Giulio Recchioni, cultural Director of il cenTRo who was a key organizer in the Festival’s success. Follow him on this interview.
Marco Polo Could you tell us a bit about how the festival evolved in its 3 years of existence?
Giulio Recchioni The first edition of the Italian Film Festival featured five classic movies from Italy’s rich cinematographical tradition and five contemporary ones, and an exhibit of drawings by Federico Fellini that was brought in by the Istituto Italiano di Cultura in Vancouver. After the Istutito closed down, Il Centro took over a leading role in the Festival, and we started focusing more on the contemporary movies, even if we still feature quite a few classic films. This year’s edition of the festival features seven classic movies and nine contemporary films, among which there are two interesting documentaries. But the Italian Film Festival program is always evolving, according to the demand from the local audience and the cinematographical production coming from Italy.
MP In your view, what is the role of a film festival?
GR We live in an increasingly visual society, where the majority of information, including art, is brought to fruition through people’s eyes. Movies have the advantage of tying music and dialogues to images, and they have been successful since the very beginning of the invention of the cinema. Because of their immediateness and entertainment value, people started to favour them over books, so today a movie is the best way to get to know not only the ideas of a single author, but also entire cultures, without having to leave your comfortable chair. In this perspective, a film festival, and, more specifically, the Italian Film Festival is a successful means to grab the general audience’s attention for a limited amount of time – seven days – and offer the audience the chance to get familiar with Italian culture and art, present and past.
MP How would you describe Italian cinema to people unfamiliar with filmmakers as Federico Fellini, Pier Paolo Pasolini or Nanni Moretti ?
GR Much of the popular movie production coming from Hollywood is meant for a quick fruition: you watch the movie for the plot, and once you know how it ends, the interest for the movie is over. Great classic and artistic movies need to be enjoyed in a slower gear, the plot is sometimes secondary – when not completely non-existent, as in Fellini’s Roma, which is opening the Festival this year. But when the plot is not the most important thing, you can focus on other aspects, like the lucious beauty of the images and how they are combined with the soundtrack, or the social issues the movie brings up and how they relate with the day-to-day life. My first recommendation when watching movies by those authors is to relax, keep an open mind and let them take you by the hand and lead you to amazing places. And – no need to be afraid of subtitles, they are not that bad.
MP Giulio, do you have any favourite moments from Italian Film Festival (IFF)?
GR In the very first year of the Italian Film Festival, a group of young Italian-Canadians came to watch Fellini’s Amarcord, and it was great to see them laughing and getting emotional, following the narrative of the movie. Once the movie ended, they were discussing how great it was, and how surprised all of them were that an older film was not only an exceptionally good movie, but was also able to move them, notwithstanding the subtitles. That was the sign I needed to know that we were on the right path; bringing Italian culture to fruition to the Canadian and Italian-Canadian audience, who never had a chance to get familiar with our giants, like Fellini.
MP What motivates you and your team to be involved into this festival?
GR The current team at Il Centro is the same that worked on the creation of the Italian Film Festival since its very inception, so we are all very excited to work on it, year in and year out. It’s our baby, and we are very proud of it.
MP What film have you seen the most times in your life?
GR have watched Paolo Sorrentino’s La Grande Bellezza more times than I care to admit. It’s a beautiful movie, visually exciting and with brilliant dialogues.
MP How is the film scene in Vancouver?
GR Vancouver is a great city for the film scene; we not only have the big Hollywood theatres, but also a plethora of smaller venues that do wonderful things – from international movies and movie festivals to country-specific projections, documentary movie festivals, retrospectives, outdoor screenings of old time favourites, or successful movie marathons. And we also have movie companies working directly in Vancouver for the creation of new movies or series. We are a very lucky audience here in Vancouver – we should all skip watching movies on Netflix, in favour of a more regular experience in front of the big screen.
MP How about the organizations involved in the 2017 Italian Film Festival?
GR The 2017 Italian Film Festival is co-presented by Il Centro Italian Cultural Centre and VIFF Vancouver International Film Festival, with the support of: Province of British Columbia, City of Vancouver – Cultural Services, National Film Board of Canada, Consulate General of Italy in Vancouver, Istituto Italiano di Cultura di Toronto, The Georgia Straight (media sponsor), La Baguette & L’Echalote.