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Articles by: Natasha Lardera

  • Events: Reports

    In Scena! The Fourth Edition, Pirandello and the Need of Theater

    The fourth edition of In Scena! Festival di Teatro Italiano has started with a bang with a special opening night dedicated to Italian playwright Luigi Pirandello. New York based theater companies of all different nationalities, in addition to the Italian participants who came to be in the festival, paid homage to the Nobel Prize Winner with a variety of pieces: some written by him and others inspired by his work, including Henry IV, The Late Mattia Pascal and The Twelve Letters.

    Organized in collaboration with The League of Independent Theater, an organization for themakers of Independent Theater, the evening, held in Manhattan's historic Cherry Lane Theater, was a multi-lingual experience that successfully proved that theater knows no boundaries. English, Italian, Portoguese, Greek and Spanish, these are the languages actors used to give their interpretation of Pirandello's sublime work. 

    “Every year we dedicate the In Scena! Theater Festival to a prominent Italian playwright, director or writer and this year we have dedicated it to Pirandello,” Laura Caparrotti, the festival's artistic director said.

    “This theater festival is important because it brings the world to us, right here in New York City,” actor and award winning filmmaker, Lucia Grillo, told i-Italy, after her unforgettable performance of The Twelve Letters,  “Laura Caparrotti works extremely hard to share the experience of theater pieces she recognized as valuable and we owe her a great deal for it. The least people can do is help sustain – that way all involved can not only continue to put on quality productions free of economic difficulties but also so artists can be paid for her work. Humanity needs the theater. And of course there can be no theater without the artists! That's why I personally feel not only the honor of being part of this but also a duty.”

    This year's edition of In Scena! is bringing to New York 5 different shows, all in Italian with English supertitles, presented by companies coming from different regions, from north to south, to provide several examples of the creativity that distinguishes the whole territory.

    “Like all things that are newly born and take their first steps, there comes a moment where there is a need to slow down and take a lot at what has been done,” Laura Caparrotti has said, “In this edition, the number of shows has been limited, we only have five, because we want to dedicate a whole day to one show. It's a question of focus.”

    The following is a list of the shows:

    Adam & Eve

    May 3, 7.30pm, Bernie Wohl Center at Goddard Riverside

    May 5, Time 8pm, Triskelion Arts

    Written and directed by Mauro Santopietro. Starring Mauro Santopietro and Alessia Giangiuliani. From Abruzzo.
    Adam & Eve is a symbolic journey in seven scenes. Moving through historical eras to arrive at the present day, the play explores the endless dynamics between man and woman. 

    Pinocchio Fellini

    May 4, 8pm, Center of the Arts at College of Staten Island

    May 7, 3pm, Bernie Wohl Center at Goddard Riverside

    Based on Carlo Collodi’s Pinocchio. Written and directed by Titta Ceccano. Starring Elena Alfonsi, Alessandro Balestrieri, Titta Ceccano, Julia Borretti, Danilo Sarego e Andrea Zaccheo. Produced by Matutateatro. From Lazio.
    The story of the world’s most famous wooden puppet is reimagined inside a Felliniesque world with all its essential moments, including being the belly of the whale. Honoring Carlo Collodi’s 190th birthday, this youth theater production blends live music, choreographed dance, and shadow puppetry to illustrate the transformation of an impertinent wooden puppet into a sensible flesh-and-bone boy.

    Diary of a Serbian Housewife

    May 6, Time 7:30pm, Casa Italiana Zerilli-Marimò

    May 9, Time 8pm, Triskelion Arts

    Based on the novel by Mirjana Bobic Mojsilovic. Directed by Fiona Sansone, starring Ksenija Martinovic. Produced by CSS Teatro Stabile di Innovazione of Friuli Venezia Giulia
    Andjelka is a young woman whose urge to relive her memories leads her to retrace the steps of her life: her childhood spent in Tito’s Yugoslavia, her adolescence and adulthood spent in Milosevic’s Serbia. This moving piece tells the story of an entire generation of young people living in war-torn regions who weren’t ready to become adults.

    Cuoca Primavera

    May 11, Time 6pm, Casa Italiana Zerilli-Marimò

    May 14, Time 3pm, Bernie Wohl Center at Goddard Riverside

    Written and directed by Chiara Cervati. Starring Chiara Cervati and Elena Trombini. Produced by Centopercentoteatro. From Lombardia.

    Cuoca Primavera is a chef on a desperate quest to find the best ingredients for her dishes. Through many unforeseen hiccups – and a lot of laughter – Cuoca Primavera and her assistant teach children to pay attention to what we eat and to how the earth is treated, as well as to respect those who work the land to grow our food.

    Ocean Terminal

    May 13, Time 7:30pm, Bernie Wohl Center at Goddard Riverside

    May 15, Time 7:30pm, Bernie Wohl Center at Goddard Riverside

    Written by Francesco Lioce and Emanuele Vezzoli. Based on the autobiography of Piergiorgio Welby. Directed and performed by Emanuele Vezzoli. Produced by Associazione Culturale Teatri e Culture. From Lazio.
    The life story of celebrated Italian end-of-life rights pioneer Piergiorgio Welby. Afflicted with muscular dystrophy, in 2006 Welby publicly declared his wish to refuse the medical treatment that kept him alive.

    The program also includes a night of free verse – Free Verse Meets In Scena! On May 5th and 12th, and the Mario Fratti Award Ceremony, which coincides with the festival's ending, on May 16th.

    The Mario Fratti Award is given to a new Italian play which is translated into English. This year's winner, selected among 100 submissions, is Emanuele Aldrovandi's Farfalle. “The play is about two sisters whose favorite pastime is a dangerous game: whoever holds the butterfly hairpin can ask the other one to do anything. Inspired by some of Pirandello’s short stories, Butterflies is a tale of personal growth and sisterly love in which self-discovery is not always accompanied by greater understanding of the other person.”

    For more information: http://www.inscenany.com/

     

  • Events: Reports

    Inspired by Pirandello: Characters in Search of a Country


    NYU's Casa Italiana Zerilli-Marimò hosted, for the second consecutive year, The Literary Mews, NYU's own festival within the 2016 PEN World Voices Festival, a literary event that presents the work of writers from all over the world. The night's program featured a conversation with the Albanian-born Italian writer Ron Kubati, Characters in Search of a Country, a theatrical performance by Kairos Italy Theater's YoungKIT, inspired by Luigi Pirandello's Six Characters in Search of an Author, and the festival's closing panel “What's Your Muse,” featuring four renowned international authors – Cristina Rivera Garza, Ron Kubati, Glenn Patterson and Beate Rothmaier.


    I-Italy had a chance to discuss the theater piece with the company. Written and directed by Laura Caparrotti, Characters in Search of a Country, portrays characters played by Aileen Lanni, Mario Merone, Lorenzo Possanza and Maria DeCotis who are Syrian immigrants in search of a country where they can tell and live their stories. Using Pirandello's words, in Italian, English and other languages, KIT presents a theater piece that reflects upon the contemporary problems of migration. “It was incredible to discover how perfect the words of Pirandello are for the situation,” Laura Caparotti explained to us, “Of course I had to cut and choose only some parts, yet it seems to be written for us and for what I want to say with the performance.”


    “I was in Syros, Greece, working with the international group of directors I belong to, the World Wide Lab, and some of us were working on a piece on immigration,” Laura continued, “It was summer and Greece, Italy and Turkey were filled with bodies, dead and alive, from Syria especially. It was unbearable to hear, every single day, the number of how many people had died. It is still unbearable. Then, there, at the local Pirandello Society, someone told me about a Six Characters adaptation where the characters come from the sea. It made me think and I didn't stop until I decided to try to talk about everything it was happening in Europe using the words of Pirandello.


    I wanted to have a gate, which is very similar to many other gates from the past; the gate symbolizes an entrance, a border, a line dividing the good from the bad... A wall! The characters want to enter and they try to convince the director and the company to listen to them. At the end, they are sent away and the borders are closed. What is amazing is how much the situation in Europe has changed from when we started up to now. I believe that the more we develop the piece, the more material we'll have to add.”


    “My character is a young boy whose name is Sami,” Lorenzo Possanza, an actor with KIT hailing from Rome had to say this about his character. “Sami travels from Syria to Greece to find a better future, indeed his dream is to go to Germany and study there, get a job and bring his whole family back to Europe. He is very positive and with a lot of energy, he is aware of the problems and difficulties ahead of him but his passion for his dreams are stronger and he knows that.


    I believe Sami and I can relate very well, I personally left my country to come to the US and had to make sacrifices, facing difficulties and obstacles to pursue my dream. On top of that, I have done this with positive attitude and energy. I enjoy this reinterpretation of Pirandello’s work, how the characters in search of an author become the immigrants in search of a country, especially with the current situation in Europe in which immigrants deprived of everything are forced to leave their countries in search of a better future and they are ready to fight to get into Europe as the Characters are ready to fight to show their Drama.”


    Mario Merone, from Naples, plays both a Syrian refuge and his father, “They both try to be accepted by someone who has the power to give them a new life. But this acceptance goes through moments of fear, despair, pain and sometimes even of non-compliance. I feel very close to this character because since I was a child I had to fight to be heard and accepted and to be able to express my ideas without the fear of being laughed at. This interpretation is interesting because underlines the difficulty of understanding between human beings, the fear of what we do not know which leads us to categorize others as someone who can be dangerous for ourselves just because different from us.”


    Aileen Lanni, from the Bronx, is “portraying the mother figure in Pirandello's work. Much of my inspiration for her was pulled from the many, harrowing refugee accounts I researched. In my research I also came to find that she is somewhat akin to the mater dolorosa figure. I find it really interesting how much Pirandello's work carries over to present day. There are so many elements that are relatable, especially to the current refugee situation - that urgent need to tell one's story firsthand so that others might understand and aid but being mocked, tormented or made fun of.”


    “Laura keeps calling my character Donald Trump,” Maria DeCotis said about her portrayal of a company member, “It's always interesting to play the character I perceive to be the "villain." My character has no patience for the others (who play immigrants from Syria). She sees them as a wash of the same thing. She groups them all together. She takes no time to listen to their individual stories because she has already decided in her mind that they are all bad people who are taking something from her.


    I grew up in Georgia where I think some of Donald Trump's terminology can be very contagious and toxic. My grandparents were immigrants from Italy. It's difficult to say how I relate to a person like my character, as I see no similarities between our beliefs and ideology. But as an actor, we are constantly asked to reevaluate our method of communication depending on the audience we are addressing. We are also asked to see a story from every possible angle down to the minutest detail of interpretation because it gives us more information on why a character behaves a certain way.


    I think about the hate that Donald Trump perpetuates with bigotry and fear-based rhetoric. My character thinks she can speak for the characters better than they can speak for themselves and it enrages me. Beginning development on a character with anger is not the most useful way to start, but it is valid in the creation of this role. It's hard to not let it take control, especially when my anger and passion ignite my creativity in service of social change. I know Laura has this same passion and has used it in devising this piece.”


    The show, which is in continuous development, will be presented again on June 20, 21 and 23 at the Davenport Theatre at 8pm. For more info:www.kitheater.com

  • Art & Culture

    The Secrets of Perfect Strangers: Interview with Paolo Genovese

    He has an iPhone6. And he left it on the table face up, so that everybody in the room can see when he gets a message. Of course nobody is going to ask him to read it aloud... Jokes, aside, Paolo Genovese, the director of Perfect Strangers, the Italian box office hit on how cell phones and social media have entered into fragile territories and affect almost everyone's lives, made himself available to share some of the secrets of his latest film.

    Genovese, who is also co-writer of Perfect Strangers, has a history of having directed more than three hundred commercials and several successful films, including Tutta colpa di Freud (2013) and :a Banda dei Babbi Natale (2010).

    “With this film, the idea was to sketch out that secret life we cannot come clean about, up until 20 years ago, our secrets were kept inside us: today, they are buried in our mobile phones, which have become a little bit like our black boxes,” Genovese has often said about his movie, where a group of friends play a dangerous game: during a weekly dinner everybody should place their cell phone face up on the table. Each message received should be read out loud and every call must be taken on speaker for everybody to know. Secrets, some innocuous others dangerous, are therefore revealed and people who are familiar become strangers. 

    Perfect Strangers which features a star studded cast, Valerio Mastandrea in the role of Lele, AnnaFoglietta in the role of his wife Carlotta, Kasia Smutniak in the role of Eva, Marco Giallini in the role of her husband Rocco, Alba Rohrwacher in the role of Bianca, Edoardo Leo in the role of her husband Cosimo and Giuseppe Battiston in the role of Peppe, is nominated for nine David Di Donatello awards (The Italian Oscars), including best picture and best director of the year.

    Produced by Medusa Film and Lotus Productions, the film has had its International Premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival on the 14th of April, and rumors are that Harvey Weinstein attended such screening. Perfect Strangers was the only Italian title selected to compete in the festival's narrative section, and it raised buyers’ interest worldwide.

    You attended the screenings, how was the film received by American audiences?

    I attended two screenings and the reaction was amazing. Comedies are the sort of films that could definitely be totally lost in translation. Dramas and thrillers speak a more universal language while comedies risk having a sense of humor that is understood only by people in their native country. People laughed and reacted just the same way audiences did in Italy. At the end of each screening there always was a Q&A, and I was asked lots of interesting questions, at times even more interesting than in Italy. Usually, back in Italy, I was asked both by audiences and journalists alike  “how did you get the idea,” “how did you chose the cast.” These are good but ordinary questions. While here people seemed to want to go deeper, both on a technical and a narrative point of view. They were more specific about situations captured by the film. This showed me that the film was viewed with careful attention in all of its context.

    In Italy the film has been defined as a Comedy, and even the representative of the rebirth of the famous Commedia all'Italiana. Here in the US, it's been defined a Dramedy. Which description do you consider more accurate?

    In Italy we are losing grasp of the real concept of comedy and confusing comedy with funny films. In reality Commedia all'Italiana is a drama of some sort, the films were brilliant comedies that didn't lack of sadness and social criticism. A comedy captures aspects of our society that are difficult and dramatic but with some sort of lightness. Some of the greatest Italian comedies that have received awards and honors all over the world and have been made by some of the masters of Italian cinema always included some sort of drama: there was defeat, loss and even death. La Grande Guerra by Mario Monicelli is one of the greatest Italian comedies of all time and the two main characters end up dying. Even more popular comedies, like the films featuring Fantozzi (a stereotypically unlucky Italian accountant created by actor Paolo Villaggio), are very funny but they actually capture in a deeply sad manner the situation of the white-collar class. Therefore I don't find any contradictions in defining my film either a dramedy or a comedy. While often comedic films, where laughter is the one and only scope of the movie, are mistakingly labeled as comedy.

    What happens in Perfect Strangers is very familiar, it's something that could happened to anybody, therefore the audience identifies strongly with the characters. That is not achieved only by the storyline but also by the way the film is actually shot. 

    When shooting a film around a dining table, the filmmaker definitely tries to invite the audience in, as if they are participating in the dinner itself along with the actors. In this film there actually is an empty seat that seems to be there just for the spectator as we used a square table for eight with only 7 guests. Conceptually, the 8th seat is where the audience is “sitting.” Many shots were indeed made from that empty seat so that you'd feel like you are a part of what is happening. There was no room for any directorial virtuosities, my directing was and is focused on the story without any
    aesthetic tricks that, especially in this film, were not needed. 

    The idea of the film was yours, and you wrote it with four other screenwriters (Filippo Bologna, Paolo Costella, Paola Mammini and Rolando Ravello). How was that collaborative process and how did you maintain your original concept intact?

    It was very rewarding. In a film like this, a piece that captures real life with many different characters and numerous stories, it is useful to have many different personal stories. You end up having so much material that puts you in the position to make a selection of “the best of,” meaning the individual experiences that you need the most to tell your story. The way I collaborate with other writers is very rewarding: we meet twice a week and each one of us contributes his/her ideas. Then I use the other 5 weekdays to actually sit down and write, I do need to write things myself, in order to organize all the different ideas. We then meet again and criticize or comment what's been written and we go on.The great advantage of this process is that we have lots on the table. In a film like this where people can talk about anything that comes to mind this allows you to have a unique narrative level.

    During the dinner the characters don't only address the calls and messages they receive but they also mention numerous issues, many reflecting issues of Italian society. An example can be Peppe's short term contract that has been illegally renewed for ten years or the role of children in a married couple.

    It's veiled criticism, but the film does not want to criticize Italian society. The choice to address some topics, like religion, kids, homosexuality, is simply to give realism to this dinner among close friends. If you sit down at the table with your buddies you talk about all different things. And this is what happens in the film. You never know where conversations may lead you to.

    Was there any space for improvisation for the actors?

    Very little. I really care about what is written on the script. I spend hours choosing an adjective or a specific word. Italian is a very rich language, we have different terms to describe the same thing so the choice of words is vital. I did give the actors some freedom in expressing the characters' long term friendship: so the sly remarks and private jokes among them were often unscripted and this added to making the whole more realistic.

    Is there a character you feel closer to or that has some autobiographical traits?

    Not really. All writers include something personal in what they write because real life always is source of inspiration. Films that portray real life, in order to feel real, have to capture something that belongs to you. That said, I absolutely try to avoid to tell stories that are entirely based on my life. I am afraid that the lack of detachment from what has happened to you personally could make you believe you are telling the story of some interesting characters but in reality they are terribly boring. This happens because they are  seen through the eyes of your personal experience. It's almost like when your friends show you the videos of their vacations; they are having a blast reliving through those moments but you find them incredibly tedious. That emotional element speaks to you but fails with others. I suppose that when you'd rather tell other people's stories, stories that have moved you in the first place, they most likely would move others as well.

    If you had to describe each character what would you say?

    Bianca (Alba Rohrwacher) is fragile, but in the end her fragility turns into strength. That's often the case in real life, people who seem to be sensitive and easy to break are the ones who end up having stronger reactions and actions than others. Eva (Kasia Smutniak) is diabolical. Nobody really understands why she suggests to play this game. Only at the end you realize she is the only one who couldn't have discovered anything painful, because her man loves her. Rocco (Marco Giallini) is the classic family man. I wanted to represent a very Italian figure, someone reassuring, who tries to keep the family together, who loves his wife no matter what... all good values. Lele (Valerio Mastandrea) represents the average man, who, though, appears to have no values but definitely redeems himself. Thrown into the right situation he can show his true valor, just like the aforementioned characters of La Grande Guerra. The story is obviously very different, but the concept of giving a character the opportunity to redeem himself is interesting.

    What role does the lunar eclipse play?

    The eclipse is simply a metaphorical situation. I used it to give the film tempo. The film is about the unsaid, and the eclipse, just like the characters, hides something else. Secrets are what we cover up, keep hidden from our life, during a lunar eclipse the Earth's shadow hides the Moon from view. I thought it was an interesting metaphor.

    What about the “I Will Survive” ringtone of Cosimo's phone, is that a metaphor too?

    The film definitely is based on the double, on the said/unsaid, public/hidden. Maybe in the States, because you have a different understanding of the lyrics, it's a bit different, but in Italy “I Will Survive” has two “lives.” It can be a fun song you can dance to, but if you listen to the words, it's a cry of desperation. I liked this double role of the song. Generally speaking, we worked a lot of the cell phones used in the film, as we wanted them to be as real as possible, so we had to request a lot of licenses. We had to do the same for the use of apps and social media. We didn't want to talk about WhatsApp and then it looked or sounded fake. We wanted to use Siri's real voice. Everything had to be as real as possible, as in every day life: there are those we have iPhones but there are also those who have old flip phones, some use a specific song as a ringtone others don't really care to change the ringtone tat all... if anything looked fake it meant something was wrong.

    We have a saying here “Ignorance is Bliss.” Is it really?

    In this situation ignorance could be seen as useful, you keep going without knowing what is really going on. But ignorance can also make you suffer. At some point Carlotta (Anna Foglietta) says “we have to learn to break up” in that case the term “learning” proves that many couple would love to end their relationships but they don't know how to. So they ignore what is going on, they embrace ignorance, and this ignoring reality doesn't make you really happy, only apparently.

     

  • Facts & Stories

    Human Beings Have Three Lives: Public, Private and Secret

    Just a couple of days ago an ex sent me a naked picture of himself posing in front of the bathroom mirror. It all started with him wanting to show me his vacation beard. Instead I saw more than that, and I am not talking about his muscles, but I am talking about his current girlfriend's bathroom. This guy was there with her in the other room and sending private pictures to me. It really made me wonder what people hide in their phones and how easy it is to just connect with anybody.

    And then, call it a coincidence, I had to watch Paolo Genovese's Perfetti Sconosciuti (PerfectStrangers) because it is going to be competing at the 2016 Tribeca Film Festival in the International Narrative Competition. It was like it was speaking to me.

    Perfect Strangers is an ensemble film featuring Valerio Mastandrea in the role of Lele, Anna Foglietta in the role of his wife Carlotta, Kasia Smutniak in the role of Eva, Marco Giallini in the role of her husband Rocco, Alba Rohrwacher in the role of Bianca, Edoardo Leo in the role of her husband Cosimo and Giuseppe Battiston in the role of Peppe, the only single guy.

    As the film starts we see every couple get ready for a dinner together and the cell phones in their lives already play a central role. We see Lele sitting on the toilet pretending to be going to the bathroom but in reality he is sending a message, obviously not to his wife in the room next door or to a coworker. In the same apartment we see that as they are about to leave Carlotta lies that she has forgotten the phone but what she really has to do is take her panties off (we will find out why later in the film). Across town in their apartment, Bianca, who is a vet, is on the phone talking to a concerned client, while her husband Cosimo is trying to seduce her.

    At Rocco and Eva's house, the viewer is are introduced to people's curiosity to know what is going in other people's loves. Eva, who is a therapist, was going through Sofia's, her daughter, purse, as going through her phone would be impossible, and she found a brand new box of condoms. This causes a sense of uneasiness between mother and daughter, that seems characteristic of their relationship. There is a reason why old sayings still exist and when faced with reality all it is easy to wonder if “ignorance is bliss.”

    After this brief, yet very efficient introduction, Cosimo and Bianca, the newlyweds of the group, Lele and Carlotta, a long lasting couple that seems to have problems of communication, and Peppe, a recently divorced guy who has no job and has a new girlfriend that nobody has met, are all going over for dinner at Eva and Rocco's house. Eva and Rocco also are a couple in crisis, their love for each other is obvious but there are things that seem to remain unsaid, they have a teenage daughter that is difficult to handle and that is causing rupture between the spouses and Eva's continuous need to over analyze everything is definitely not helping.

    Despite the joy of all being together for a fun night, the overall mood is not the most relaxed. Unhappy couples whisper sarcastic digs about each other or avoid getting into serious matters. Everybody was curious to meet Peppe's latest girl but unfortunately she is home with the flu, so the night's biggest attraction has dissipated.

    What brings the group together is the beauty of a lunar eclipse, which they all observe from the balcony. Despite their unique beauty, it is common knowledge that all kinds of wild beliefs are linked to eclipses, and there’s actually proof in both history and in the modern day that eclipses can make people do all sorts of weird things, ranging from the bizarre to the wonderful.

    Indeed, out of the blue, during dinner, Eva suggests they play a game: everybody should put their phone on the table, face up, sound on, read aloud every message they receive and take every call and put it on speaker without revealing what is going on. This is a way to prove to everybody that there are no secrets, nothing to hide. Needless to say there are plenty of things that the friends don't know about each other, and that spouses are keeping hidden.

    So between a serving of eggplant fritters and a glass of biodynamic wine, the sounds start – the typical whatsapp ring of when you get a message or a photo, the fun frog ringtone and the old time classic by Gloria Gaynor “I will Survive” interrupt conversations and become the center of a downward spiral that can't be stopped and that spares none.

    Perfect Strangers successfully proves that you can be married to, or be friends with, someone for decades and the person you share your life with day after day has a side you absolutely know nothing about. But it also proves that social media, from facebook to instagram or whatsapp, make it easier to behave a certain way with total strangers. Magically those people you have never talked to are not strangers anymore, they become someone you can be comfortable with to the point of sending a sexy selfie of you every night at the same time.What's astounding is the superficiality with which this is done without even taking into consideration the consequences of certain behaviors.

    Perfect Strangers, which has been nominated to 8 Davide di Donatello Awards, Italy's Academy Awards, is masterfully shot in an apartment, mostly around the dining table, with a cast of actors that
    amazes with their ease in delivering dialogues and actions. Smartphones, the other protagonists of this story, are also given the importance they deserve, as the black boxes of our life.

    Perfect Strangers @ Tribeca Film Festival Showtimes

    6:15 PM - THU 4/14 @ Regal Cinemas Battery Park
    4:45 PM - FRI 4/15 @ Regal Cinemas Battery Park
    10:00 PM - SAT 4/16 @ Bow Tie Cinemas Chelsea
    3:45 PM - MON 4/18 @ Bow Tie Cinemas Chelsea

  • Dining in & out: Articles & Reviews

    Vinitaly Celebrates its 50th Anniversary

     
    Spending half a century trying the best international wines on the market: Vinitaly, Italy's greatest international wine competition and exposition, is indeed celebrating its 50th anniversary. This year, the so-called largest wine show in the world, which is held every April, this edition from the 10th to the 13th, and has been called the “most important convention of domestic and international wines,” is reaching new records: more than 4.100 exhibitors and operators in the wine sector hailing from more than 140 countries.

     

    “A great future comes from a great past,” Maurizio Danese, president of Veronafiere (the Verona  Exhibition Authority, the organizer of exhibitions in Italy) has said, “Going over 50 editions of Vinitaly, created in 1967 in Verona as "Giornate del Vino Italiano" (The Days of Italian Wines) means retracing fifty years of the history of our beloved country. A country that has been able to make itself known and appreciated in the rest of the world. The 2016 edition wants to better represent the two faces of the wine business: economic and convivial, each to be enjoyed in the right place and at the right time. Veronafiere is making it very clear: business is taken care of in the pavilions while the wine festival is being held in the city's various restaurants and bars. Indeed, a couple of days before the show's opening we will launch Vinitaly&the City in order to involve consumers in a variety of activities all through the city. Our focus is both on the exhibitors and on the clients.”

    Giovanni Mantovani, the General Manager of Veronafiere, added “This edition also marks the implementation of a strategic development project that will make of Vinitaly not only a year-long wine fair but much more: a community of producers, of leaders in the communications field and of international buyers who are able to come up with and let circulate ideas and trade relations on a global scale through Vinitaly International, OperaWine, VIA-Vinitaly International Academy, wine2wine, VinitalyWineClub, Sol&Agrifood, Enolitech and Awards such as the new 5 Star Wines Award.”

    But that's not all. “This Vinitaly will have more international exhibitors,” Mantovani continued, “Not only in the designed area called Vininternational, which has already welcomed producers from Spain, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Australia, Serbia, Switzerland, Great Britain, France, China, Portugal and Argentina. This year we will have 1000 buyers coming from abroad in order to facilitate business with some target countries such as the USA and Canada, Japan, Germany and Austria. This activity brings together our efforts with the ones of the Ministero delle Politiche Agricole e dello Sviluppo Economico (Ministry of Agriculture and Economic Development) and the ItalianTrade Agency.”

    Italy's wine business, amounting at a total value of 12.4 billion euros, “has become source of pride for the country,” Danese added, “Thanks to companies that have been able to give unique value, with their own productions, to natural environments, rural landscapes, integrating the cultural offer of the territories.” In 2015 wine exports have exceeded 5.4 billion euros, which means a growth of 5.4% compared to 2014. This is a new record for Italian wines that need to continue being strong if we want to reach the 2020 goal of 7.5 billion euros that Prime Minister Matteo Renzi indicated during Vinitaly 2014.

    Yet Vinitaly is not celebrating alone: indeed ten DOC wines are also celebrating five decades of presence on the market. From North to South these wines, which together outline the history and geography of the Italian wine sector, are: Vernaccia Di San Gimignano; Est! Est!! Est!!!; Ischia; Frascati; Bianco Di Pitigliano; Brunello Di Montalcino; Barbaresco; Barolo; Aprilia; and Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano. Each wine will be celebrated with special tastings in specially dedicated pavilions.

    And in order to make the celebrations official all through the country, on the 11th of April the Italian Postal System will launch a new stamp dedicated to Vinitaly for its series focusing on Italian excellences.. wine is indeed an excellence that makes Italy stand out in the whole world.  

  • Art & Culture

    Book Presentation: Lost Words, Coming of Age in 1970s Milan

    Author Nicola Gardini and translator Michael F. Moore met, after months of work and collaboration, at Casa Italiana Zerilli Marimò in a conversation about Gardini's novel Le Parole Perdute di Amelia Lynd (2012 Feltrinelli) and its English translation, completed by Moore, Lost Words (2016, New Directions).

    Moderated by scholar Michael Wyatt, the conversation focused on Milan in the 1970s, coming ofage (including sexual awakening), the travails of translating and collaboration. The novel, winner of Casa’s own Zerilli-Marimò/City of Rome Prize and the Viareggio Prize “takes place on the cusp of an upheaval in Italian life. The 1970s in Italy may be best known for the clash between left- and right-wing extremists, but it was also a decade of social mobility, educational opportunity, and a sexual revolution. Lost Words captures a microcosm of this transformation in a working-class neighborhood on the outskirts of Milan, littered with construction debris and tainted by the malice of petty gossip.

    Viewed through the eyes of Chino, an impressionable thirteen-year-old boy whose mother is a doorwoman, the world contained within these walls is tiny, hypocritical, and mean-spirited. A new resident, Amelia Lynd, moves into his building and quickly becomes an unlikely companion to Chino. Ms. Lynd – and elderly, erudite British woman – nurtures his taste in literature, introduces him to the life of the mind, and offers a counterpoint to the only version of reality he’s known.”

    “That was a historical period,” Gardini explained, “where high culture could meet low culture. I, like the boy in the novel, came from a proletariat family but I was no different from other kids my age who were coming from more well-to-do families. I had their same opportunity to attend a good university. Yet it was also a time of turmoil and of social preoccupation. I migrated to Milan from the South in those years and I grew up in an area very similar to the one described in the book, via Icaro, but despite that the book is not autobiographical. I don't have that many memories from that time but I see it as the beginning of the Berlusconi era, of an era where there was ambition to change the world.”
     

    Michael Moore, also arrived in Milan, from Chicago, in the 1970s: 1975 to be exact. “I moved to Milan to attend Brera Academy of Fine Arts and I didn't know what I walked into. Schools were occupied, statues and other works of art were marked by a red A which meant Anarchy, protests were being held everywhere. It was not the Italy I was expecting.
     

    Italy in the 1970s was living through its Years of Lead, a time of socio-political agitation that started in the late 1960s and continued into the early 1980s. The period was marked by a wave of terrorist attacks, protests, kidnappings and the birth of the Red Brigades, a revolutionary, paramilitary organization responsible for violent attempts to destabilize the country.

    “Lost Words is not a historical book either,” Gardini added, “It's just a tale that happened to fit in those years. With this book I tried, through this specific story of a kid who grows up in a portineria (a porter's lodge), to instill faith in culture, in the value of literary knowledge and in the meaning of words.”

    And words are not just what Michael Moore had to translate, a translation is so much more. For example, who knew it could be visual? Moore had a few films that helped him through it for their feel and their characterization.
     

    “What's useful of translating the work of a living author is that you can ask him questions,” Moore joked, “But in reality I prefer to translate in private.” “I was not worried,” Gardini answered, “I trusted him completely and I believe that a translation is something completely new that has its own identity. It  doesn't matter if it is different from the original, it cannot be the same just by the mere fact that the languages are different.”
     

    Moore made some choices in the translation as leaving some words untranslated and getting rid of the Milanese dialect, which would be impossible to convey in English. In Milan people use the definite article before someone's first name: La Luisa or il Luigi, but saying The Luisa or The Luigi would be incorrect in English. “An American readership would not understand it,” Moore explained. He also had to chase down original quotes, from Shelley for example, that Amelia Lynd would spit out, but “because she often doesn't make sense, I distorted them too. That makes the translation more authentic.”
     

    “I never worry that something might get lost in translation,” Gardini concluded, “because with something you lose there is always something else that you find. Something equally beautiful.”

  • Life & People

    Wedding Destination in Europe and Second in the World

    Grammy award winning singer John Legend and the famous fashion model Chrissy Teigen chose Lake Como; Neil Patrick Harris and David Burtka picked a castle in Perugia, while Kim and Kanye opted for Florence. For decades celebrities have decided to tie the knot in Italy, one of the loveliest destinations. Things have changed though and arranging a wedding in a distant country like Italy is not a dream anymore. 

    Italy is indeed Europe's number one wedding destination, followed by France and Greece, and only the runner up on a global level coming second after the Caribbean and Hawaii, unparalleled for their romantic and breathtaking beaches. The information was presented in Ravello during a special event, “Italy coast to coast weddings,” that welcomed some of the most renown international wedding planners and local administrators.

    The following data has been provided by the Observatory of International  Weddings of  Sposa Mediterranea Network a group of international event planners based in Ravello. The event's objective was to “educate and explore the territory,” while discovering cultural and landscape riches as well as traditional food specialties and unique artistic gems.

    A wedding in Italy means excellent food, astounding wines, unparalleled art and culture and unique landscapes but also a general sense of friendliness and warmth that cannot be found in any other country. Data show that 75% of people vacationing in Italy decide to get married there. In 2014 the wedding business earned more than 350 million euros, roughly calculated on 6200 weddings that cost about 50.000 euros each, and in 2015 earnings amounted to more than 400 millions.

    It's too soon to tell how 2016 is going to be but predictions show that this constant rise will increase by 50%. On top of that, after their wedding, couples decide to spend their honeymoon in Italy. 25% of couples who marry in Italy return to celebrate their first anniversary, 47,6% return after 2 or years, and 12,4% return after 5 years. 90% of couples suggest to their friends to get married in Italy. This proves that international weddings are an excellent vehicle to retain tourists and thereby to increase even general tourism.

    The Amalfi Coast (favored by 38%) comes second behind Tuscany (43%) that has been a favorite for decades. They are followed by Umbria (8%), Venice and the Lakes (6%). The regions that are just recently getting more popular are Puglia and Sicily. The first who love getting hitched in Italy are the Brits, followed by the Americans and Canadians, the Russians, the Japanese and the Chinese.

    "The wedding business should not be underestimated or considered frivolous,” Suita Carrano, General Manager of Sposa Mediterranea Network and coordinator of the Observatory has explained, “It is a significant economic sector. The data speak clearly. All institutions should be more aware of this phenomenon as it can help increase tourism and all other sectors. The potential is immense and international celebrities such as George Clooney,who married in Venice, could become efficient testimonials.”

    The locations that couple seem to prefer are unique hotels, not necessarily luxurious hotels but places that have something special to offer, followed by historical villas and castles. “There are also requests for more rustic locations,” Carrano continued, “such as agriturismos (a farm designed to also receive guests), masserias (a masseria is a country estate found in the region of Puglia), cellars, and unknown borghi (old towns).” Some planners, such as Slow Dreams, can even arrange an "armada" of boats to one of  HYPERLINK Italy's most secluded and dramatic cliff surrounded beaches.

    Italy has often been called the country of love, as it is  beyond doubt such a romantic getaway, not only because of its beauty and romantic views but also the Italian lifestyle. Italians love romance, even their songs are all about love, and people from all over the world are welcome to enjoy a piece of that.

  • Authors: Andrè Aciman's Visceral Love for Italy

    The Italian Cultural Institute had its second appointment os the series “American authors and their ties with Italy.” Foreign authors are invited to speak about their personal connection to Italy that is often poured into their work. The series was launched with the testimony of Indian-American writer Jhumpa Lahiri, and it continued with Egypt born writer Andrè Aciman.

    André Aciman was born in Egypt in a French-speaking home where family members. He is the author of the memoir Out of Egypt (1995), and of two collections of essays, False. 

    Papers: Essays on Exile and Memory (2000) and Alibis: Essays on Elsewhere (2011). He has co–authored and edited The Proust Project (2004) and Letters of Transit. 

    He is also the author of four novels, Call Me by Your Name (2007), Eight White Nights (2010), Harvard Square (2013), and of the forthcoming Enigma Variations. also spoke Italian, Greek, Ladino, and Arabic. He grew up in a family of Jews of Turkish and Italian descent that was thrown out of the country when he was only fifteen. 

    That's when they moved to Italy first and then to New York City. Aciman is currently distinguished professor at the Graduate Center of City University of New York teaching history of literary theory and Marcel Proust's work. He previously taught creative writing at New York University and French literature at Princeton University.

    The biographical Out of Egypt, won a Whiting Award and it has been described as a “richly colored memoir that chronicles the exploits of a flamboyant Jewish family, from its bold arrival in cosmopolitan Alexandria to its defeated exodus three generations later.”

    The novel Call Me by Your Name is, for now, the only one set in Italy and it narrates a boy's erotic coming-of-age at his family's home on the Italian Riviera and during a trip to Rome. 

    Rome is the Italian city that welcomed Aciman and his mother for five years after they were forced to leave Egypt because of anti-semitism. Through the years Aciman had studied Italian with a private tutor originally from Siena but despite his studies he was not totally fluent. He identified with being French even though his father had bought Italian citizenship and his family had Italian roots in Pisa and Livorno. 

    “We arrived in Naples as refugees,” Aciman explained, “I immediately hated it and I didn't understand a single word. My mom was relying on me to translate what was being said but I couldn't. On top of that we were welcomed with remarks about being Jews. We left on that same day and we went to Rome.

    I instantly hated it too and felt that I did not belong there. I attended an American school and my only contact with Italy and Italians was on the bus I used to take to and from school. After classes I'd get home, close the curtains because I didn't even want to see the outside, and started reading.”

    But little by little Aciman's resistance started to crumble: he discovered museums, the city's squares, music... and by the time this contamination was taking over, they moved to New York. “I immediately hated New York too,” Aciman confessed, “but here's where I started falling for Italy, the Italy I was reading about in the books of the romantics like Keats, Shelley and Byron. And a visceral relationship that is mostly imaginary took over against my will.”

    Aciman travels to Italy twice a year and goes back to all the same places, dragging his family with him despite their complaints. “I am always disappointed by what I see but I just love it,” he explained. 

    When asked by the Institute's director, Giorgio Van Straten, what he loves about Italy, Aciman answered “Not the food, as I have never been a foodie, or the wine. I love the silence in the afternoon in Rome and the Italian temperament. Italian people have a unique friendliness that nobody else has. And when I am there I immediately become more friendly, even my voice changes when I speak Italian. 

    When I am here, instead, I become more ironic. I also love the scenery, especially by the water. I used to take the train to go up to Liguria and I would get lost in a dream world along the coast... I would see castles and mansions that I have not seen anywhere else, yet it reminds me of somewhere else. A place in my imagination or memory. It's a love like no other. I don't know why but Id I did, I'd stop loving it.”

    The appointments with “American authors and their ties with Italy” will continue: in April it will be David Leavitt’s turn and in May, Rachel Kushner's.

  • Art & Culture

    Authors: Andrè Aciman's Visceral Love for Italy

    The Italian Cultural Institute had its second appointment os the series “American authors and their ties with Italy.” Foreign authors are invited to speak about their personal connection to Italy that is often poured into their work. The series was launched with the testimony of Indian-American writer Jhumpa Lahiri, and it continued with Egypt born writer Andrè Aciman.

    André Aciman was born in Egypt in a French-speaking home where family members. He is the author of the memoir Out of Egypt (1995), and of two collections of essays, False. 

    Papers: Essays on Exile and Memory (2000) and Alibis: Essays on Elsewhere (2011). He has co–authored and edited The Proust Project (2004) and Letters of Transit. 

    He is also the author of four novels, Call Me by Your Name (2007), Eight White Nights (2010), Harvard Square (2013), and of the forthcoming Enigma Variations. also spoke Italian, Greek, Ladino, and Arabic. He grew up in a family of Jews of Turkish and Italian descent that was thrown out of the country when he was only fifteen. 

    That's when they moved to Italy first and then to New York City. Aciman is currently distinguished professor at the Graduate Center of City University of New York teaching history of literary theory and Marcel Proust's work. He previously taught creative writing at New York University and French literature at Princeton University.

    The biographical Out of Egypt, won a Whiting Award and it has been described as a “richly colored memoir that chronicles the exploits of a flamboyant Jewish family, from its bold arrival in cosmopolitan Alexandria to its defeated exodus three generations later.”

    The novel Call Me by Your Name is, for now, the only one set in Italy and it narrates a boy's erotic coming-of-age at his family's home on the Italian Riviera and during a trip to Rome. 

    Rome is the Italian city that welcomed Aciman and his mother for five years after they were forced to leave Egypt because of anti-semitism. Through the years Aciman had studied Italian with a private tutor originally from Siena but despite his studies he was not totally fluent. He identified with being French even though his father had bought Italian citizenship and his family had Italian roots in Pisa and Livorno. 

    “We arrived in Naples as refugees,” Aciman explained, “I immediately hated it and I didn't understand a single word. My mom was relying on me to translate what was being said but I couldn't. On top of that we were welcomed with remarks about being Jews. We left on that same day and we went to Rome.

    I instantly hated it too and felt that I did not belong there. I attended an American school and my only contact with Italy and Italians was on the bus I used to take to and from school. After classes I'd get home, close the curtains because I didn't even want to see the outside, and started reading.”

    But little by little Aciman's resistance started to crumble: he discovered museums, the city's squares, music... and by the time this contamination was taking over, they moved to New York. “I immediately hated New York too,” Aciman confessed, “but here's where I started falling for Italy, the Italy I was reading about in the books of the romantics like Keats, Shelley and Byron. And a visceral relationship that is mostly imaginary took over against my will.”

    Aciman travels to Italy twice a year and goes back to all the same places, dragging his family with him despite their complaints. “I am always disappointed by what I see but I just love it,” he explained. 

    When asked by the Institute's director, Giorgio Van Straten, what he loves about Italy, Aciman answered “Not the food, as I have never been a foodie, or the wine. I love the silence in the afternoon in Rome and the Italian temperament. Italian people have a unique friendliness that nobody else has. And when I am there I immediately become more friendly, even my voice changes when I speak Italian. 

    When I am here, instead, I become more ironic. I also love the scenery, especially by the water. I used to take the train to go up to Liguria and I would get lost in a dream world along the coast... I would see castles and mansions that I have not seen anywhere else, yet it reminds me of somewhere else. A place in my imagination or memory. It's a love like no other. I don't know why but Id I did, I'd stop loving it.”

    The appointments with “American authors and their ties with Italy” will continue: in April it will be David Leavitt’s turn and in May, Rachel Kushner's.

  • Events: Reports

    Lost and Beautiful: Marcello's Political Cine-Poetry

    The 45th edition of the Film Society of Lincoln Center and The Museum of Modern Art's festival New Directors/New Films is about to start: March 16 – March 27. Since 1972, New Directors/New Films has been an annual appointment of early spring in New York City, bringing exciting cinematic discoveries from around the world to international moviegoers. Dedicated to the discovery of new works by emerging and innovative filmmaking talent, this year’s edition includes 27 features and 10 shorts. 

    Among films from several countries, including Ghana, China, Israel, Denmark and the USA, there is one Italian gem awaiting to be discovered by American audiences: Lost and Beautiful (Bella e perduta) by Pietro Marcello. In this Award winning film, Marcello has fused documentary and fantastical fiction to tell the story of the so called “Angel of Carditello," or rather, Tommaso Cestrone, a real-life shepherd from Campania who represents hope and generosity in a country plagued by corruption.

    “Shot on expired 16mm film stock and freely incorporating archival footage and folkloric tropes, it begins as a portrait of the shepherd Tommaso, a local hero in the Campania region of southern Italy, who volunteered to look after the abandoned Bourbon palace of Carditello despite the state’s apathy and threats from the Mafia. Tommaso suffers a fatal heart attack in the course of shooting, and Marcello’s bold and generous response is to grant his subject’s dying wish: for a Pulcinella straight out of the commedia dell’arte to appear on the scene and rescue a buffalo calf from the palace.”

    The two, Pulcinella and Sarchiapone (the buffalo), embark on a journey through Italy and witness first hand its corruption, its difficulties and slow degeneration in a time of austerity. The palace of Carditello therefore becomes a lost microcosm where beauty still reigns.

    “Carditello is the symbol of a lost beauty and the struggle of an individual, an orphan who refuses to surrender to a rotten mechanism of destruction and decay,” Marcello has said about his film, “And at the same time this story, deeply rooted in our country’s history, examines a subject which has never been so universal: the relationship between man and nature.”

    “I learnt to look at Italy contemplating its landscape from trains, rediscovering time after time its beauty and its ruin,” Marcello further explained,  “I have often thought about making an itinerant film that would cross the provinces to describe Italy: beautiful, yes, but lost. Leopardi described it as a woman crying with her head in her hands due to the burden of history, the atavistic evil of being too beautiful.”

    Lost and Beautiful, which owes its title to Verdi's Nabucco and refers to the country ("Oh my country, so lovely and so lost") is a unique piece of art along the borderline of fiction and documentary, which is typical of Marcello. The film looks and feels like it comes from another era, and Marcello has often been compared to Pasolini for “its matter-of-fact lyricism and political conviction.”

    Marcello, who comes from Caserta, studied painting at l’Accademia di Belle Arti, was first a teacher in the prison of Naples and then started making short documentaries in 2003 . In 2007 he shot the documentary Il Passaggio della Linea (Crossing the Line) which was presented at the Venice International Film Festival and introduced him on the international scene.  In 2009, Marcello made La Bocca del Lupo (The Mouth of the Wolf), winner of major prizes at the Berlin and Turin film festivals. The film masterfully combines documentary with fiction in the telling of two haunting love stories that focus on the marginalized and Genoa's fading glory. 

    Lost and Beautiful is also a documentary with elements of fiction that soars into the realm of myth to create political cine-poetry.

    Screenings on Wednesday, March 23 @ 9:00 PM & Thursday, March 24 26:30 PM

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