Articles by: Natasha Lardera

  • Events: Reports

    Get to Know Antica Cantina di Canelli

    “It is only fitting that Antica Cantina di Canelli has chosen the legendary stage of the Saratoga Wine & Food and Fall Ferrari Festival to debut a selection of wines from its distinguished portfolio to members of the trade, press and public.” With these words Italian Trade Commissioner Aniello Musella officially welcomed the wine sponsor of the 2012 edition of the celebrated festival.

    On the fourth year of the partnership between the Italian Trade Commission and SPAC (the Saratoga Performing Arts Center) the air at the four day festival (Sept. 7-9) was totally Italian, indeed, using Marcia J. White's (SPAC's president) words the theme was “a salute to style... and the Italian lifestyle and spirit is one that values quality, admires beauty and, above all, embraces the moment. This weekend we are all Italian!”


    And what's more Italian than delicious wine and food? The Italian Pavilion presented by Antica Cantina di Canelli featured a myriad of Italian wines and authentic Italian delicacies where attendees enjoyed learning about Canelli’s production which included: Duebollicine - Pinot Chardonnay Brut, Asti Spumante DOCG, Moscato Dolce VSQ Spumante, Brachetto d’Acqui - Spumante DOCG, Moscato d’Asti - Bricco Sant’Antonio DOCG, Piemonte Chardonnay DOC, Barbera d’Asti Albarelle DOCG and single vineyard Barbera d’Asti Superiore - Vigna Tre Termini DOCG.

    Located between the Langhe and Monferrato, in the Asti region, an area with a strong tradition of wine making, home to some of Italy's finest red wines, plus some famous whites, the Antica Cantina di Canelli has been producing the classic wines of Piedmont since 1933. Working with absolute respect for tradition and integrating the latest innovations, Antica Cantina di Canelli brings together the production and resources of over 200 vine-growers. Their ample range of products includes the most prestigious appellation wines of the Asti area, including light, fresh and fruit whites, sweet and dry sparkling wines and world class reds obtained from the grapes of mature vines.


    An idyllic municipality in Piedmont, Canelli is dominated by a castle surrounded by a medieval hamlet. The area around the town is rich in vineyards and is believed to be the birth place of the Italian sparkling wine Asti. The village's history of the wine is still evident today with the popular synonym of “Muscat Canelli”that is still used for the Moscato grape used to produce the wine.


    The town’s most unique characteristic is the peculiarity of its subterranean wine cellars. We are talking about an extended architectonic fortune of “Underground Cathedrals” that wiggle below the entire city for about 20 kilometers (12 miles), and disappear on different levels in the viscera of tufa hills (all the way to 32 meters/104 feet underground) thus creating really suggestive scenarios: real masterpieces of engineering and architecture. In the naves of these cellars, bottles of prestigious wines are aged at a constant temperature of 12-14 ºC (53-57 ºF) degrees.

    In the mid 1800’s, Piedmont’s production of white Muscat grapes was centered in the Canelli area, while another came from the nearby municipality of S. Stefano Belbo and the rest from the neighboring municipalities. A big chunk of the wine was commercialized in barrels that the barrooms and taverns of the area resold by the flask or by the glass. “Vermouth” had Muscat as its base wine and in order to turn it into sparkling, alcoholic fermentation had to happen in the bottle. This radically changed production: companies evolved from artisanal production to a more “industrial” method. Vermouth and “Muscat Champagne” (“Muscat Canelli” as it was called at the time) rose to popularity at the same time, so much that, in order to meet requests, dozens of production houses were opened in the historic center. After the construction of the railroad they were distributed in the Muscat production area, thus starting a phenomenon that involved the entire local production.


    The processing of the Spumante (sparkling wine) needed, and still needs today, a constant temperature of 12 – 14 ºC (53-57 ºF) all year long, so wine producers needed the right cellars that, in order to guarantee that temperature, necessarily had to be underground. The hilly layout of the area and the earth’s composition had the necessary qualities: calcareous tufa is alternated with hard layers and sandy ones. It is easily dug, it preserves the right degree of humidity and insulates perfectly.



    “We are experiencing a great demand of Moscato d'Asti,” the winery representative, Giulio Galansino, explained. “It is gently effervescent, low in alcohol, and sweet... it has an uplifting perfume and is reminiscent of ripe orange-fleshed melons, nectarines and blossom … a real pleasure for the palate. American consumers are discovering a diverse selection of sparkling and semi-sparkling wines to suit their palates and Moscato d'Asti is living especially loved. It is low in alcohol (typically 4.5–6.5%) so it goes down easy without getting you drunk!”



    “Moscato consumption has exploded since 2009. According to Nielsen data, overall Moscato sales rose over 70% in 2011 over the previous year, culminating in about $300 million in sales (compared to $100 million in 2009). Affordability is indeed a factor: Champagne is seen as expensive, while Moscato as affordable, the drink of choice for clubgoers. The typical consumer is urban, young and hip.


    Moscato d'Asti is an ideal aperitivo or the perfect accompaniment to fruit and bread based desserts, , fresh fruit salads, finger food and cold cuts and cheeses. It can also be used in cocktails. At the festival the Moscato bar was the most crowded station and Galansino's source of pride. “We hope the greed of Moscato producers will not ruin the moment,” he added, “We’re seeing the category become crowded; everyone wants to be in the game. But quality is always the most important thing. It would be a pity if quality dropped.”


    Canelli made its US debut in December 2011, introducing four wine styles from its prolific portfolio to trade and press in New York. Sponsoring the Saratoga Wine & Food and Fall Ferrari Festival was another step towards its American adventure. Next appointment in October!

  • Life & People

    Fashion Leathers: Arts & Tannery. The Excellence of Italian Products in New York

    Arts & Tannery, the event that brings, twice a year, to New York the latest trends in leather hascome and gone, leaving behind the very best for the Fall/Winter 2013/1014 specifically selected and researched for the American market.

    The two-day event, organized by the New York branch of the Italian Trade Commission, in collaboration with the Italian Leather System Consortium, welcomed 13 Italian leather producers (Agile, Ascot, Ausonia Conceria, Bo-Pell Conceria, Conceria di Urgnano-ILCEA, Conceria Pellegrini Group, Copar Conceria, Gemini, MB3 Conceria, Sanlorenzo, Tra-Bru, Tuscania Industria Conciaria, Vesta Corporation) most of them coming from Tuscany who showed over 300 American operators the new creations for the upcoming year.

    The Consortium's primary objective is to present the excellence of Italian products, thanks to the contribution of the diverse companies who do not compete against each other that make it up.

    Each company exposed their latest collections of leather, accessories and other elements destined to the production of shoes, bags, other leather goods such as clothing, accessories and furniture.

    “I'm particularly interested in this show,” Consul General Natalia Quintavalle said while admiring the stands, “it's an example of the ability of several businesses to present their work together, which is wonderful. Often these Italian products defy the statistics of the Italy-USA interchange, through complex triangulations that represent the globalization of economy. These are wonderful products that are easy to imagine in the shape of handbags, shoes and belts.”

    “Arts & Tannery once again provides the great opportunity to present the newest leather trends,” Aniello Musella, Executive Director of the Italian Trade Commission network for North America. “The very well known Made in Italy stamp of quality plays a critical role, assuring high quality and design. Tradition, workmanship and great experience distinguish Italian leather production worldwide. Craftsmanship is coupled with innovation, making the Made in Italy the most influential and leading label in the industry.”

    There is today, according to information provided by Dr. Musella, an even bigger demand for Italian leather and component parts in the US. Over the past years, the leather industry began to experience a recovery, and Italy, with a share market of 22,85% for the first semester in 2012 (experiencing an 18% increment when compared with the first semester of 2011), continues to be the primary supplier of leathers to the US, with Brazil, Mexico and Argentina following behind.

    “This is an important appointment,” he added, “for all these exhibitor who are well known by important American buyers with whom some already have well established relationships. The tanners have been meeting here in New York since 2005. Arts & Tannery first started in the Italian Trade Commission's office and it has grown gradually. Through the years deals have consolidated and businesses have developed, even through this period of economic crisis. Obviously some factors, such as the fall of the Euro versus the Dollar has favored the Consortium who is able to be more competitive and meet demands with high quality products at the desired price point.”

    Mr. David Bilanceri of Ausonia, the spokesperson of the Consortium, explained how, through the years, producers and buyers have been able to establish a respectful and fruitful relationship, so that Arts & Tannery is a bi-yearly appointment that cannot be missed.

    “Here in New York we welcome buyers from major labels such as Coach, Banana Republic, Polo Ralph Lauren. All these important brands that make us important as well. Italian companies are known in the world to be lazy, but instead they are made of people who work hard from morning to night. There are great businesses that are still family run, so each detail is carefully taken care of. That's probably why us Italians can offer a product that is a step ahead compared to other countries.” 

    Paolo Cipriani, director of the Italian Leather System, explained how “Italian producers are main characters in the fashion world of tannery where continuous research and the wish to always introduce new articles with low prices and products of really high level is appreciated more and more. We are always very careful to keep up with the times, and the trends for the fall/winter season 2013/14 are Space Lab, Déco Flair, Icon Clash and Sporty Cut.”

    Meaning lots of metallics and laminates, neon colors and prints that have been going strong for a while, but paired together, they feel new all over again.

  • Life & People

    Carlo Fumo. Youth and Cinema: the Valsele International Film Festival

    It is of extreme importance for any young person to find direction in life. Positive youth development, for example, is a term that refers to “the intentional efforts to provide opportunities for youth to enhance their interests, skills, and abilities into their adulthood.” Film, for example, is fun and unique   medium that helps a lot not just by developing creativity but also by helping kids open their eyes to what surrounds them. More and more events and showcases are created in the effort to help this development and one of the most successful examples of this is the Valsele International Film Festival.

    The Valsele International Film Festival, this year in its fourth edition, is an innovative and dynamic artistic-cinematographic appointment held in the breathtaking Valle del Sele (Valley of Sele), a modern day oasis in the Salerno area in Campania. The festival, created by the director Carlo Fumo, involves, professionally and culturally, numerous local and international young people who show their interest and involvement in the social through film.

    The “Valsele International Film Festival,” founded in 2009, has grown even more this year as it is spread through several different appointments It is indeed divided into “stages,” different events that include a screening and a tasting, and a final Award ceremony.

     Each stage represents a cine-gastronomic “salon” where a film in competition is presented with the participation of its director and cast. People are able to enjoy the show while savoring the scrumptious products of the area. The food is prepared by the best local chefs using only the most authentic and delicious products available.

    The Award ceremony and the Social School Contest, a special event held in favor of young students with an interest in the social, will take place on November 3, 2012.

    While we wait for such evening of talent and creativity, we had the opportunity to chat with the festival's founder and artistic director, Carlo Fumo. Fumo is a local director who was drawn to cinema from a young age. As a child born in a town surrounded by mountains, he recorded the beautiful views around him on paper by drawing original images. With time he realized that those images could tell more and thus he shot his first short film... he was only 16 when he created Il Monaco (The Monk).

    Through the years he continued working on his projects then success arrived with the book Il Regista del Mondo (The World's Director), a work of global accusations where the 2001 Twin Towers terrorist attacks are also addressed. A short based on the book has been shot with the participation of some of Italy's most talented actors: Alessandro Haber, Gianmarco Tognazzi, Luca Ward, Lidia Vitale, Massimiliano Gallo and Naike Rivelli. There is a plan to develop a feature length film by 2014. In addition to his film projects, Fumo is always busy with the programming of the Valsele International Film Festival.

    How was the festival born? And why did you chose the Valle del Sele?

    The festival was created in 2009 as a cinema showcase to promote the Valle del Sele. The first location back then was Valva, specifically inside the breathtaking Villa D'Ayala, one of the 50 most beautiful residences in Italy as per MIBAC (Ministero per i Beni e le Attività Culturali, Ministry of heritage and Cultural Activities). In 2011 we moved to Contursi Terme, a real paradise on earth with the purest thermal water in the country (as per the Ministry of Health). This year we move to Eboli, a town known to the world thanks to Carlo Levi and his novel Christ Stopped at Eboli (published in 1945, the book is a memoir of the author's time spent in exile in Lucania, after being arrested in connection with his political activism. In 1979, the book was adapted into a film, directed by Francesco Rosi). We are the guests of Valasele, Campania's largest sports arena. We needed a big place to welcome the ever increasing number of participants. This year there is an entrance fee as all money earned will be donated to Mentoring USA - Italia Onlus (Mentoring USA is a structured, site-based, mentoring organization that began as the first state-sponsored, school-based, one-on-one mentoring program in the country in 1987. Mentoring USA's mission is to create positive and supportive mentor relationships for youth ages 7-21, through a structured site-based model. Mentoring USA/Italia was founded in 1998. Over the twelve years of activity more than 8000 young Italians, working with as many volunteer Mentors, have benefited from the one-to-one method which is the basis of the educative intervention). The check with the total amount will be directly donated to Mentoring USA-Italia Onlus's president, and founder, Matilda Raffa Cuomo at the end of November at the World Forum for Child Welfare in Naples.

    The festival's theme this year's is comedy, while in the past you addressed serious issues. How important is comedy in cinema and in life?
    True, the previous topics were "Immigration" in 2009 (famous journalist Tito Stagno, mostly known for his reporting on space travel, was awarded with the Bronze Medal from the President of the Republic); "Fighting Camorra" in 2010 (the medal was awarded to Don Luigi Merola, a priest whose work is dedicated to fighting this a Mafia-type criminal organization, or secret society, originating in the region of Campania) and "Italy's 150th Anniversary" in 2011 (I was awarded by the president myself for the theme of the edition and the work I do). This year we picked comedy and although it is a less serious topic than the previous ones, we are still faithful to our interest in the social. This year's edition will introduce a new important chapter, the "School Contest," a competition where students from different schools will contribute to the screenings of 10 shorts (5 Italian and 5 foreign) that address social and cultural topics mostly directed to road safety education and civics.
    The festival celebrates the heritage of the "Commedia Italiana," thanks to the contributions of Cristian De Sica and Gianmarco Tognazzi, the sons of those who made it great and eternal (Vittorio De Sica and Ugo Tognazzi). Our guest, actor Alessandro Siani embodies the rebirth of Italian comedy. In a moment of crisis like the one we are living through there is a need to make people laugh, and make them think through humor by producing original and exportable films, such as "Il Postino" "Mediterraneo" and a few more, considering that in the past few years the country has produced demented comedies that are not easily understandable outside of their country of origin. Alessandro and I are working on a project in New York and Naples: an original and entertaining comedy with social and historical nuances on the two cities. If Alessandro decides to take part I will then present it to John Turturro when I will see him at the award ceremony in November. They would be the perfect on-screen pair for this international comedy.
    How did you select the films that are in the festival?

    As mentioned earlier, we looked for those comedies that are easily exportable. While for the School Contest we focused on social issues pertaining to a young audience. We are still working on the final selection. Our jury is made up of great personalities of the Italian film industry: the President, Remigio Truocchio (AGIS), Gianmarco Tognazzi (Actor), Orfeo Orlando (Actor and Director), Claudio Di Mauro (Editor), Luca Ward (Actor), Emma Perrelli (Executive, Youth Department), Luciana Della Fornace (President AGIScuola), Sergio Cuomo (President Mentoring USA-Italia Onlus) Martino Melchionda (Mayor of Eboli), Annarita Bruno (Education Councillorm Eboli) Marco Graziaplena (Director of Photography - Teacher CSC), Giuseppe Alessio Nuzzo (President Social World Film Festival), Adriano Aponte (Composer), Gaetano Carito (Sound Engineer), Simone Bracci (Journalist and Director at Film4Life) Michele Cuozzo (Honorary President of Valsele International Film Festival), Roberta Inarta (Director Scuola di Cinema of Naples) Fabrizio Ferrari (Artistic Director - Rome Independent Film Festival) M. Giuseppe Cascella (Artist),Valter D'Errico (Producer and Actor).

    Tell us about the importance of the Social School Contest and of cinema in a social context

    It is extremely important to teach kids to appreciate good cinema and some specific social topics. Our jobs allow us to create stories that address issues of primary importance reaching an audience of all ages, but mostly of a young age. Today, in Italy especially, so many values have been lost. Civics and domestic affairs are rarely taught in school and because of scarce resources, kids are left on their own to deal with their issues. Social cinema is important because it can teach youngsters, but not only them, how to behave in specific situations, what to avoid and why, the risks and consequences of certain actions and decisions, how to return to normality, how to love life its values and oneself. During the School Contest the President of Regione Campania, Stefano Caldoro, will award the Bronze medal of the President of the Republic to Mrs. Matilda Raffa Cuomo for her extraordinary work as the Honorary President of Mentoring USA-Italia. She is active in the spreading of her one-to-one method to contrast and prevent scholastic dispersion and youth inadequacy. In the great book "The Person Who Changed My Life" she collected the testimonies of great personalities Andrea Boccelli, Bill Clinton, Hilary Clinton, John Turturro etc.) who tell their mentoring stories and how they contributed to their human and professional success.


  • Events: Reports

    Eataly: Give Me a Kiss, Today is My Second Birthday!

    Eataly wearing a shirt featuring this slogan you most likely will get in trouble, so the best way to show your birthday love for the high-end food hall and Italian piazza on fifth avenue near Madison Square Park is by eating a tasty morsel of the four-tier chocolate cake that is offered to all customers (only on August 31st) and by buying a few of the over 42 handpicked products that are available at $1-$8 until September 9th!

    “We picked one product for each category we carry,” Dino Borri of Eataly, “explains “instead of going down the traditional promotional route, by maybe offering two products for the cost of one, we decided to sell them at cost price. You can get refreshments, like Chinotto, or pasta, condiments or even housewares for a really affordable price, a price that makes shopping for great Italian products even more enticing.”

    There are great deals for all tastes: who likes white chocolate Perugina kisses can get (max 3 per customer) a box for just a couple of bucks, while who is into Italian design can find an Alessi bowl that retails for $34 only for 6! The crowd in front of the sale displays is no different than the crowd in the rest of the store because, let's say it, every product at Eataly is a real find.

    Celebrations started on August  31st, and hordes of aware and unaware foreign and American
    tourists, neighborhood workers and loyal residents crammed together in culinary obsession got the chance to share in the celebrations... and Eataly has a lot to celebrate.

    Many see it as a supermarket with restaurants, but Eataly is much more then that. It is a magic and  energetic meeting point (that comes third after the Empire State Building and the Met as a tourist attraction) where anybody has the opportunity to taste and take home the authentic creations of food artisans who bring to the public the highest quality products at a fair price.
    Oscar Farinetti is the founder and creator of Eataly. In January 2007, he opened a 30,000 square‐foot store in Turin, the very first Eataly, where high‐quality Italian foods were easily available at fair prices.

    His partners in New York are celebrity chefs Mario Batali and Lidia Bastianich, as well as Batali's long-time partner, reality TV personality (and Lidia's son) Joe Bastianich.

    Slow Food is a “consultant for Eataly, controlling and verifying that our producers do not compromise the quality of their products to satisfy a growing demand.”

    The absolute best Italian producers from every region are assembled under one roof  yet not everything is imported as Eataly is a strong believer in using high-quality local products as well. “Our bread is made with New York flour, our gelato is whipped up with local dairy and our meat, produce and fish are almost always American. Grazie, America!” their manifesto says.

    Facebook Eataly Page NY  >>>
    Eataly NY Web Site >>>

  • Art & Culture

    Euthanasia, Wealth and Compromises: Focus on the Italian Films in Venice

    The beginning of the 69th edition of the Mostra Internazionale del Cinema di Venezia is approaching (August 29th-September 8th) and it promises to be unique and totally different from previous showcases: there are only going to be 18 films in competition (about half of the films presented last year) addressing important issues such as the current economic crisis and fundamentalism.

    Italian director and screenwriter Francesco Rosi will be awarded with the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement on August 31 in combination with the presentation of the restored copy, the project was funded by Martin Scorsese's Film Foundation and Gucci, of his famous masterpiece Il Caso Mattei (The Mattei Case, 1972).

    Francesco Rosi is considered a symbol and innovator of socially-committed Italian filmmaking, the author of important and meaningful films such as Le mani sulla città (Hands over the City), winner of the Golden Lion at the Venice International Film Festival in 1963, Il caso Mattei (The Mattei Affair), Golden Palm at Cannes in 1972, and Salvatore Giuliano, Silver Bear in Berlin in 1961. 

    The Director of the Venice Film Festival, Alberto Barbera, has stated: “In his long though not very prolific career, Rosi has left an indelible mark on the history of Italian filmmaking after World War II. His work has influenced generations of filmmakers around the world for its method, style, moral severity and the ability to bring urgent social issues onto the screen.

    For this reason he has repeatedly been associated with post-war Neorealism and is considered the founding father of the activist film movement that was so important to our national production in the Sixties and Seventies.

    In comparison with Neo-realism, which was so influential in his cultural education, Rosi’s cinema went much further in its deliberate intent to combine a keen proclivity for narrating real events, people and places with what Fellini defined as “the great crafting heritage of good American cinema”. Rosi's reply was: “I am honoured and very happy to receive this extremely prestigious acknowledgment, which has been awarded in the past to many great authors whom I love and admire.” 

    Among the 18 films presented (the complete list can be found here. There are three Italian productions that are competing and that present a thorough portrait of today's Italy: Bella Addormentata by Marco Bellocchio, È stato il figlio by Daniele Ciprì and Un Giorno Speciale by Francesca Comencini. 

    There is great anticipation for Bellocchio's latest, a film that has been surrounded by controversies even during pre-production. Inspired by the story of Eluana Englaro, a young woman who spent 17 years in a persistent vegetative state due to a horrific car accident, the film addresses the topic of euthanasia.

    In reality, after a long public and legal battle, Eluana's father and legal guardian was allowed to stop his daughter from being kept alive yet in Bellocchio's film “The stories and characters are all fictitious,” the director stated, “and Eluana's story is just in the background. The film addresses the issue of life and death and each story portrays it in a completely different way.” 

    “I, as well as thousands of Italians,” Bellocchio continued, “was emotionally involved in Eluana's case and I in the film I present my atheist view.” Beppino Englaro, Eluana's father, who has been recently interviewed by the Italian newspaper Il Fatto Quotidiano has not seen the film (that will open nationwide in Italy on September 7th) but he said that “after meeting with Marco Bellocchio, I understood how he was going to approach the subject of boundaries: the boundaries between life and death and how medicine influences them.” 

    The cast includes actors Maya Sansa, Piergiorgio Bellocchio, Toni Servillo, Isabelle Huppert, Alba Rohrwacher, Michele Riondino, Brenno Placido, Gianmarco Tognazzi and Fabrizio Falco while  Daniele Ciprì is the director of photography. Coincidentally Ciprì is also the director of another film that's presented in Venice,  È stato il figlio, a film, according to the director, about the “misery of wealth.”

    Based on the novel by Robert Alajmo the film “portrays reality tragically although it makes you laugh a lot,” the director stated. “It presents the grotesque of real tragedy especially in the final chapter of the film, which I cannot reveal of course, that is a real punch in the stomach. Although the novel is set in the 1970's my story does not fit in a definite era, it fits at any time and it does not end well... I never finish my stories with an 'happily ever after'.”

    What we do know about the film is that the film is the story of a family of six, the Ciraulos, who lives in ignorance and poverty and spends the money received by the State after the death of a family member to buy a brand new Mercedes. “It is a mirror of today's society where people are driven by the wish of wealth and to be on television, a tragic death becomes the macabre opportunity to change one's social status” the director further explained.

    The cast features Toni Servillo, Giselda Volodi, Aurora Quattrocchi, Benedetto Raneli and Fabrizio Falco. 

    The third film in competition is Francesca's Comenicini Un Giorno Speciale, a low cost comedy that “want to give hope to the young generations” by telling the story of young Romans who, with ambition and determination, must face life and its values. 

    The special day mentioned in the title is the first day at work for Gina (Giulia Valentini) and Marco (Filippo Schicchitano):  she is scheduled to meet with an important politician who has promised to help her get in the entertainment industry and he is the chaffeur who will drive her to her meeting. They do not know each other but they will spend the whole day together. 

    Among the compromises Gina has to deal with, she has to provide specific sexual favors. “She is a girl like many others,” Comenicini explains “who believe that beauty and a careless freedom will take her where she believes she has to get to. They are open to anything just to make it!” But this type of compromises take you nowhere.

    “With my film I want to tell today's guys and girls that life has a value and it is possible to find it, even through suffering and pain.” 

    A special screening, out of competition, of La Nave Dolce (The Human Cargo) by Daniele Vicari will also take place. The film tells a story of immigration from 1991, when 15.000  immigrants from Albania arrived in Italy aboard the mercantile Vlora, but where immediately sent back. 

    The aim of the Festival is to raise awareness and promote all the various aspects of international cinema in all its forms: as art, entertainment and as an industry, in a spirit of freedom and tolerance.  

  • Facts & Stories

    Bringing Natural Femininity Back @ Miss Italia

    “Farewell” bikinis and “hello” one piece suits: Miss Italia 2012 travels back in time to the glorious fifties, where sexy was something that did not show too much skin. So this year's competitors will wear either a black or a white one piece featuring flirty frills on one shoulder that will be used as a base to different outfits.

    “We are looking at the classic and immortal beauty of the fifties, an era of feminine icons that still inspire us today with their elegance, class and sex appeal,” the competition's producer, Patrizia Mirigliani, said, “We – this includes the fashion consultant Simona Cagnoni and the costume designer Maria Baiocco - are bringing femininity back.”

    Let's not forget that among the participants, finding later success in cinema and the entertainment industry at large, we find some of Italy's beauty icons: Sophia Loren, Silvana Pampanini and Stefania Sandrelli.

    In an era where young, and not so young, girls aspire to become reality show stars or half naked TV starlets and TV is source of trashier and trashier inspiration, it is commendable that Rai, mostly pushed by its new president Anna Maria Tarantola, is turning to sobriety and a greater dignity in showing off the natural beauty of Italian girls.  

    The show, which will take place on September 9-10 and will be hosted by Fabrizio Frizzi, aims to exalt not only external beauty but interior beauty as well, and this new philosophy shows in the choice of special guests that will meet the girls before and during the show. Whether she is a teacher, a politician, a friend, or a mother, having a woman to look up to has proven to be a crucial part of girls’ development and this year the producers count on Tara Gandhi

    Gandhi's granddaughter, a promoter of non-violence and peace, together with ballet dancer Carla Fracci, will meet the 230 contestants on August 22nd in Montecatini. “The competition has always been portraying a good image of femininity yet we have decided to let the bikini go. I respect president Tarantola's ideas and I think it is necessary to change course and show our girls that there are different ways of standing out. The general population agrees with us: our followers on the web have voted the bikini out,” Miss Mirigliani continued.“The presence of Tara Gandhi symbolizes the importance of wholesome beauty, of the importance of inner beauty and spirituality. We are sure that the 230 girls will be inspired by her.” 

    Miss Mirigliani is also hoping that Jane Fonda will accept to be president of the jury. “She has not confirmed yet but we really hope she will. She is an incredibly inspiring woman... she has aged gracefully, she has revolutionized the female world (she started the fitness craze in the 1980's and promoted good health) and she has always been an activist (Fonda has been a longtime supporter of feminist causes, including V-Day, a movement to stop violence against women). My other dream would be to have Rita Levi Montalcini, a beautiful, charismatic, intelligent and socially conscious woman.”

    But the list of inspiring examples continues “Emma is a strong and charismatic young woman, as are Amoroso and Tatangelo. Caterina Balivo is an ex Miss, but she recently became a mom. They all are great female role models that are welcome on our stage". 

    What is not welcome at Miss Italia 2012 are plastic surgery, piercing and tattoos. “Last year, we presented the girls with 10 rules of good behavior or better, useful tips for all the girls to be respectful and coherent. My initiative was considered old fashion by those who have not understood the change the female world is going through right now. The world is trying to bring natural charm and femininity back. Miss Italia is always a reflection of what is going on and oftentimes anticipates change. We were the first who abolished measurements, who introduced married contestants and girls wearing size 44. We promote a natural image, the girl next door that everybody likes not the sexy, photoshopped vamp.” 

  • Art & Culture

    Remembering the Memorable Carlo Rambaldi, aka E.T.'s Father

    All American news outlets reporting on his death call him a special effects master yet there are many more ways to describe him. Some have simply written “Father of E.T. Dies.”

    “Carlo Rambaldi was E.T.’s Geppetto,” said Spielberg, referring to the fictional character who created Pinocchio while Italian director Pupi Avati described him as “a child who loved to play and make his toys. A child who dreams of making a theme park of all his characters.”

     Rambaldi, who died at age 86 in his native Italy, was first and foremost an artist and a sculptor. He was born on September 15, 1925 in Vigarano Mainarda, near Ferrara. He attended the Academy of Fine Arts in Bologna where he developed his passion for electromechanics and the anatomy of the human skeleton and musculature. He took his first steps in the world of cinema with a huge dragon created for the film Sigfrido, directed by Giacomo Gentilomo. Never giving up on his dreams of becoming an artist he started working in cinema with renowned Italian directors including Federico Fellini, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Marco Ferreri, Mario Monicelli and Dario Argento (with whom he collaborated on the film Profondo Rosso).

    In 1971 he had to prove that his special effects were indeed effects and not not real actions in dog mutilation scenes in the film A Lizard in Woman's Skin. They were so realistic that the film's director, Lucio Fulci, was prosecuted for animal cruelty.

    His mastery attracted the attention of Hollywood producer Dino De Laurentiis who brought him to the States to work on John Guillermin’s King Kong in 1976. “In addition to creating masks and other effects Rambaldi’s primary responsibility was to construct a life-size, fully functional mechanical Kong, but his final effort was replaced by a cheaper gorilla suit designed by fellow effects expert Rick Baker. The mechanical Kong can only be glimpsed briefly in the finished film. Rambaldi also designed the two giant ape arms used to hold actress Jessica Lange.”

    It was in Hollywood that he developed his skills in mechatronics - a discipline that combines mechanical, electronic and system design engineering to produce special effects, yet he publicly disdained computerized effects.

    The Washington Post reports him saying for an interview for La Repubblica “Digital costs around eight times as much as mechatronics. E.T. cost a million dollars and we created it in three months. There are 120 shots. If we wanted to do the same thing with computers, it would take at least 200 people a minimum of five months.”

    Ansa reports him saying that with the advent of computer graphics and special effects “the magic is gone, just like when a magician shares his tricks with his audience. Now that anybody can create effects with their home computer something is missing.”

    In 1977 he created the spindly extraterrestrials for Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind and two years after that he worked on the xenomorph head effects for Ridley Scott’s Alien.In 1982 he re-teamed with Spielberg for E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial. The good-hearted alien became one of the finest effects of his career and most likely his most loved creation. E. T.'s 30year anniversary was celebrated this past June 11th.

    He often said that “E.T.'s eyes are those of a cat, as it features the same expression lines of an Himalayan cat.” Reportedly Spielberg always denied that and said instead that E.T. is a mix of Albert Einstein, Ernest Hemingway and Carl Sandburg. Rambaldi spent several months building the sweet alien with the extended neck and the glowing fingertip. He is reported saying “I finished E.T. exactly two days before we started shooting. You can imagine my responsibility in case it didn’t work very well.” But it worked perfectly and the small alien captured the hearts of children and adults alike. E.T. brought him his third Oscar for visual effects, preceded by his work on “Alien” in 1979, and John Guillermin’s “King Kong” in 1976.

    Other films he worked on in various effects capacities included Nightwing, Possession, The Hand, David Lynch’s adaptation of the classic sci-fi novel Dune, Conan the Destroyer, the Stephen King-based features Cat’s Eye and Silver Bullet, and King Kong Lives.

    “All of us who marveled and wondered at his craft and artistry are deeply saddened by the news of his passing,” Spielberg declared to the Associated Press. But it is not just Hollywood that is going to miss him. Facebook, for example, is filled with remembrance quotes, thoughts from artists of all kinds who were inspired by his craft and his ability to make a gentle animatronic alien seem so hyper-realistic in its features and emotional response that it could make everybody cry, even thirty years later.

  • Events: Reports

    Italian Shoes Make it Big at FFANY

    “These shoes are Italian. They're worth more than your life,” Paul (Rob Lowe) refuses to help Tommy (Chris Farley) get the mud off of his face until he cleans his expensive Italian shoes.

    This scene of the 1995 comedy Tommy Boy says it all, it's not just the Carries in the world that have a weakness for quality, craftsmanship, pursuit of perfection and creativity.  These are the elements that, even in the presence of unending stylistic change, have transformed the craft of shoe making into an art form, an art Italians are the masters of.

    Some of Italy's major players in the shoe making business who want to consolidate their presence on the American market come to New York to show their latest creations.

    Accademia, Area Forte, Brunate, Calpierre, Daniele Ancarani, Dei Mille, Evado-Multimoda, Exitalia Productions, Fabio Rusconi, Franceschetti, Gardenia, Gerardina Di Maggio, Gianni Barbato, Gidigio, Giemme, Jo Ghost, Joyks, Koil, Le Ble Italian Style, Liverpool Shoes, Mac Dugan, Manas, Mario Valentino, Marliv, Moda Di Fausto, Moschino-Voile Blanche, Mugnai, R&Renzi, Santini Massimo, Sax, Taccetti, Thierry Rabotin By Parabiago Collezioni, Tiffi, Violavinca, are the 34 Italian shoes manufacturers that participated to this August's edition of “Made in Italy,” the Italian pavilion organized by the Italian Trade Commission of New York, in collaboration with ANCI (the National Association of Italian Footwear Manufacturers), at the FFANY (August 1-3).

    “FFANY, the Fashion Footwear Association of New York has been bringing footwear manufacturers and retailers, the industry players, together for thirty years. We are a not-for-profit trade association representing footwear manufacturers from around the world and are prominent members of the New York fashion community,” Joe Moore, President and CEO of FFANY said, “The goal of our trade shows, held in February, June, August and December, is to create one exciting marketplace in New York City, the fashion capital of the world. Here, exhibiting footwear manufacturers and attending retailers can efficiently buy, sell and develop business networks.”

    Italy held an important role at the show, having indeed, a special pavilion. Data provided by the US Department of Commerce, elaborated by the Italian Trade Commission of New York, show that for the period of time by January-May 2012, Italy places third as exporter of shoes. “During that time, Italian exports to the US totaled $414,90 millions  in 2011 while they rose to $465,67 millions in 2012,” Aniello Musella, director of the Italian Trade Commission in New York confirmed in a press release. “The strength at the core of Italian shoes production is the continuous excellent price-quality ratio, in conjunction with traditional craftsmanship, creativity and innovation... all elements that make the Made in Italy label extremely attractive to the American consumer.” 

    On the third day of the show, i-Italy had the possibility to meet some of the exhibitors and get their feedback on attendance and business. The overall response was that the crisis is slowly going way, slowly but surely. “Attendance has been normal, at times slow,” Emiliano Baccarini of Ultramoda Inc., representative of Manas and Mugnai said, “Yet the people who came were extremely interested and placed considerable orders. As far as we are concerned we are very satisfied with the outcome of the show, our products will soon be available in major, trendy stores around the city.”

    “We have exceeded our expectations,” the representative of R&Renzi said “Our products are handmade with the best materials available on the market and the most luxurious styles. We already are available on the American market but we are looking to expand and being here has definitely helped us out.”

    Not everybody had the same positive response, some complained that purchasers were expecting cheaper costs, but quality has a price. Truth is the price of something, anything, is what you are willing to pay, and when you purchase a pair of authentic Italian shoes, you are not buying just something to put on your feet but long standing tradition, high quality materials, and a fashionable statement, something some might consider, (ironically, of course) “worth more than a life.”

  • Life & People

    Be Beautiful: Carry your Body the Italian Way

    “The quality that gives pleasure to the mind or senses and is associated with such properties as harmony of form or color, excellence of artistry, truthfulness, and originality,” this is the definition of beauty per The Free Online Dictionary, while the Merriam-Webster calls it “the quality or aggregate of qualities in a person or thing that gives pleasure to the senses or pleasurably exalts the mind or spirit.”

    Both definitions focus on the roles of the mind and of the senses, but what about the body itself and the way it moves? That definitely contributes to the general picture. “I think the way we move is incredibly important and that is often ignored,” Flavia Bruni, an Italian dancer and pilates instructor in New York affirms. And what about Italian beauty? “Italian beauty is defined by pure joie de vivre and enjoyment of our own senses. Living life with a respect for them all opens up our bodies and this makes Italians so very attractive.”

    A native of Bologna, Flavia has become a resident of New York just 8 years ago and in March 2012, she was voted by New York Magazine, the best in her field in the Best of New York issue. The blurb goes: “It’s all Pilates instructors’ duty to leave you with burning thighs and aching abs. Flavia Bruni, however, goes beyond that call, empowering her clients with a new je ne sais quoi in the way they carry themselves (from $105 for a private session) and employing mat work and the Reformer. The Italy native and professional dancer, who recently began teaching at new Soho wellness center Ethos Collective, teaches muscle memory and focuses on the moves that prompt her mostly female clientele to walk with an upright, attractive posture, which is as effective at taming back pain as it is for scoring a date.”

    “My classes are a synthesis of movements taken from pilates with the addition of what I call Tools for Grace, secrets taken from the past that teach us to move in a more elegant and graceful way,” Flavia explains,  “As a result, beauty is not just a well defined body but a specific posture and way to move, which is totally Italian. Italian because I teach posture through the senses and the joy in employing them. I come from Bologna a city where in every corner you can smell something mouthwatering, hear melodic music or see breathtaking art. My senses were and are always on the alert. Our senses respond to all this beauty and open us up, they help the natural beauty of our body to come to the surface and carry us with innate elegance.”

    The women of the fifties and sixties are, according to Flavia, the embodiment of this natural beauty. Sophia Loren being the icon par excellence. Now, at 78, she is still seen as an ageless beauty and an inspiration to women of all ages.

    “Asked to share her secrets, Sophia Loren attributed her natural beauty to “a love of life, spaghetti, and the odd bath in virgin olive oil.” The practice of bathing in olive oil dates back to her Roman ancestors,” one of the old secrets that Flavia calls Tools for Grace. Sophia Loren is not her only muse: her grandmother is too. “She was real, she was open to life and all its senses. She taught me how to be a real woman,” Flavia said.

    “I teach people to be natural and that automatically is gracious. The body must be used the way it was designed. When we move in harmony with our structure we as women, are comfortable in our own skin.” This concept of beauty is studied in Flavia's Be Beautiful Pilates classes, sessions where movement exercises are paired with discussion and the revelation of ancient secrets, knowledge that is out there, it has been for ages, but that we often disregard. 

    “I must admit that yes, people come to me just because I am Italian,” Flavia adds, “They have been to Italy and they are not numb to the natural charm of Italian women. They want that too and I am here to teach them.”

    Some think that a woman's wedding day is one of the most important days of her life, and because of that Flavia has designed a program called Fit and Fabulous for the bride-to-be who wants to look gorgeous and glide effortlessly down the aisle. “My promise is that on her wedding day the bride will illuminate the room walking down the aisle with grace and poise and she will be glowing with health.”

  • Art & Culture

    Pasolini's The Gospel According to St. Matthew @ The Living Theatre

    48 years have passed since the release of an Italian masterpiece: The Gospel According to Saint Matthew by Pier Paolo Pasolini, yet the film still inspires artists worldwide. This time it has been translated into a theater piece presented at the undergroundzero festival.

    Created originally as an annual guest artist festival, undergroundzero is an annual festival of independent contemporary theater, dance and performance in repertory.

     Artists are recruited to join the festival on an invitation only basis. The festival does not curate or select individual productions – the decision on what to make is the artist’s alone. In addition to the work of the resident artists, the festival presents the work of several local and international companies each year to encourage an ongoing exchange with the local community and to maintain a global perspective. 

    The undergroundzero festival was founded by Artistic Director Paul Bargetto and includes the following resident artists and companies: Anna Brenner, Conni’s Avant Garde Restaurant, East River Commedia, Hoi Polloi, Daniel Irizarry & Laura Butler Rivera, Shige Moriya & Ximena Garnica/Leimay, Doris Mirescu/Dangerous Ground, Performance Lab 115, Jill A Samuels, Shannon Sindelar, and The Living Theatre. 

    Bargetto recently directed the Living Theatre and the East River Commedia in a workshop on Pier Paolo Pasolini's The Gospel According to Saint Matthew.

    The 1964 black and white film is “a strikingly unusual picturing of the story of Jesus, done with a cast of nonprofessionals on locations in southern Italy and directed by a man who was an acknowledged Marxist and atheist,” Bosley Crowther wrote for the New York Times in 1966. “The story of Jesus is told in the simple and naturalistic terms of a plain, humble man of the people conducting a spiritual salvation campaign in an environment and among a population that are rough, unadorned and real.

    The Jesus we see is no transcendent evangelist in shining white robes, performing his ministrations and miracles in awesome spectacles. He is a young man of spare appearance, garbed in dingy, homespun cloaks, moving with quiet resolution across a rugged and dusty countryside, gathering his tough-faced disciples from toilers he meets along the way and preaching his words of exhortation to crowds of simple, sullen peasants and sprawling children.”

    Pasolini reportedly chose Matthew's Gospel over the others because he had decided that "John was too mystical, Mark too vulgar, and Luke too sentimental.” The story is told from the Nativity through the Resurrection using dialogue that is mostly taken directly from the Gospel itself.

    The press was allowed to speak to the director after a passionate and moving performance that was held at The Living Theatre. As of now this is a workshop “literally made without a budget - it is, in its current form, a statement in the spirit of the Arte Povera. We will be making a final draft in the coming months that will include a proper lighting design, and a deeper rehearsal process,” Bargetto declared.

    How did you translate the film into the play?

    We used the textual and visual dramaturgy of Pasolini's film as an entry point into exploring the text in English. While he did not add any language not used in the Bible, he did make some brilliant edits, and subtle rearrangements of the order of certain pieces of text that heighten the socio-political implications of the text. We also carefully studied the film and translated actions and scenes into stage directions that were the starting point for our own compositions.

    What attracted you to the film? 

    First, I must admit that Pasolini is one of my very favorite artists. His films, novels, poems, and essays have been a very significant influence on my own work. I was attracted to the Gospel because it revealed to me a Christ that I had never seen before. Growing up in the United States as a secular agnostic, Christ was to me a figure of the conservative party, the god of the establishment. I understood him to be an icon of the right wing fundamentalist movement, hostile to the secular state, and to social welfare, against homosexuality and the arts, aligned with the rich, and deeply opposed to equal rights for women.

    Therefore it was a big shock and surprise to find the Christ in Pasolini's gospel! Here is a revolutionary Christ, against the established order, on the side of the poor and downtrodden, healing the sick and feeding the hungry, and extremely opposed to wealth, and power - in short a revolutionary man of the left!

    I was also deeply attracted to the stark simplicity of the film, its compositional beauty, brilliant music score, and uncannily brilliant use of non-actors in almost all the roles.

    Why did you chose this specific film by Pasolini?

    There are so many wonderful films to choose from, and I hope to stage them all some day! I had been thinking about making this piece for a number of years and had the good fortune to meet a young actor who is a member of the Living Theatre, Brad Burgess, who turned out to be an absolutely perfect Christ - in look and temperament. Once I had him involved in the project, the rest of the pieces fell into place.

    Why now?

    The Gospel is in the zeitgeist now, especially in New York with major Broadway revivals of Godspell and Jesus Christ, Superstar. More than that, I feel we are living in a time of profound moral upheaval born out of the breathtaking greed and selfishness of the financial crisis. Pasolini was a strident critic of the bourgeoisie, and of the power of consumerism and the market state, and the Christ in Matthew echoes many of these sentiments in a powerful way. It also exposes the profound contradictions of Christ as he is perceived in the United States, and of the people who use his name to justify behaviors and beliefs that are nowhere to be found in the Gospel. By keeping true to the text, and presenting this story in a simplicity inspired by Pasolini, we hope to reveal Christ as a new and familiar stranger.