The 17th Italian Film Festival
Directed by Cav. Tony Lambert
Previewed by Sam Edwards.
Festivals are funny old things.
In most religions, they are the feast days of saints or celebrate key events in the church's year.
Cinema is too new an art to have a generally accepted patron saint, although Genesius of Rome has been suggested. He, poor chap, put on a play for the pagan Emperor Diocletian in which Genesius had himself baptised a Christian, whereupon Diocletian had him tortured, and eventually beheaded.
There have been other martyrs directly associated with cinema, especially those film makers villified during the McCarthy era in the United States for apparently having communist associations, just like others in Stalinist Russia who were punished for not being communist.
Cinema, a technological outcome of the great performing arts, has a wonderful history of examining ideas, of introducing viewers to new experiences, of showing audiences how other peoples live and believe.
Our Italian Festival is starting on November 15 rather than on Genesius's feast day which is August 25, but we will still spend a fortnight celebrating a stunning collection of film from a culture most of us have never experienced.
Despite its economic woes, Berlusconi's rampant romps, head butting soccer players, and the Mafia, Italy continues to produce some of the most entertaining and influential films ever made.
This 17th edition of the New Zealand Festival is a wonderful slice of Italian life, of attitudes which are positive and enlivening, of people who are as unseemly and diverting as we can get, and others who are as humanly attractive as anyone we have met.
The opening day offers four of the twenty films in the list.
The first, A Family On The Verge, is a Guess Who's Coming to Dinner style farce in which well to do parents hosting a social weekend for friends are visited by their upstart daughter and her current boyfriend and the tensions cause ructions we will recognise - and a few we won't.
Then there is The Immature, in which a group of school mates are brought together after 20 years. The comedy is superb - and makes us laugh in ways we do not expect.
That is followed by the subversively satirical Whatsoeverly in which a likeable crook decides to run for office in his hometown because the citizens have become too respectful of the law, and then the festival opener, Welcome To The South.
Welcome is a hilarious reminder of what well heeled Hamiltonians would feel if they were posted to somewhere like Raetihi, sans most civilised comforts like The Lido and various arts centres and restaurants as well as the range of human connections the city offers.
Not all the titles are comedies, but those that are all have heart. Later in the festival there is the classic Cinema Paradiso which will be one the popular choices, so book early for that one.
Robert De Niro turns up in the romcom Manual of Love 3, the moving drama about age and memory loss, A second Childhood is a moving balance to the laughter - although that too has its exquisitely funny moments, 18 Years Later brings together two estranged brothers in a humanly dramatic reconciliation, and oh, there is so much more. Programmes are available at The Lido for a wonderful cinematic feast. Enjoy.
- The Italian Film Festival is on at the Lido Cinema in Hamilton from November 15 to November 28.
- © Fairfax NZ News