Film festivals are trade shows. They may exude gossip and glamor and glitter, but above all their primary purpose is marketing—find distribution and cut deals. Oh, and often deals for financing as well, for future films that will make it to future festivals. Shows of the trade, the film industry trade. Film festivals are also purveyors of good times. They are usually chaotic, unpredictable and loaded with good entertainment, and food, and well… good times. And did I mention, they're also indispensible. And they're not easy to produce.
So I say this with head-nodding admiration: Only the Italians can do it... stage a glittering film festival in a sweltering, gridlocked city, in a mall (of all places) and do it with class, and style and even some dolce vita. It was the Moviemov Italian Film Festival in Bangkok last month.
This gathering featured the work of an array of acclaimed Italian directors including a tribute to the black&white comic mastery of Mario Monicelli (Cops and Robber, Dearest Relatives Poisonous Relations, Big Deal on Madonna Street, The Great War, et al). For its Thai link, the festival screened and honored the work of Thai director Pen-Ek Ratanaruang and plans to bring Thai films to the major venue Rome Film Festival this Fall.
The festival opened with a showing of Manuale d'am3re (The Ages of Love) a three-part romantic comedy featuring the fading team of Robert De Niro&Monica Bellucci (for obvious reasons) and Riccardo Scamarcio and Carlo Verdone because they are two fine actors with supreme high-farce talents. They star in the first two segments which are brilliantly hilarious. The third segment, from its onset, tells you that De Niro and Belluci 'phoned-in' their roles. De Niro was born without a comic bone in his body and mugs his way through this role. Belluci, ah well, no longer Bellucci. Her acting was simply, flaccid. The two are there for 'box-office' only and nearly wipe away the wonderful work of Scamarcio and Verdone.
Happily, the festival awarded it's top honor for "Best Film" to - the best film! - one of the best I've seen in the last 20 years, Ferzan Ozpetek's Mine Vaganti (Loose Cannons)…
read the review here.
The opening night gala was classy, as classy as you can get at a cineplex in a downtown shopping mall. This was a rich event and it deserved a richer, more respectable environment. Nevertheless, it was packed with a panorama of people, Thais and foreigners in tuxedos and tropical garb and dignitaries, all who enjoyed themselves and the imported food and wine… Italian food and wine, of course. And the films!
Thais love film (and things Italian), so it was strange how muted the local press coverage was. Unfortunately, the festival's media outreach, it's communication, was rather weak. The usual organized festival media excitement, the 'buzz', the special focus on the press, was conspicuous by its absence. One critic also noted that the pre- introductions were in Italian and Thai, which makes sense in Bangkok, yet many in attendance were English-speaking foreigners and didn't get the pre-film conversations… which also makes sense. But how you translate an Italian speech into Thai and English at the same time, I'm not knowing.
Moviemov is a film festival, a marketing event with a definite political undertone and a definitely valuable cultural overtone. Move Italian films to audiences in other cultures and bring their films to Rome. In this age of disposable cultural media and an eye-rolling cultural news cycle, an ongoing physical exchange of visions and ideas is a treasure. Envisioned, created and directed by Senator Goffredo Bettini, Moviemov is supported by Asiatica Film Mediale, PlaytownRoma, the Italian Ministry of Culture – Cinema General Direction, the Chamber of Commerce, the Province of Rome, and a number of other partners and sponsors, both public and private. The good Senator points to plans to repeat the experience in Manila and later perhaps in Mumbai. Truly a movable feast.
The backdrop and oversight for Moviemov is the International Rome Film Festival, a newly established major player in the world's cinema festival circuit. At the Bangkok event, Rome Festival's Valeria Allegritti was that one go-to person (as there always is at every film festival) who provided the spark that kept the candles lit. She wears many hats with the Rome Festival organization—talent handler, translator, film archivist—she seemed to be everywhere. as she multi-tasked her way through the crowds. When I came out singing (literally) praises after the screening of Mine Vaganti, she grabbed my hand and dragged me over to meet the film's director, Ferzan Ozpetek. "Look, see?" she said to him in delicious English, "You bring your film to Bangkok and this American comes over to see it and loves it! That's what this is all about, isn't it?"
That's what it's all about. A cultural exchange, a little politicking, a lot of business and a hell of a good time.
Bravo Senator! Brava Valeria!