every year,” Maraini explained, “and Sapienza just like Orpheus goes down in the world of shadows looking for Lucia but on his path he meets other little girls. Girls who have voices.”

    Most of Maraini's work has been classified as feminist as the most reoccurring themes in her writing deal with women issues such as women breaking free of traditional gender roles or the discrimination against women in society. La Bambina e il Sognatore, is Maraini's first novel written in a male point of view but that doesn't make it any different from her body of work. The role of the father is carefully observed and Maraini brings to the surface the desire of fatherhood that many men now have but that in the past was either absent or hidden. “The separation of family roles is not so automatic,” Maraini clarified, “In the past mothers were reduced to function instead of being seen as a person. But conventions change. Take incest for example, there was a time when it was accepted. You can't stop changes but you can guide them. Men's desire of being with their children is one of these changes.”

    La Bambina e il Sognatore is a giallo, a thriller, where the search for a little girl becomes an interior search, that would force the teacher to redefine the past without it being forgotten.  
     
    Find more pics of the event on i-Italy Facebook page >>

  • Art & Culture

    Shakespeare With an Italian Twist

    From March 4th to the 20th, at Teatro Circulo (64 East 4th St) First Maria LLC is presenting Hamlet, directed by Celeste Moratti and performed, entirely in English, by a mixed American-Italian company. Verona Walls, directed by DeLisa M. White and performed at The Workshop Theater (312 West 36th Str) from March 3rd to 26th, centers on the loves and mistakes of Mercutio, Romeo’s best friend, as the action of Romeo and Juliet plays out somewhere offstage.

    The “twist” is that this production, which was originally produced by Milan's Teatro Franco Parenti in September, 2013 as the final production in the theater's Hamlet Marathon which featured Hamlets from around the world, cut politics out of the plot to focus more on each character's role as either a child or a parent, “highlighting mistakes of mothers and fathers and the conflicts in children between filial duty and the emergence of conscience.”
     

    “I gave myself Gertrude to play, initially thinking the character was a selfish woman,” Moratti, who is a new mother has said, “Then I re-read the play and now I sympathize with her. She's a protective mother. She married Claudius out of her need for safety when her husband died. She thought the best way to keep herself and her son in the palace was to marry Claudius. She doesn't see her mistake.”

    Moratti's production of Hamlet, which includes a five-person greek-style chorus and live music by two Italian musicians, is set in the late '70s to early '80s, during the wave of hedonism that abruptly ended with the AIDS epidemic. That's meant to frame the play in an awakening of conscience for all characters,  but especially in the character of Hamlet, played by Alexander Sovronsky. The Shakesperian tragedy is meant to be seen as a coming-of-age tale for a sheltered child who in a critical instance receives from his father an impossible order. 

    Moratti, who is an Italian-born actress internationally known for both realistic and surrealistic leading roles in the "Pathological Theater" productions of Dario D'Ambrosi, also explained that she “identifies with Hamlet, especially that side of the story about a child not cut out to be king, whose tough-minded father actually had given up on him, only to recall him from the grave, demanding to 'be like me—avenge my death.'” She also noted that Hamlet's penchant for theatrics is very Italian.”

    The actors performing in Hamlet are Alexander Sovronky as Hamlet, Celeste Moratti as Gertrude, Michael S. Kaplan as Polonius, J.B. Alexander as Claudius, Doria Bramante as Ophelia, Tristan Colton as Laertes, Nina Ashe as Rosencrantz/ Marcella/ Player Queen, Ross Hamman as Guildenstern/Barnardo/Player King/Gravedigger and Collin Mcconnell as Horatio. Additional chorus work is by Markus Weinfurter while live music will be performed by Francesco Santalucia and Papaceccio. Their music will create an additional rhythm for the language thus aiding the narrative.

    We now move to Verona, the beautiful town that was used as a backdrop of three of Shakespeare's plays: Romeo and Juliet, The Two Gentlemen of Verona and The Taming of the Shrew. In Verona Walls, New York based playwright Laura Hirschberg, a Shakespeare devotee since childhood, imagines a background story for Romeo and Juliet that is separate from the ancient grudges that characterize the famous tragedy. The play, directed by DeLisa M. White and performed at The Workshop Theater (312 West 36th Str) from March 3rd to 26th, centers on the loves and mistakes of Mercutio, Romeo’s best friend, as the action of Romeo and Juliet plays out somewhere offstage.

    Shakespeare’s fascination with Italy is a constant in his work. His Italian settings, which include Rome, Venice, Messina, Mantua and Padua in addition to Verona, are so crucial to his plays that they have become characters themselves.

    “Verona Walls is a story of real love and powerful friendship in Shakespeare's star-crossed city. Following a string of bad dates, Mercutio is through with love and content to drink, fight, and party alongside his best friends, Romeo and Benvolio. That is, until he crosses paths with Alyssa, an intriguing woman who happens to be passing through Verona on her way to further adventures.”

    Their romance, is complete with misunderstandings, perfect happiness, and devastating heartbreak. “Ultimately, the story of whether you are lover or a fighter--and what love means to you--can't be learned from history. The subject of this story is perennial and recurrent,” director DeLisa White has said of the play.

    In the production's concept, indicators of period language and clothing are meant to drive home the extent to which the play's themes resonate through time. The set is rooted in Veronese architecture, but layered with street art and graffiti; costuming mixes the Elizabethan and the modern; classical verse mixes with Star Wars references and Auden poetry; music ranges from The Beatles to Cheap Trick to Gershwin to Bowie.

    The actors are Ryan McCurdy (Mercutio), Rachel Flynn (Alyssa), Lauren Riddle, Jacob Owen, Christine Verleny, Mick Bleyer, Ben Sumrall, Liz Wasser and Matt Russell.

    Hamlet

    March 4 to 20, 2016
    Teatro Circulo, 64 East 4th Street


    Verona Walls

    March 3 to 26, 2016
    The Workshop Theater, 312 West 36th Street, 4th Floor

  • Life & People

    Bringing Self Made Art to the Stage

    Following the success of the pilot edition in 2013, Queens‐based performance company Mare Nostrum Elements, founded by Italian performer Nicola Iervasi and American actor/director Kevin Albert, and LaGuardia Performing Arts Center (LPAC) partnered once again to present ECS#3, the Emerging Choreographer Series 2016 (Feb 22 and 23).

    The Emerging Choreographer Series is a free a professional showcase in the Little Theater @ La Guardia Performing Arts Center in Long Island City, designed to address the challenges of bringing self‐made art to the stage. The process is aimed at providing emerging choreographers with tools to create, develop and perform a new finished work. 
     
     

    During those weeks, following the structure of Mare Nostrum Elements signature method The Wave Within, selected participants, Rohan Bhargava, Tony Bordonaro/Jenna Sofia, Marissa Brown, Jacqueline Dugal, Pavel Machuca, Natalia Roberts, met weekly to stimulate their inspiration, create new movement and share ideas and feedback with fellow participants in a nurturing and collaborative setting. The choreographers received up to 60 hours of free rehearsal space where Iervasi and Albert helped them make fast, clear and smart choices to create movement and timely proceed with their work in progress. 

    “The Emerging Choreographer Series developed organically after teaching our method The Wave Within for several years,” Nicola Iervasi told i-Italy when asked how the idea of the emerging choreographer series came up. 

    "More and more we would witness participants use material they had created in class to start a new piece, change an existing one, or use the tools they learned to better share their ideas with dancers or students. At a certain point we realized that the method was naturally serving not only as a performance enhancement and stage presence but also as a choreographic vehicle. Being in New York for several years, having danced for several companies and working as an administrator, I realized very soon how difficult it is to provide adequate funds and studio space to properly nurture a choreographic process". 

    "Mare Nostrum Elements was created with the scope of being more sensitive to artists voices and needs thus it felt natural to address some attention to choreographers that nowadays must navigate the artistic, the administrative and production aspect of a new work at the same time. It probably was the same in the past but with the change of the economic situation in the last decade, choreographers are facing less support (financial and practical), more demand of productivity and organization. It felt that we had to do something, we had the passion, the tools and the moral responsibility towards the new generations of dance makers.”

    Programs such as this one are important because “it is vital in the new economic and digital era,” Iervasi continued.

    "NYC is not anymore “the place to be” for an artist. Too often due to competition and restrictions it virtually is impossible to even present a new idea unless you come up with a decent amount of money or you are part of an organization/venue able to facilitate some of the aspects that go into a production". 

    "Fortunately some organizations and institutions are either run or close to artists so there is a collective effort to support creativity in more practical and meaningful ways. On one hand the corporate business model provided structural and financial ideas to the artistic world but on the other created inequity and shifted the attention from creativity to productivity and results. Thanks to our partnership with LPAC and our other partners for the ECS, we provide space, mentorship and a performance venue. These artists have access to a 360degree sport system that assists them from the very beginning stage of their idea until the actual performance for the audience".

    As Mare Nostrum Elements signature method The Wave Within gives structure to the program, it is important to get to know more about it.  

    “The Wave Within Method was basically born with the company in 2001 but we did not realized back then that we were creating a method. I was offered an opportunity to develop an idea I had for a show in collaboration with a then student of the NYU Music Department. It was a very ambitious project (Mediterranean Voices) we had about 1 month tho create from scratch a 40-45 minutes performance with live music (on stage) and about 15 performers. We had no money and not much time. " 

    "I had just met Kevin Albert a few months before, so I asked him to help me out come up with a rehearsal process that would allow us to proceed at a fast pace without compromising the quality of what we were creating, alienating the performers or abusing of their time. We came up with a very structured rehearsal process. Each rehearsal had a goal, each meeting was a class and a rehearsal at the same time. We used devising exercises to allow the performers to create their own material, find their own character, knowing that it would always be personal and more relatable from the audience point of view. The show was very successful, a few of the performers asked us if we could continue meeting and explore even if we had no commitment to perform or a new show to create. We gathered some thoughts together, found a space to accommodate our idea and started a series of weekend classes open to actors, dancers, musicians, comedians or any individual willing to explore movement from an introspective and emotional point of view”.

    Technically speaking The Wave Within Method, a response to the difficulties that performers often experience when taking acting and dance classes separately, utilizes a mix of Meisner and Grotowsky's acting techniques, contact improvisation, dance theater methods, and body conditioning techniques. 
     

    “Since we established the company 15 years ago,” Iervasi concluded, “we always strived to value each artist's unique voice, making adjustments, listening to their ideas and using their best qualities specially with international artists.With the ECS we are now testing international collaborations in order to offer opportunities to young artists".

    "Last Summer I was in Italy teaching a week long choreography workshop at the Fini Dance Summer School and I selected an Italian artist (Mirko Giordano) to join us for this year's program. We also partnered with IDaCo NYC (Italian Dance Connection) who will be selection one artist from the ECS to perform in their festival in May. Both Antonio Fini (of Fini Dance) and Vanessa Tamburi (Artistic Director of IDaCo) were part of the panel of professionals giving feedback and advice to our choreographers. I want these young artist to be exposed not only to different ways of creativity but also to different sensibilities and thought process. Having Vanessa and Antonio (who are both Italians who lived abroad for many years) allowed me to incorporate the European style and background."

    For more information: w w . m n e l e m e n t s . o r g 

  • Events: Reports

    Making Foreign Theater in a Foreign Land

    “Niuiòrc Niuiòrc” is a journey through the Big Apple based on a true travel diary, while “L’Italia s’è Desta,” is a story that addresses two Italian social phenomena: the ‘ndrangheta and the Italian national soccer team.

    “Niuiòrc Niuiòrc” is performed in Italian and in English, while “L’Italia s’è Desta” in Italian and Calabrese dialect with English supertitles.

    In Scena! Italian Theater Festival NY was held at the Bernie Wohl Center at Goddard Riverside which often welcomes Italian Theater. “We are fortunate to have a renovated theater in our Bernie Wohl Center where we can bring unique and affordable performances to the entire community and also give artists a space to perform,” Susan Macaluso, Director of Community Arts Programs said, “The In Scena Italian Theater Festival consistently presents outstanding plays filled with artistry and social issues.We are delighted to bring art from another country to our theater and to continue to build a love and appreciation for the arts among our audiences.”

    In addition to the two shows, the Bernie Wohl Center also welcomed a seminar on Commedia dell'Arte, a form of Italian theater that featured masked characters who improvised performances based on scenarios. Commedia dell'Arte dates back to the 16th century but it is still actual as you can still find its stock characters in sit coms on television today... no matter in what country you are. After one of the shows we had the opportunity to talk about the shows and the international language of theater with the actors.

    This is the second time you participate to the festival, how was it compared to the first and why is it important that your show is seen here?
    F.- This time around I felt the weight of responsibility even more. Being invited back in New York to open the first edition of In Scena! Winter, after having already opened the very first edition of the festival back in 2013, is a great honor and it makes me extremely proud. On top of that, there was also the awareness that I could not make any mistakes and I had the duty to meet some rather high expectations.

    That’s why I really, really worked hard to prepare myself, taking care of the text and the show in every detail and rehearsing a lot. Still, when it was time to get on stage, I put all thoughts aside and I just let it all flow and the following three days of performances have been three great voyages/parties. Performing my "Niuiòrc Niuiòrc" in New York is extremely important because it is a great challenge; I always enjoy sharing it with the most diverse people. Every time I come to New York, which by the way is a city that I love, it is like closing a circle, but then another one opens up; like a lazy eight, the infinity symbol.

    C.– This time, just like the first, Rosario Mastrota and I were incredibly excited to be presenting our work. We wished to have the same response from the audience and we did. Local audiences are curious and demanding as they are used to the avalanche of theatrical performances the Big Apple has to offer.

    But it is wonderful to feel them breathe with you while you’re on stage. The story of “L’Italia s’è Desta” brings together three plot lines: diversity as personal drama, the 'ndrangheta (a criminal organization centered in Calabria) and the spectacle created by the media when reporting the news. Our show is both comic and bitter and it develops on a very physical and linguistic level.

    There is only me on stage, but it is a dialogue more than a monologue due to the continuous interaction between the actor and the audience. I know for sure that American audiences are used to a constellation of different topics and the public is culturally used to seeing and hearing new stories. This is a new story for them.

    Why is it important that Italian theater comes to the US?
    C. - It's important because whoever brings Italian theater to an American stage is also bringing a rich theatrical tradition, made of various interpretative codes. It would be just great if this was an exchange, and also in Italy there would be the possibility to see different ways of doing theater. Unfortunately, there is not much room for international theater.

    Tell us about acting in a foreign language.
    F.- I love acting in English. This time around I even increased the percentage of English vs Italian by more than 50%. The reason behind this choice is that I knew there would be less Italians in the audience compared to the last time and then also because I like to challenge myself and raise the stakes. Using a different language is also a great expression of freedom, because it forces you not to fall into a routine, and you are surprised by the tones and sensations given to sounds and words that are not usually yours. All the smiles and happy faces that I see at the end of the shows give me confirmation that I have made the right choice. My next goal is to perform a whole show in English, which could definitely be a translation of this one, in order to be able to tour with it all over, but mostly back here in NYC.

    How much self irony do New Yorkers have?

    F.- I can honestly say, and I am not trying to be kissing anybody’s… or to be excessively xenophilous, that I adore New Yorkers. They possess such a receptiveness, an openness and respect towards the theater that at times is hard to find in Italy. I also think that people here have a great sense of self irony. Honestly, in “Niuiòrc Niuiòrc” I make fun of some behaviors that are typical of New Yorkers, but I never had the feeling that I was hurting their feelings, actually I often have heard them laugh out loud and make fun of themselves!

    How is it different to perform for an Italian audience versus an American one?
    C.- It doesn’t change much, but obviously Italian audiences have a different awareness on the issue of 'ndrangheta with respect to American audiences. In the show there are a few references to our society that Italian audiences can capture more easily and with some bitterness. Overall I can say that all audiences can get emotional, laugh and cry in the same way.

  • Dining in & out: Articles & Reviews

    Special Educational Presentations @ VINO-Italian Wine Week

    The 5th edition of VINO-Italian Wine Week, the leading Italian wine event to take place in the United States, has officially kicked off and with a bang! Over the course of a week about 200 producers from well known viti-cultural areas are going to present over 1000 wines, spirits and craft beers. VINO also consists of two full days of Grand Tastings, Meet & Greetappointments for producers seeking representation,a series of master classes, guided tastings, workshops and demonstrations.

    “The state of two wine industries: Italy and the USA, the year in review,” was one of these special presentations. Moderated by Maurizio Forte, Italian Trade Commissioner & Executive Director for the USA, the panel featured Giuseppe Martelli, Director of Assoenologi - Associazione Enologi Enotecnici Italiani and John August Fredrickson, President of Gomberg, Fredrickson Associates. “In 2015 , Italy became once again, the world's leading wine producer.  It was a very good year for the Italian wine industry overall and in America, the world's largest wine market, Italian wines remained the leading import by country of origin in 2015, by quite a large margin. 2015 has been a very “sparkling” moment for Italian wine,” Maurizio Forte commented in his opening remarks. The word “sparkling” not only meant a scintillating/fortunate stage but it also referred to the growing success of bubbly wines on the American market, mostly that of Prosecco.

    “The success of Prosecco,” Fredrickson later explained, “is due to several different factors. First it is not consumed at celebratory times only, as it often is the case with sparkling wines, but it has become more common especially thanks to millennials. Also the price point definitely helps; the euro has fallen which is good for the dollar.”

    “2015 was a magical year not only for Prosecco,” Martelli revealed “production was facilitated by favorable weather conditions during the entire vegetative cycle of the vine (2014 was scarce). 2014 ended with an increase in sales by 1.4% compared to 2013, while data for the first nine months of 2015 show there was an increase of 5.46% in revenue compared to 2014. The volume of exports are great and that's mostly thanks to sparkling wines. More than 50% of Italian wines produced is sold abroad.”

    In the presentation “Extraordinary wine values from Southern Italy,” the focus was on the rising number of reds, whites and roses, such as Primitivo di Manduria, Falanghina, Salice Salentino, Ciro Rosso, coming from the South. “Given the area's diverse microclimates, terrain, traditions and indigenous varieties, this ascendancy is likely to continue,” Charles Scicolone, the panel's moderator explained.

    With him, Gary Grunner, VP Marketing and Sales of Grapes on the Go, Marco Melzi of Wine Emporium and Gianfranco Sorrentino, owner of Il Gattopardo, painted a clear picture of the wide variety of grape varietal, regions like Campania, Puglia and Sicily have to offer. 

    As of today Falanghina is one of the mot cherished white wines, both in Italy and the US, while Salice Salentino was very popular years ago and now it not that trendy anymore. Efforts are being made to make it BIG again.

    The challenges are many, and Grunner raised one of the most interesting points: the consequences of global warming. Indeed because of temperature changes the seasons have shifted a little and production can either be delayed or anticipated and the producers have to adapt to that... which is not easy.

    “This type of educational seminars are extremely important because education is key in understanding wine, in this case, and its position on the market,” Forte explained. The Italian Trade Commission is indeed leader in promoting the importance of education in getting to know what seem to be food or wine products but they are not just that... they mostly are cultural phenomena.

  • Art & Culture

    Sicilian Ghost Story Enchants at Sundance

    A logline is a one-sentence that sums up the story of a script. It's that short blurb underneath the still of the movie that tells you what it is about and helps you decide if you're interested in watching it or not.

    In the case of “Sicilian Ghost Story,” an Italian film in pre-production, we can say that it is a 
    Brothers Grimm tale that meets the Sicilian reality of Cosa Nostra.

    “Sicilian Ghost Story” follows young Luna, a tough teenager who refuses to accept the sudden disappearance of Giuseppe, the young boy she loves, when he is kidnapped because he is the son of a Mafia boss. This is the grabber, has it peaked your interest? It definitely grabbed the interest of film buffs at the latest edition of the Sundance Film Festival. 

    Indeed, the two minds behind the story, directors Fabio Grassadonia and Antonio Piazza, have won the prestigious Sundance Institute Global Filmmaking Award for their screenplay.

    Shooting is planned to be starting in the Fall 2016. The award consists of a considerable amount of money to be used in the actual production of the film and it was given to the two Italian filmmakers at the end of the Sundance Institute Screenwriters Lab.

    The Lab is a special program of the Sundance Film Festival, the most celebrated festival of independent cinema in the US. Founded by Robert Redford, and named after Redford's character The Sundance Kid from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, the festival was originally conceived in an effort to attract more filmmakers to Utah, but it has changed over the years from being a low-profile venue for small independent films to an international arena that has launched the careers of directors like Kevin Smith, Robert Rodriguez, Quentin Tarantino, Jim Jarmusch and Steven Soderbergh.

    "We are happy and honored to have received such a prestigious international award,” Grassadonia and Piazza have stated to the press, “We are proud of the script of “Sicilian Ghost Story” and we are surprised that a story that is so purely Sicilian raised such interest in a country so far away from ours. “Sicilian Ghost Story” is a fairy tale and we believe that this has fascinated the American public that we have met here at Sundance. We pictured a tale full of children, a story made of landscapes and situations that are unexpected in Sicily. The Sicily of our film is different, it reminds us of the world of the Grimm Brothers made of forests and ogres but at one point this magical world collides with reality, a reality that is inevitable in our land.”

    The main character of the film is Luna, a Sicilian thirteen year old girl who is concerned about the disappearance of the boy she loves, Giuseppe. She doesn't give up on him and in order to find him she delves into the obscure world that has swallowed him and in a lake that has a mysterious gateway. Only her indestructible love for Giuseppe can help her get out unscathed.

    The screenplay of “Sicilian Ghost Story” was penned while at the Sundance Institute’s Screenwriters Lab and the film will be produced by Massimo Cristaldi in collaboration with Indigo Film, while Germany’s The Match Factory has secured international sales.

    The success of “Sicilian Ghost Story” is not a first for the filmmaking duo. Fabio Grassadonia and Antonio Piazza won big with their first feature: “Salvo,” a unique Sicilian hit-man thriller. They won the Grand Prix and the Prix Rèvèlation at the Semaine de la Critique at the Cannes Film festival in 2013; they also won a Nastro d'Argento (the Silver Ribbon, an Italian film award given each year since 1946  by the Italian National Syndicate of Film Journalists), a Globo d'Oro (an Italian Golden Globe awarded by the Rome Foreign Press Association) and they received four nominations at the David di Donatello (Italy's Oscars).

    Before its win at Sundance, “Sicilian Ghost Story” was voted one of the Top 100 Most Anticipated Foreign Films of 2016.

  • Events: Reports

    More Italian Theater with In Scena! Italian Theater Festival NY Winter Edition

    In Scena! Italian Theater Festival NY, the first Italian theater festival that takes place in the city's five boroughs, is having its first Winter edition. Indeed the international theater festival, launched by Laura Caparrotti and Donatella Codonesu of Kairos Italy Theater and Kit Italia, that takes place at the beginning of the summer, is adding the dates February 4-7 to its calendar. In Scena!Winter is presented by KIT, KIT Italia, Italy in the US, the Embassy of Italy in Washington DC and the Ministry of Foreign Affair together with Bernie Wohl Center and the Italian Cultural Institute in NY.

    In Scena! Italian Theater Festival NY winter edition is re-presenting two shows that were featured in past editions: “Niuiòrc Niuiòrc” (In Scena! 2013) and “L’Italia s’è desta” (In Scena! 2014). Both shows will take place only in one location, a location that often hosts great Italian programs: the Bernie Wohl Center at Goddard Riverside (647 Columbus Avenue, NY, NY).
     

    “There are two reasons why we decided to have a winter edition,” Donatella Codonesu, co-founder, explained to i-italy. “The first coincides with one of the main goals of the festival itself: supporting the theater companies and the artists who participate in creating an international network. Getting to perform in New York, getting in touch with the city, its people and local artists but also meeting each other over here builds the foundations of both an Italian and an international network.

    Paradoxically, in past editions there have been several exchanges between artists from northern and southern Italy. Having some of them return for more shows, in a different situation, means helping them maintain a link to the city and the opportunity to circulate, even if it is for a short time (right now). The second reason involves the festival itself that, with the additional February dates, is growing and is reminding audiences that it exists. Thanks to these additional dates Italian theater is more accessible, and not only at the end of the season.”
     

    “Italian theater is rich of ideas, energy and talent. We are working on the 4th summer edition and every year we are surprised to discover how much variety and quality there is in our national theater. It is a value that we are proud to bring to a country that loves theater in general but mostly loves Italy and its culture. Bringing our culture abroad is not important... it's vital. Culture is the biggest wealth that we possess: making it accessible and known is good for both Italy and the rest of the world. Theater, when compared to other art forms, has an additional value that is priceless: it's live. It lives, always and only, in the presence of people: actors and audiences. This is what In Scena! wants to be: first and foremost it wants to be a meeting place for artists, audiences but also technicians, operators and, to put it more simply, people.”

    The two shows that have been selected were chosen because they have racked up an enthusiastic response from the public and critics both in Italy and in the US. After having toured all over Italy they are welcomed in New York once again.
     

    “Niuiòrc Niuiòrc” by and with Francesco Foti is “a journey across the Big Apple, based on a true travel diary. A ‘young’ 40-year-old ‘boy’ finds himself disoriented in the big city. He gets lost in the streets, avenues and parks of Manhattan while meeting a unique collection of characters. A funny, tender and original story about finding yourself in a foreign city.” (Showtimes: February 4, 6 7:30pm, February 7 3pm).
     

    “L’Italia s’è desta,” written and directed by Rosario Mastrota and performed by Dalila Desirée Cozzolino, “tells the story of Carletta, a Shakespearean village fool, who witnesses the kidnapping by the Calabrese mafia – ‘ndrangheta – of the Italian national soccer team. The army, politicians and journalists, too busy creating a media storm around the event, and blinded by the magnitude of the news, don’t notice her. She’s the only person who knows where the team is hidden – but nobody believes her.” The play, which owes its title to the Italian national anthem, is performed in Italian and Calabrese dialect with English supertitles. (Showtimes: February 5,7 7:30pm, February 6 3pm).

  • Library: Articles & Reviews

    Books. Isis Vs Occidente; Islamic Terrorism vs the Western World

    “On September 11, 2001 I, your average teenager, was home stuck in front of the TV screen watching events unfold.That singular incident stirred up in me a series of questions that I'd later try to answer, and solve, by studying the phenomenon of terrorism.” That fifteen year old boy is now 29 year old Stefano De Angelis, one of Italy's foremost experts on terrorism.

    A sociologist from Chieti who has attended the Università degli Studi "G. D'Annunzio" in Chieti and the University of Washington, Stefano is in the US presenting his latest book, Isis vs Occidente (Isis vs the Western World). At the same time the book is being translated into eight languages, including English, Arabic and Russian.

    Stefano, was also inspired by Oriana Fallaci, an Italian journalist and writer known for her coverage of war and revolution. After the attacks of 9/11, Fallaci wrote profusely against Islamic extremists and Islam in general.

    “As far as her thinking is concerned, I find it simply illuminating and premonitory beyond measure of what was going to happen and is still happening in the world. A world where there's a growing rejection of our roots and a continuous questioning of our core values: democracy, equality and freedom.”

    In Isis vs Occidente, De Santis focuses on various aspects of the universe of ISIS, from the origins to the key players, the foreign fighters and the role of mass media, the war on terrorism that the Western world is conducting and the risks of our civilization.

    What brought you to focus on Islamic terrorism?
    As mentioned in the introduction, the attacks of September 11, 2001 are what gave me the desire to deepen my knowledge on an issue that is often underestimated but has great social impact... that of Islamic terrorism. My interest grew even stronger after my first visit at the 9/11 Memorial.

    It brought up such strong and diverse emotions that I dove into my studies and therefore wrote my first book in 2012. Islamic terrorism is one of the greatest challenges the word of today has to face. It's a transversal terrorism, which is typical of this liquid era and which brings forth a radical change in the lives of billions of people. It's a challenge that, if not faced in the right measure and with the right determination, can be dramatically costly for our society.

    You have an international audience, how are they different in responding to the book?
    From a sociological viewpoint I have to say that each audience, because of its different cultural background, is looking for something different in my books and in my public presentations. I have noticed that European audiences are more interested in the historical causes that have led to the birth and development of Islamic terrorism;

    in North America, mostly due to a positive pragmatism that is too often missing in Europeans, people look for answers on how to fight terrorists, as well as for strategies to contain and defeat this threat to our freedom.

    It's not always easy to answer these questions, but I have to give them hypothetical guidelines to follow in this struggle against terror. I find that talking theory it pretty reductive, and that's why I find American audiences extremely stimulating: they push and push in order to develop concrete solutions to be implemented in our policies of counterterrorism.

    How strong/weak is Italy vs the bigger realities in the fight against terrorism?
    Italy is a country that is going through a very unique moment. It is the gateway to Europe, and therefore is forced to accommodate thousands of people from the Middle East. Nevertheless it fails to develop a serious policy on migration, a policy that would combine hospitality and foresight, equal rights and obligations for all.

    Italy's response to the threat of terrorism is in a way in line with other European countries, with effective intelligence work, but with a total lack of some basic factors to combat terrorism: the lack of a real and serious integration of migrants in our social fabric;

    a very inefficient judicial system that does not guarantee punishment and therefore facilitates terrorists who are aware they will be left unpunished; a constant cutting of funds intended for law enforcement that undermines the entire national security apparatus; and last, but not least, a chronic indecision on foreign policy that has led Italy to live at the mercy of the waves and to count less and less in the context of international politics. Probably the biggest difference between Italy and the US, but also Canada and the UK, is the lack of a vision, of a road to follow for the future of counterterrorism.

    What can you tell us on the strength of social networks in the spreading of terrorism?
    Social networks play a key role in the proliferation and spreading of international terrorism. Think about Isis, which has succeeded in creating a veritable army of young people brought up in the suburbs of the largest western cities. It's the so-called phenomenon of the "Foreign Fighters," thanks to an excellent marketing campaign conducted on social networks.

    As Professor of Sociology of Terrorist Phenomena in numerous Italian police headquarters, I can attest that the work conducted by some departments in the prevention of online recruitment is truly remarkable. I can say the same about the Police in other countries where they have successfully prevented attacks thanks to a wise use and thorough knowledge of social networks.

    In this sense, certainly in the future, the war on terror will be played more and more on different fronts: in schools where young people must be trained to respect non-negotiable values; in the streets of the big cities of the Third World as well as in the streets of our West; in a serious management of international migration; in military campaigns used only as a last solution, targeted and designed to destroy terrorist strongholds; and of course on the internet, social networks, in modern virtual agora, that today too often forge terrorists in version 2.0.

  • Facts & Stories

    Congrats to Maestro Morricone & Try Again for Ricciarelli

    “I'm very happy, and I wasn't expecting it. You never expect this sort of thing.” This is what Maestro Ennio Morricone told the press after winning a Golden Globe for Best Original Score for Quentin Tarantino's film The Hateful Eight.

    Director Tarantino accepted the award on Morricone's behalf and has been criticized for calling film composers “ghetto” while trying to explain that Morricone is the real thing. "As far as I'm concerned,” he said “he's my favorite composer. And when I say favorite composer, I don't mean movie composer, that ghetto. I'm talking about Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert.

    That's who I'm talking about." He then continued to say that Morricone has never won for any individual film, and their collaboration marks the maestro’s first original score for a Tarantino pic, and his first for a Western in decades. In reality, prior to “Hateful Eight” Morricone has previously won Golden Globes for Roland Joffe’s “The Mission,” in 1987, and for Giuseppe Tornatore’s “The Legend of 1900” in 2000. What he has not won is an Academy Award, except for an Honorary Lifetime Achievement Oscar in 2007.

    Morricone's response? "Tarantino is exaggerating, we have to let history judge. His was an immediate judgment, the judgments of a nice person who was kind enough to praise my work, but we have to wait two centuries to prove that what he has said about me is true.” 

    At 87, Morricone has more than 500 movie credits to this name including scores for Sergio Leone’s so-called “Dollars Trilogy” – “A Fistful of Dollars,” “For a Few Dollars More,” and “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly and Leone’s “Once Upon a Time in the West.” Other unforgettable scores are for Brian De Palma’s “The Untouchables,” Barry Levinson’s “Bugsy,” and Roland Joffe’s “The Mission.”

    Needless to say pretty much everybody in Italy is now extremely hopeful that Morricone will be considered for an Oscar. “Maestro Morricone, always a certainty. A source of pride for Italy,” tweeted Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi.

    Variety reports that Maestro Morricone is expected to travel, at the end of February, to Los Angeles for the 11th Los Angeles-Italia Film Fashion and Art Festival, the annual pre-Oscars event that celebrates showbiz ties between Italy and Hollywood. Plans are also underway for him to receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on that occasion. Hopefully he will also attend the Academy Awards, due to his nomination in the Best Original Score category.

    And about those Oscars...We have known for a while now that “Non Essere Cattivo,” the posthumous film by Italian director Claudio Caligari and produced by Valerio Mastandrea had not been selected to be among the films that made the December shortlist of nine films for the Foreign Film category at this year's Academy Awards, but up to today it didn't mean that all hope was lost for Italy. Among the nine titles there was “Labyrinth of Lies” (Germany), by an Italian/German director, Giulio Ricciarelli.

    Based on true events, adapted for the screen by Ricciarelli himself in collaboration with Elisabeth Bartel, the film “tells the true tale of prosecutor Fritz Bauer (Gert Voss), who seeks to try former Nazis who not only carried out the atrocities against Europe’s Jews and humanity, but also abetted in covering up their sins.”

    The film, which was screened in the Contemporary World Cinema section at the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival, has been described by Variety's Joe Leydon “an intelligent and arresting fact-based drama that plays like a more streamlined version of the high-minded, blunt-spoken, socially conscious “prestige pictures” made by Stanley Kramer and similarly ambitious American auteurs during the 1950s and ’60s.” “Labyrinth of Lies” unveils a truth, “the Frankfurt Auschwitz trials involved Germans prosecuting Germans, to heal wounds and ensure justice despite widespread criticism of such measures.”

    We cheered for both Morricone and Ricciarelli: the former has to face the likes of John Williams for his Star Wars score and the latter will work hard to make it another time. “Labyrinth of Lies” didn't make it but it has definitely generated considerable buzz and it will be released in theaters so that, Oscar or not, a beautiful film can still be seen.

Pages