San Diego Italian Film Festival turns to choice as theme

The San Diego Italian Film Festival (SDIFF) begins its 16th year with “Qui Rido Io” (“The King of Laughter”) on October 12 at the Photographic Arts Museum (MOPA) and runs through October 22 online and across multiple sites.

SDIFF was the passion project of Victor Laruccia who envisioned a film festival as a “piazza”, a place where people could gather and create a vibrant community around cinema.

Laruccia passed away in March and this will be the first festival without his warm, enthusiastic and passionate presence.

Diana Agostini, Victor Laruccia and Antonio Iannotta at an event for the San Diego Italian Film Festival. Photo taken in 2018

“It was a journey of sadness and happiness at the same time,” said Antonio Iannotta, artistic director of SDIFF. “Victor Laruccia’s legacy is so important, but also his loss was so personal to me and to many of us. So we were able to celebrate it at Nat and with two movie nights at the Museum of Photographic Arts. And those events, filled with grief and sadness, were also filled with joy, the joy of the community coming together around a film to celebrate the importance of being together, physically connected to the issues, to the themes that were so important to Victor. , the festival was a piazza, a place where people could gather, talk to each other, discuss topics important to each other and find something new in a film, and after the film have dinner together . difficult, but we are very grateful for the legacy that Victor left us.”

Before dying, Laruccia was able to choose the theme for this year’s festival: Choice. This follows the themes of Activism in 2020, Election Year and Resilience in 2021.

“A choice because it all depends on what we stand for,” Iannotta said. “Our rights, our daily choices, what we decide to choose for our daily battles to underline what makes us human. All the characters are strong characters in these films. They fight for what they represent, what they believe. So choosing means potentially putting ourselves in danger. But this danger makes us who we are.

The festival opens with “Qui Rido Io” (“The King of Laughter”), which features beloved Italian actor Toni Servillo (from “Il Divo” and “The Great Beauty”). The film focuses on the life of actor Eduardo Scarpetta.

“It’s a historical film, but it’s a film about art, and a film about art and politics,” Iannotta said. “So it’s very instructive about a particular period of Italian and Neapolitan culture.”

It was important for Laruccia and the festival, not only to showcase Italian films, but “an Italian perspective”.

“La Terra Dei Figli” (“The Land of Sons”) will be the only film of the festival on display Digital gym cinema (screens on October 19).

It offers a post-apocalyptic sci-fi film, something you don’t see too often in Italian cinema. The film is a reflection on what makes us human when all the infrastructure of society is gone and the need to survive is all that seems to drive people.

La terra dei figli (The land of sons) Video analysis

I had the honor of overseeing this year’s Ristretto Jury, the group of people who vote on short films submitted to the festival. Although I cannot reveal the winners, I can say that one film perfectly encapsulates not only the spirit of the festival, but everything that its founder Laruccia embodied.


Poster of the short film “Cinemari”.

“The short film is ‘Cinemari’, and it’s a documentary about people traveling in Italy – even to this day – showing films on outdoor screens in rural Italy. The film captures everything Laruccia wanted in the festival: a passion for cinema, a sense of community and something deeply Italian.This is a film that any cinephile will fall in love with immediately.It includes wonderful archival material, film clips and interviews.

The Ristretto Shorts, which are an excellent cross-section of themes and styles, including outstanding student work, are currently available online if you purchase the 30″Objective“. A selection of the short films will also be screened in person on October 14and the winners will be announced and screened at the festival gala on October 22, both events take place at MOPA.

One thing I’ve always liked about the festival is the interest in having a conversation and sometimes a debate about the films. Laruccia always seemed to playfully provoke a discussion where people disagreed. Iannotta will continue to encourage discussion at this year’s festival.

“We try to give an intro that puts a movie in context and then after that, yeah, it’s open mic and we provide the opportunity to engage in conversation with our audience,” Iannotta said. “It’s hugely important. And I’m sure as I lead some of the Q&A, I’m going to see Victor in the audience, ask his elaborate and eloquent questions and comments, and we’re going to have him with us the whole time. “

Laruccia leaves San Diego with a great legacy and this year’s festival is a perfect tribute to the vision he had 16 years ago to bring an Italian piazzi to San Diego.

The San Diego Italian Film Festival runs October 12-22 at MOPA, with a film screening at the Digital Gym Cinema and a movie, the romantic comedy “September,” at La Paloma Theater.

About Debra D. Johnson

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