What does the Cinema Italiano Festival mean to me – by Paolo Rotondo

As our borders open up again, I am reminded of how much I miss Italy. Luckily I have the privilege of curating the Cinema Italiano Festival. The responsibility of representing such a diverse and complex mix of cultures and perspectives through the medium of cinema is always present in my thoughts. After seven years of curating the festival, Italian cinema has fed my connection to my heritage; it has become my lens into my culture.

This year I have finally been able to bring to Aotearoa a filmmaker who epitomised a film movement that forever changed cinema, Roberto Rossellini and three of his Neo-realist masterpieces. Neo-realism was born from the end of Fascism and used real people and stories in a way that had never been seen before. In my opinion, it is one of the most significant movements in film history as it put authenticity, humanity and non-theatrical performance styles at the centre of the storytelling. I chose Stromboli not only because it is an extraordinary ‘anthropological’ study of an ancient people and their traditions but also because many Italian New Zealanders in Island Bay in Wellington trace their roots to the volcanic island. The majestic Ingrid Bergman also stars in Journey To Italy, a film credited with inspiring the French New Wave. Rome Open City is simply an extraordinary film, filmed in Rome in the days after the end of the Nazi occupation. It should be on your film bucket list to see on a big screen.

This year we have chosen to open the festival with the intricate adult drama Lacci, which chronicles the story of a marriage over 30 years. Lacci had the honour of opening the Venice Film Festival in 2021; it is the sort of sophisticated, nuanced and complex drama rarely seen in the English-speaking world. One of my personal favourites is the satyrical comedy Predators, a pitch-black, razor-sharp and hilarious comedy that pits a bourgeois intellectual family against a working-class fascist family in Rome, no one is spared. As always, we have brought to Aotearoa Italian cinema documentaries that express treasures of Italian culture, like Renaissance artist Caravaggio or the simply breathtaking Vatican Museums and back by popular demand is the impossibly charming, heart-warming documentary The Truffle Hunters.

In my opinion, in all our comedies, classics, and documentaries, there exist a variety and range that is unquestionably entertaining and authentically Italian.

Un caro saluto, Paolo.