Italy’s film culture is a rich and varied one, taking in a wide range of subjects, styles and genres. And who better to embody this than Silvia Colloca? The multi-talented Italian-Australian actress, classically trained mezzo-soprano, food writer and presenter is a passionate advocate for Italian cinema, making her an obvious choice as ambassador for the Italian Film Festival. And she has history with the event, too.
“When I first arrived in Sydney, a good 15, 16 years ago, I was missing home so much,” she says. “Then September rolls around and I hear there’s an Italian film festival. I remember going to the venue and everybody looked Italian, spoke Italian. Everywhere I turned it was incredible.”
This is Colloca’s second year as an ambassador for the festival. “When they first asked me, I was so honoured, to be honest. And then they asked me back this year and I just said yes before they could finish the sentence. It’s a wonderful opportunity to share one of the things about Italian culture that is loved the world over – it’s not just our food, it’s our love for cinema and storytelling.”
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Colloca believes Italian film can speak to a growing global audience, thanks to a focus on relatable grassroots storytelling and themes.
“Whether you're Italian or not,” she says, “you're drawn into these stories.” Here are Colloca’s top picks for this year’s festival.
A stylish thriller that was an Italian box office smash earlier this year, the festival’s opening night film tells the story of an honest cop drawn into a web of corruption on his final night before retirement.
“It stars one of my all-time favourite actors – not just Italian actors – Pierfrancesco Favino. He has this incredible face, he’s capable of expressing so many feelings while doing very little, and I just love watching him bring his magic every time he’s on the screen. The movie is just so beautifully shot, it’s definitely one that you shouldn’t miss,” says Colloca.
Two rival mafioso clans find their old hatreds rekindled when the reluctant heir of one family falls for the wife of his rival boss in this striking mix of Romeo and Juliet, spaghetti westerns, and the stunning sunburnt Puglia setting.
“It stars the one of Italy’s most prominent pop singers,” says Colloca. “Her name is Elodie, and she is phenomenal. I love her as a singer, but she just has this face for cinema. This spring, that is definitely not going to go unobserved.”
Fresh from its debut at Cannes earlier this year, this tale of lost love is set in the early ’80s and centres on a rowdy group of travelling entertainers who aren’t what they seem, and who learn that the beautiful things in life are often the most fragile and easily lost.
“It’s by a female director, Alice Rohrwacher, and it’s the story of an English archaeologist who is caught up in the underground dealing of stolen Italian artifacts,” says Colloca. “It’s set in Tuscany, it’s stunning and quite exciting.”
Based on true events, this historical drama brings to life a global scandal that rocked the Catholic Church in the mid-19th century, lifting the lid on the Church’s historical anti-Semitism and the excesses of Pope Pius IX, who remains one of the Church’s most holy figures.
“It’s a very, very beautiful film by one of Italy’s most regarded directors, Marco Bellocchio. I think this will strike a chord with the audience because of its storytelling and because of the subject matter – it’s about a young boy who was abducted from his parents by the Vatican. It’s a complex and exciting story about a massive scandal.”
A legendary actor and skilled entertainer who would have been 70 this year, his shift from television to the big screen in the early ’80s resulted in a string of popular hits. This retrospective features his first film, I’m Starting From Three, Nothing Left To Do but Cry, Splendor, and his final film, The Postman, which is also the festival’s closing night film.
“His movies were so funny and so full of melancholy and longing. It was just the perfect mix of laugh-out-loud and feeling a bit sad. My favourite movie of his is Nothing Left to Do But Cry. I would recommend watching all of them to be honest, but that one is definitely not to be missed.”
The Italian Film Festival runs across September and October, with differing dates in each state. See more details and book tickets.
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