Now in its 18th year, the Lavazza Italian Film Festival continues to bring the best new cinema from the home of Sophia Loren, Federico Fellini and Marcello Mastroianni. With a brand new award to be judged by actors Greta Scacchi (who has a new film in the program), Damien Walshe-Howling and more, this year’s festival is a big one.

From the opening night screwball comedy Let Yourself Go! (Lasciati Andare), to the 20th anniversary screening of Roberto Benigni’s Life is Beautiful, there’s plenty to dive into.

Here are five to get you started.

Sea Dreaming Girls (Funne – La Ragazze Che Sognavano il Mare)
This absolutely charming documentary follows a group of women from the tiny mountain village of Daone in northern Italy as they plan a holiday to the sea – something many of the women have never experienced before. Charting their fundraising efforts, the film emphasises the need to never let your dreams die. With a gaggle of grannies led by the direct, chain-smoking Erminia, this is a lovely film.

After the War (Dopo la Guerra)
You may remember Giuseppe Battiston for his star turn in the comedy Perfect Strangers, which was a highlight of last year’s festival and a hit at home in Italy. This year Battiston returns as an Italian ex-left-wing terrorist who lives a tranquil life in France but who is forced to flee with his 16-year-old daughter when extradition laws are changed. The film is the directorial debut of Annarita Zambrano and has been acclaimed for its intelligent handling of the personal toll political rebellion can take.

Dalida
Directed by Lisa Azuelos (who made a splash with the teen drama LOL), Dalida is a strong biopic that deserves wide attention. Dalida (aka Yolanda Cristina Gigliotti) is portrayed by little-known model-turned-actor Sveva Alviti, a dead ringer for the famed singer who was born in Egypt before her family moved to Italy and she went on to record 19 number one singles. Fans of international cinema may recognise Niels Schneider (Heartbeats), Riccardo Scamarcio (Polisse), Jean-Paul Rouve (La Vie En Rose) and Nicolas Duvauchelle (White Material) among the large cast.

Naples ’44
This documentary is an adaptation of the much-lauded non-fiction book of the same name by the prolific British author Norman Lewis. Although not published until 1978, Lewis’s memoir detailed his arrival in Naples towards the end of World War Two and includes an eruption at Mount Vesuvius among its many wartime recollections. In this film, director Francesco Patierno has assembled a collage of archival footage, newly filmed material in Naples and film clips from Catch-22, The Four Days of Naples and Il re di Poggioreale. Benedict Cumberbatch narrates.

Tenderness (La Tenerezza)
In Australia, Milan-born Greta Scacchi is probably most famous for her award-winning role in the beloved film version of Looking for Alibrandi, although her extensive career in film and television spans four decades. She returns to the screen as Aurora in the ensemble of Gianni Amelio’s Tenderness. Set in Naples, the film stars Renato Carpentieri and Micaela Ramazzotti and explores themes of loneliness, heartbreak and the complications of family. This gorgeous film is inspired by the award-winning novel by Lorenzo Moreno The Temptation to be Happy and the film’s gorgeous looks will have audiences swooning.

The Lavazza Italian Film Festival presented by Palace tours the country on the following dates.

Festival dates:

Sydney
September 12 to October 8

Melbourne
September 14 to October 8

Canberra
September 14 to October 8

Brisbane
September 20 to October 8

Adelaide
September 13 to October 1

Perth
September 21 to October 11

Hobart
October 19–25