'We're doing this to figure out how to make Italian culture a stronger presence in San Diego, besides at people's tables.'
That's Victor Larrucia, one of the organizers of the brand-new San Diego Italian Film Festival, which opens its first season at the Museum of Photographic Arts this October with a collection of movies put together by the Italian government and Cinema SUD.
Now, San Diego is a city that loves its film festivals. In the course of a year, as many as a dozen groups take over theaters, roll out the red carpet, dim the lights and tap into a specific demographic. Fall is a crowded time on the local festival circuit, but Larrucia and his partners, Giuseppe Annino and UCSD professor Pasquale Verdicchio, all of whom have been screening Italian pictures at Balboa Park's House of Italy for the past couple of years, are confident there's room for one more.
Sure, they may not be as big or as experienced as the Women's Film Festival, the Asian Film Festival or the San Diego Film Festival, all of which will have their day in the sun this fall, but the group has already gotten a great deal of support from the Italian community, and both UCSD and SDSU are among the organizations providing financial assistance. Patrons will be asked for donations, but because the prints were provided by the Italian government, the tickets will be gratis. And, of course, free screenings are to movies what free beer is to baseball.
'We're getting it without having to pay, so we're passing on that gift to our audiences,' says Laruccia, who once upon a time taught film at Brown. 'We're hoping people will feel generous enough to donate, but if you want to get in without paying, you do.'
Running from Oct. 12 through 25, the festival will include more than a dozen films, including seven of Vittorio De Seta's Sicilian short documentaries, Salvo Cuccia's Detour De Seta and Michele Placido's Del Perdute Amore. There will be a pair of conferences and a gala bash on Oct. 20 (that one's not free). Organizers are crossing their fingers that they'll have enough success to create an even more diverse lineup in '08.
'We want to establish a presence and to be able to make connections with Italian distributors,' says Larrucia. 'We're hoping to get to the point where we have more people than seats.'
A complete lineup and schedule is available at www.cinemasud.com, and Larrucia says that what people expect from Italian films--traditionally thought of in terms of, say, the existential or nihilistic sensibilities of Fellini or Antonioni--isn't necessarily what they'll actually get in the new millennium.
'The whole existentialist issue has disappeared,' he says. 'The stuff you're going to see in these movies is very different. These are younger filmmakers, and they're generally more interested in general social problems. They don't have the budgets to do anything entirely dependent on effects.
'Italian films are about people who really want to engage with the topic at hand,' Larrucia continued. 'There is a very strong feeling for how people live their lives in the environment and spaces that they have. You see that coming out of a lot of films around the world, but we don't see a lot of that here.'
True enough, mostly because it's only become harder and harder in recent years for films made in other countries to make their way to American theaters. 'It's so difficult for any of the Italian films to get here,' he says. 'That's why we're so focused on it.'
And, with any luck, this is only the beginning. The first season hasn't even started, but the festival organizers are hoping next year will be even bigger and better. That doesn't mean, though, that they're going Hollywood. No, they definitely haven't lost track of their roots. 'We want to bring in other things that are important to an Italian audience,' Larruchia says. 'We'd like to have food and wine and the whole damn thing.'
The Cinema Sud Italian Film Festival runs from Oct. 12 through 25 at MoPA in Balboa Park. www.cinemasud.com or 619-521-0977.
But wait, there's more
Film spectators are quiet vampires
'Toon Town Troublemakers: Curator Neil Kendricks brings another round of cutting-edge grown-up animation to the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego. Take that, Adult Swim. Sept. 27, MCASD @ La Jolla, 700 Prospect St., 858-454-6985 or www.mcasd.org.
San Diego Film Festival: The Gaslamp gets all dolled up for this year's festival, which has its most interesting looking lineup yet. This year includes the West Coast premiere of The Cake Eaters, Mary Stuart Masterson's directorial debut, and Kabluey, starring Lisa Kudrow as a military wife, as the opening night feature. Sept. 27 through 30, Pacific Gaslamp 15 Theatre plus other locations, various ticket packages available at www.sdff.org or 619-582-2368.
The Film's the Thing: Shakespeare on Film: KPBS film critic Beth Accomondo puts together a collection of Shakespeare flicks at the Museum of Photographic Arts, like Throne of Blood, Akira Kurosawa's take on Macbeth and Ian McKellen's Richard III. Ongoing through Oct. 11, $6, MoPA in Balboa Park. www.mopa.org or 619-238-7559.
Midnight Bradness: Landmark's late-night series happens every Saturday at midnight at that funky four-plex in La Jolla. What's the first rule of Fight Club? Find out Saturday, Sept. 29. Ongoing through Nov. 17, Landmark's La Jolla Village Cinemas, 8879 Villa La Jolla Drive, $7.25. 619-819-0236 or www.myspace.com/ lajollavillage
San Diego Women's Film Festival: For its fifth year, SoCal's longest-running women's film fest takes over Balboa Park with more than 100 female-created films, including a series of screenings specifically for students. The complete lineup has yet to be announced, so stay tuned. Oct. 4 through 7, at MoPA and the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center, Balboa Park, ticket options at www.sdwff.org.
John Waters in This Filthy World!: Riding high on the recent success of the latest iteration of Hairspray, the king of camp holds court at UCSD's Mandeville Auditorium as part of ArtPower's new film series (that'd be FilmPower!). His long-form monologue touches on his own eclectic, exploitative, exuberant career. 8 p.m. Oct. 10, Mandeville Auditorium, UCSD, La Jolla, $42. 858-534-TIXS or www.artpower.ucsd.edu.
San Diego Asian Film Festival: When it comes to film, Asia is where it's at, and SDAFF has landed I'm a Cyborg But That's Okay. Goofy title, maybe, but this is the latest film from Chan-Wook Park, the Korean director behind Oldboy and Lady Vengeance. Don't forget the opening-night attraction, Finishing the Game, a comedy about completing Bruce Lee's last picture, and give yourself a chance to see Air Guitar Nation on the big screen. Oct. 11 through 18, UltraStar Mission Valley Cinemas, 7510 Hazard Center Drive. $12 and up. 619-685-2841 or sdaff.org.