HOORAY FOR THE GREEN, WHITE & RED
NEW MEXICO ITALIAN FILM & CULTURE FESTIVAL
There is a scene in Salvo, Italian directors Fabio Grassadonia and Antonio Piazza’s 2013 slow-burn crime drama, in which the two protagonists, holed up in an abandoned factory surround by gunmen, do what any respectable Italians might: They sit down to eat. Fittingly, this year’s New Mexico Italian Film & Culture Festival is as much about food as it is about movies. Eleven films screen during the festival (three in Santa Fe and eight in Albuquerque), which also features music, art, Italian dishes, and a silent auction. Extending over 11 days, the festival, a benefit for the University of New Mexico Children’s Hospital, starts at the Jean Cocteau Cinema on Thursday, Feb. 5, with a wine and food reception and a screening of Gabriele Salvatores’ Happy Family. Salvatores is known for 1991’s Mediterraneo, which took home an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. Happy Family, which premiered in 2010, tells the story of Milanese screenwriter Ezio (Fabio De Luigi), at home in his room, attempting to write about the families of two young lovers who come together to share an important meal. As he writes, the characters come to life around him, offering advice — and demanding larger roles in the film. The film has drawn stylistic comparisons to the movies of American director Wes Anderson, but according to the festival’s director-in-residence, Luca Ceccarelli, any comparisons are likely tongue-in-cheek. “Salvatores is one of the great Italian filmmakers of our
time,” he told Pasatiempo. He’s playing us consistently, so if it is à la Wes Anderson, I wonder to what degree he’s making fun of the auteur approach to filmmaking. He breaks a lot of rules.”
Ceccarelli was an aspiring filmmaker when, in 1999, he worked at the Palace Restaurant, formerly owned by Lino Pertusini, who is now honorary consul of the Italian consulate of Los Angeles, supporter of the festival, and owner of Santa Fe’s Osteria d’Assisi and Pizzeria da Lino. “Lino’s watched my ambition grow and grow, and when they put this festival together they invited me in to be a part of it.” Ceccarelli’s fantasy thriller Eve Angelic was named Best New Mexico-Made Short at the 2014 Santa Fe Film Festival, and he runs The Director’s Edge, an online service for filmmakers who want to improve their process and vision. Ceccarelli introduces each of the films in Santa Fe. “I love the idea of opening films with a brief consideration of things you may have not thought about before,” he said.
The festival, now in its eighth year, has been active in Albuquerque but added Santa Fe only last year in recognition of the city’s growing ItalianAmerican community. “There have been lots of [Italian-American] groups emerging, whether they’re language groups or culinary groups or even just socials. So it’s really nice that they come together and want to bring the aspect of filmmaking, which has always been a big voice, a big part of Italian creativity,” Ceccarelli said.
The festival’s biggest draw is Salvo, which screens on the second night. Set in Sicily, the film has the mobster Salvo (Saleh Bakri) in pursuit of would-be assassins after he and his boss are ambushed. Salvo tracks down the man who put the hit out on them and waits inside his home, where he encounters Rita, the man’s blind sister. After killing the mobster, Salvo kidnaps Rita (Sara Serraiocco), whose blindness fades as the story progresses. Salvo also undergoes his own change, moving from abductor to protector. “Salvo is particularly interesting because it’s like no Mafia film I’ve ever seen in Italy or in the United States,” Ceccarelli said. “The culture of Mafia gets sensationalized continually by the media here. Mafia films play a big part in Italian television. It’s a constant voice in the culture. It’s a constant concern. I’ve grown up with a lot of Mafia films, and what they do in Italy is more about being on the inside trying to fight it. The film meanders through the aftermath that unfolds after a hit. You’re brought very close to it, and it’s all about perception.” After the screening, viewers can dine at participating local restaurants, which will donate a portion of their proceeds to the children’s hospital.
The Santa Fe screenings wrap up on Saturday, Feb. 7, with director Giacomo Campiotti’s 2013 coming-of-age film Bianca Come il Latte, Rossa Come il Sangue (White Like Milk, Red Like Blood). The film tells the story of Leo (Filippo Scicchitano), who has fallen for beautiful red-haired Beatrice (Gaia Weiss). After learning that Beatrice is dying of leukemia, Leo, consumed by love, begins to experience the world in contrasts represented by the colors white, for loss and emptiness, and red, for life and passion. The screening is followed by a silent auction and benefit dinner at Osteria d’Assisi prepared by chef Cristian Pontiggia. Albuquerque events begin on Sunday, Feb. 8. “One thing I’d say about all the films is that there’s a passion that comes through that’s quite unique to Italian culture. I hope people come out to watch these jewels,” Ceccarelli said.
Bianca Come il Latte, Rossa Come il Sangue