Bellocchio, Rohrwacher, Benigni light up New York fest

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This year’s edition of the New York Film Festival had a strong Italian flavor. The festival opened with Jim Jarmusch’s 1986 cult classic, “Down by Law,” which features a young and captivating Roberto Benigni, and closed with the North American premiere of Michael Mann’s “Ferrari,” starring Adam Driver, which tells the story of auto giant Enzo Ferrari’s legendary 1000-mile race across Italy, the Mille Miglia. In between, there were icons of Italian cinema and filmmakers from the new generation, and the screenings were packed.

Marco Bellocchio presented his latest film, “Kidnapped” (Rapito), which is based on a true story. Adapted from the book “Il caso Mortara” by Daniele Scalise, the film is set in the Jewish quarter of Bologna in 1958 and documents the abduction of a child, Edgardo Mortara, by the Catholic Church, then ruled by Pope Pius IX. Testimony from the child’s nurse stating he underwent an emergency baptism when he became ill, caught the Church’s attention. The Pope’s belief was that anyone baptized a Catholic should follow the path of Catholicism, not Judaism. Bellocchio tells the story through the lens of Edgardo’s parents, who do everything in their power to get their son back.

The 83-year-old director traveled to New York to present “Kidnapped” to a full house and answer questions about the process of making it. The film was acquired by the Cohen Media Group for distribution in the United States. We’ll keep you posted on when the film will be released here.

Alice Rohrwacher’s “La Chimera”
made its North American premiere at the festival after receiving a nine-minute standing ovation at the 76th Cannes Film Festival in May.

Set in rural Italy, the film takes a spin on the Greek mythological creature, Chiamera, a female, fire-breathing dragon that is also part lion and part goat. The tale centers on the belief that everyone has their own Chiamera inside of them, but some never manage to find her.

The film follows a deceased archaeologist, Arthur (Josh O’Connor), who is searching for a lost love in the afterlife. Exploring the spiritual dimension, he journeys among the living and dead, in forests and in cities, in solitude and in noise. It’s a human story of soul-searching that anyone can relate to, as we have all been there at some point in our lives. However, as in all of Rohrwacher’s film, there is a strong sense of wonderment and otherworldliness. Isabella Rossellini is featured as Arthur’s mother and was in New York to present the film with Rohrwacher and participate in a Q&A afterward.

In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, she compared the young director to the great Italian masters. “I was impressed by the way she takes a personal approach without departing from the tradition of the great Italian masters. Her films draw from the lessons of Neorealism, from certain elements of (Federico) Fellini, but there is also an aspect that is absolutely and uniquely hers. She has rightly taken it a step further,” she said.

Those in attendance for “La Chimera” were treated to a four-minute, recently recovered film treasure that also made its North American premiere at the festival

“Pier Paolo Pasolini – Agnès Varda – New York – 1967” is a short documentary filmed by the French director Agnès Varda in New York City in 1967. The two were in town for the 4th edition of the New York Film Festival. The 4-minute short features Pasolini walking around Times Square narrated by a Q&A voiceover between the two discussing filmmaking.

The footage was discovered in 2021, two years after Varda’s death, and restored by Cine-Tamaris, in collaboration with L’Immagine Ritrovata.

Sofia Coppola’s “Priscilla” also made its North American premiere at the festival after its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival in September. The film follows Presley after she meets Elvis and through the decades that followed in the public eye, enjoying happiness and suffering heartache over the course of her incredible life. The film was released in theaters on November 3.

Jim Jarmusch’s “Down By Law” is available to stream on several platforms, including Amazon, Max and Apple TV.

To watch the Q&A sessions, click here.


About Jeannine Guilyard

Jeannine Guilyard is a longtime correspondent for Fra Noi and the Italian-American community newspaper in Rochester, N.Y. She has also contributed to the Italian Tribune of New Jersey, Italian Tribune of Michigan and L'Italo Americano of Southern California. Jeannine wrote and directed the short film "Gelsomina," which was selected for the Screenings Program of the 59th Venice Film Festival, and she won Emmy and Peabody awards as an editor of ABC's "Special Report" following the events of Sept. 11, 2001. Jeannine is also a writer and editor for Italian Cinema Today, a publication and blog she founded in 2005 to bridge culture between New York and Italy. Follow her on Instagram at Italianartcinema and on Twitter at @ItaloCinema2day.

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