Di Sica's Marriage Italian Style with Sophia Loren and Marcello Mastroianni
When you ask people about their favorite films, they always include one or two Italian movie classics in their list. It's no doubt that Italian cinema had a major influence on some of the most respected filmmakers today, as well as young movie buffs and audiences all around. When I watched my first Fellini film, which was La Strada, I knew immediately that I hadn't seen anything like it. Italian cinema, and especially its neo-realistic period, has been an eye opener for viewers as it has successfully enabled people to get in touch with their emotions and take a closer look into human nature and relationships.
If Italian film has such a significant place in film history, why aren't we seeing festivals or TV programs dedicated to it? Well, in case you're wondering, here's some good news. The Westchester Italian Film Festival has been around for 12 years, presenting the best of Italian cinema to its audiences. If you missed it within the past years, make sure you stop by Westchester this year, starting October 5th through the 12th. I had the pleasure to do a brief interview with Mary Beth Fisher, the director of this exciting and special event. For a full schedule of events and screenings, visit the festival's official site. Check back on Film Annex for the trailers of films being shown at this year's festival.
Eren Gulfidan: Westchester Italian Film Festival seems to focus on a pretty specific and niche catalog of films. Can you tell us how you came up with the idea to launch this festival?
Mary Beth Fisher: Proudly, this is our 12th Year of the Westchester Italian Film Festival and the films we are showing are the major independent successes of the last year and half of contemporary Italian Cinema, so they are not particularly "niche" or "specific." This can be seen by their inclusion in many other serious Italian film series put together in the last year and also by the multitude of major popular awards they have been nominated for, and in some cases won. If the question is why we are running an Italian-Film Festival at all, the answer is pretty simple: Throughout the history of cinema, Italian film has been a leading light, consistently producing works of high artistic value, challenging filmic conventions, and winning over generations of new cinephiles through iconic masterpieces from such heralded filmmakers as Fellini, Visconti and Di Sica (whose Marriage Italian Style we're showing on a newly restored print).
E.G. How did you fund this project?
M.F. We are fortunate to have run this Festival for a dozen years and we are grateful for The Picture House that runs every aspect of the Festival, the Generoso Pope Foundation, along with everyone who comes to watch and keep this Festival going year after year. Don't miss it this year! Get a discounted "Passport to Italy" value pass and you can see every film over the 8 day festival for only $50.
E.G. Can you explain the process of finding and putting together the films that are screened at this festival? What do you look for in the selected films?
M.F. The most important selection criteria for the small batch of films chosen to represent contemporary Italian Cinema in each year's WIFF is artistic quality and integrity, but clearly this is not a narrow enough constraint, as the national cinema of Italy is blessedly overfull of innovative, engaging, and top-of-the-line films coming out each and every year. Once a film has passed a rather high set of artistic criteria (into which production values, narrative efficacy, originality of voice, and general mastery of craft all contribute), we seek to find the best possible films to include in a program that is varied, accessible and includes a multifaceted view of a complex country.
E.G. Do you have any strategies for social media in terms of promoting and spreading the word about this festival?
M.F. All our partners were specifically chosen because they are Italian and have an inherent interest in our Festival so it makes sense to spread the word via their connections. All roads lead to Rome, right? Fun to get there in a FIAT, by the way!
E.G. What should the audience and the filmmakers expect from this experience?
M.F. With regard to genre diversity, we are offering everything from a classic and timeless uproariously funny comedy in MARRIAGE ITALIAN STYLE, a contemplative drama centering on love, memory and national identity in SHUN LI AND THE POET, a beautiful piece of magical-realism-cum-70s-period-piece in the familial adventures of KRYPTONITE!, a Foreign-Language Oscar submission in the immigration drama TERRAFERMA, and an English language Italian production that masterfully adapts a literary classic in SOMEDAY THIS PAIN WILL BE USEFUL TO YOU. And that's not even mentioning an HD broadcast of the Opera LA TRAVIATA, a rare-clips presentation of Dean Martin in Concert, and a local filmmaker's personal memoir in UMBERTO E. Audiences can expect to sample the true diversity of contemporary Italian Cinema while celebrating and deepening their understanding of the country today. There is truly something for everyone with many laughs, tears, and heart-stopping moments along the way.
Festival Director Mary Beth Fisher