The San Diego Italian Film Festival, in its 3rd edition, keeps growing by leaps and bounds. And it has never shown more bounce than this year. The festival reached a peak with the visit of director Giuseppe Gagliardi and actor/musician Peppe Voltarelli. The screening of Gagliardi’s La vera leggenda di Tony Vilar took place in the restored North Park Birch Theatre in front of a record crowd of 600.
The screening was followed by a question and answer period in which Gagliardi and Voltarelli illustrated in person the magic that is so apparent in their collaborations on film (they have worked together on a number of shorts and music videos in addition). Funny, intelligent, entertaining, captivating, full of life and energy, they engaged an audience who would have gladly spent the rest of the night in dialogue with them. And some had the opportunity to do so as the events moved to a nearby establishment, Caffè Calabria, where owner Arne Holt had prepared the space for a performace by Peppe Voltarelli. With wine, refreshments and espresso flowing the evening turned even more electric as Peppe took the stage.
Playing selections from his most recent recording, Distratto ma però, alongside a cover of a Paolo Conte piece and the most inventive rendition of Nel blu’ dipinto di blu’ I have ever heard, Peppe Voltarelli filled in the musician portion of the actor/musician equation to the max. Including Gagliardi into his music extending the collaboration beyond the screen, Peppe invited the director to the stage for a duet that evolved further to include the over-capacity crowd.
After the performance some of us left in search of watering holes, chasing them into the night as the 2 am closing time for most of them neared. Peppe continued his performace at the bar moon-walking across the floor, clapping hands and generally attempting to energize the drinkers in the place as last call came around.
We continued to drive San Diego as incredulous Peppe and Giuseppe finally realized that in many ways the city is still a sleepy border town.
The next morning Giuseppe Gagliardi presented his short film Belly Button Broth at the Italian Cultural Center in Little Italy. This was followed by a conversation/interview with Laura Bianconcini of the ICC and a Q & A with the audience. Voltarelli and Gagliardi continue to other dates in the US and elsewhere with their film, music and all around “good vibrations”.