With 30 films on the program for this year’s Lavazza Italian Film Festival, there’s a title for every Italophile’s taste. From lovingly restored classics, to the best of contemporary cinema, LIFF curator and Palace Cinemas’ national festivals director Elysia Zeccola Hill shares her top picks – and their caffeinated equivalents.

Perfect Strangers (Perfetti Sconosciuti) is an affogato
This is LIFF’s opening-night title and an Australian premiere. Not to be mistaken for the 1980s sitcom of the same name, Perfetti Sconosciuti is a cautionary tale about technology colliding with relationships.

Directed by Paolo Genovese, it combines “sharp dialogue that bites with comedic moments melting in”, says Zeccola Hill. “This all-star cast and modern premise is a perfect combination,” she says of the Best Screenplay winner from this year’s Tribeca Film Festival.

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The Space Between is a flat white
This Australian-Italian co-production is the first feature of its kind. A warm, celebratory treat, it showcases Italy’s dazzling natural landscapes. Zeccola Hill says, “VCA graduate Ruth Borgobello writes and directs this cross-cultural romance set in northern Italy’s stunning Friuli Venezia Giulia region,” surrounded by vineyards, mountains and the Adriatic Sea.

Making its world premiere at LIFF, The Space Between is a special presentation, and select sessions across the country will feature guest appearances by Borgobello and star Maeve Dermody (Paper Giants: The Birth of Cleo). Check the website for details.

Italian Race (Veloce Come il Vento)is an espresso
Heart palpitations abound in this high-octane car-racing drama. Part of LIFF’s Lights, Drama, Action! stream of contemporary films, Italian Race (Veloce come il vento) plunges the audience into the frenetic world of Gran Turismo racing. Directed by Matteo Rovere (I Can Quit Whenever I Want, LIFF 2014), Italian Race stars Stefano Accorsi as “a washed-up ex-driver who returns to the track to train his sister, Giulia, an upcoming champion”, says Zeccola Hill.

Based on a true story, this film feeds on the power of family bonds, gut instincts and unbreakable spirits. As Zeccola Hill says, “This is adrenalin-fuelled entertainment at its best.”

Don’t Be Bad (Non essere cattivo) is a long black
Dark, dank and built on grit, this crime drama is “an attack on the senses”, says Zeccola Hill. “This story of two drug dealers in 1990s Ostia, a suburb of Rome, is a journey into the world of crime and addiction.” Centred on the story of hard-living young thugs Cesare (Luca Marinelli) and Vittorio (Alessandro Borghi), Don’t Be Bad (Non essere cattivo) is driven by powerful performances and a strong directorial voice.

This final film from auteur Claudio Caligari – who passed away shortly after finishing it – is racking up awards across Europe ahead of its Australian premiere at LIFF.

Solo (Assolo) is a latte
This frothy yet bold comedy was written and directed by Laura Morante, a stalwart of European cinema who, until now, has been better known in front of the camera for roles in Bianca (1984) and The Son’s Room (2012). With Assolo, she deftly turns her hand to the writer-director role while retaining her leading-lady status as the film’s heroine, Flavia.

In LIFF’s Donne Italiane pocket of programming, this is at once a sharp and surreal search for late-blooming independence.

Like Crazy (La pazza gioia) is a doppio
It’s double trouble in this buddy dramedy about two unlikely friends who take one wild ride. “In La pazza gioia Valeria Bruni Tedeschi and Micaela Ramazzotti play Beatrice and Donatella – two very different women who escape an institution together and go on the run looking for adventure,” Zeccola Hill says.

Part Girl, Interrupted and part Thelma & Louise, this film delivers giggles and tears care of director Paolo Virzì’s nuanced touch. A highlight of LIFF’s It’s Complicated stream for films about relationships, Like Crazy is a love letter to female friendship.

Rocco and His Brothers (Rocco e i suoi fratelli) is a lungo
Savour the pleasure of this Italian cinematic staple. “At almost three hours long, Luchino Visconti’s family saga is a masterpiece to behold,” says Zeccola Hill of this new digital restoration produced by Martin Scorsese’s Film Foundation.

Originally released in 1960, Rocco e i suoi fratelli documents the ruin of southern Italy, still recovering from World War Two. With the inclusion of two previously censored scenes, this is your chance to see the film as its revered neorealist director intended it.

Roman Holiday (Vacanze romane) is a cappuccino
LIFF’s closing-night film is an indisputable classic, beloved across Europe, America, Australia and beyond. Starring Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck, it’s the screwball picture that shot Hepburn to stardom, and took home a swag of Oscars in 1954.

Restored in its nostalgic black-and-white glory, Vacanze romane is an immortal fixture of the rom-com genre, and the perfect end to another Lavazza Italian Film Festival. As Zeccola Hill says, "What could be more Italian than zooming around on a Vespa exploring Rome’s most famous sites?"


The LITT runs in:


September 15 to October 9

September 13 to October 9


September 21 to October 12


September 22 to October 12

September 28 to October 19