New Italian Film Festival brings together campus, community ‘cinephiles’

Between Thursday, April 11 and Sunday, April 14, five recent releases by Italian filmmakers will be screened in the auditorium of the Whitney Humanities Center.
Section from the theatrical poster for “A Matter of Karma” (2017), one of the five films in Yale’s New Italian Film Festival

Section from the theatrical poster for “A Matter of Karma” (2017), one of the five films in Yale’s 14th New Italian Film Festival.

When American moviegoers hear the phrase “Italian film,” Millicent Marcus, founder of Yale’s annual New Italian Film Festival, encourages them to think outside the black-and-white, neorealist box of 1960s classics by major directors like Fellini, Antonioni, Visconti, and Pasolini.

For the 14th year running, the festival invites the Yale and New Haven communities to celebrate the more colorful, less widely distributed contemporary cinema of Italy, and to correct “the mistaken impression that Italian cinema is in decline,” said Marcus, who is also professor of Italian and of film studies at Yale.

Between Thursday, April 11 and Sunday, April 14, five recent releases by Italian filmmakers will be screened in the auditorium of the Whitney Humanities Center, 53 Wall St. The films are all in Italian with English subtitles, and the screenings are free and open to the public.

Marcus and the festival committee, composed of current Yale graduate students, choose the best five films in a given year rather than organize their selections around a particular theme. “Our vision is eclectic,” said Marcus. “We want to give our audience a sense of the vitality and range of contemporary Italian film production.”

We are also interested in promoting the work of new talents and breakthroughs in narrative and/or cinematic techniques. Films that offer insights into the contemporary Italian condition are especially favored in our line-up,” she added.

The following are Marcus’ descriptions of each film in this year’s line-up:

  • The Place” is the most unusual and intriguing of the series, I’m reluctant to reveal too much of its plot, which involves multiple characters who flock to a local diner where a mysterious individual dispenses advice of a life-changing nature. (7:30 p.m. on Thursday, April 11.)
  • My Son, Manuel” presents a powerful, deeply moving portrait of an 18-year-old, newly “graduated” from foster care, who faces the choice of deciding whether or not to take legal custody of his own mother. (7:30 p.m. on Friday, April 12.)
  • How Much Is Enough” is a delightful comedy about a young man with Asperger’s syndrome and a talent for cooking, who comes under the mentorship of a renowned chef with an anger-management problem. (7:30 p.m. on Saturday, April 13.)
  • A Matter of Karma” concerns the search of the wonderfully gullible protagonist for the reincarnated version of his dead father — a quest which leads in hilarious, if sleazy, directions. (2 p.m. on Sunday, April 14.)
  • Like a Cat on a Highway” is a heart-warming, yet pointed social satire about a member of a think-tank who mouths social pieties, until he learns that his teenage daughter has fallen in love with a boy from the wrong side of the tracks. (4 p.m. on Sunday, April 14.)

Coincidentally, following this year’s New Italian Film Festival, the 4th annual Yale Student Film Festival (YSFF) opens the next weekend with yet another new Italian film, presented in conjunction with the Department of Italian Language and Literature. “Beautiful Things,” a 2017 experimental documentary by Italian independent filmmaker Giorgio Ferrero, will be screened at the Whitney Humanities Center auditorium on Thursday, April 18 at 8 p.m., preceded by a masterclass on independent filmmaking with Ferrero that afternoon.

When I saw it, I knew we had to invite Ferrero to campus,” said Joshua van Biema ’20, co-director of YSFF. “‘Beautiful Things’ is a breathtaking experience, and it opens up so many possibilities for what nonfiction cinema can look like beyond the limitations of realism.” He added that he’s also very excited about the film’s VR component, “Denoise,” which Ferrero will discuss as part of his masterclass before the screening.

Marcus brought the idea of a town-gown Italian film festival with her to Yale from her days at the University of Pennsylvania, where the Italian film festival “enjoyed great popularity on campus and among cinephiles within the Philadelphia community.” Upon her arrival in New Haven in 2005, Marcus inaugurated Yale’s first festival of new Italian film with the help of several then-graduate students and Ann DeLauro, who Marcus describes as the “indispensable administrative coordinator” for the Department of Italian Language and Literature.

Yale’s festival has amassed a devoted following of cinephiles in general and Italian film buffs in particular, said Marcus. She added that the organizers are “especially gratified to see substantial numbers of Italian and Italian-American residents from the area flock to the festival.”

Beyond entertainment value, there are two reasons why Marcus believes that it’s critical for American audiences to watch contemporary foreign films. “For one, these films provide consciousness-raising alternatives to today’s ‘Hollywood model’ of slick, big budget, violence-filled, special-effects filmmaking,” she said.

But also, in this age of increasing xenophobia, nationalism, nativism, etc., cinema is a powerful medium for enabling us to imaginatively enter into the condition of ‘the other,’ and to empathize with his or her plight,” said Marcus.

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