Articles by: N. L.

  • Events: Reports

    The 21st Return of N.I.C.E. New Italian Cinema Events in NYC

    One of Italy's most prominent film festivals for Italian films made by young directors at their first or second experience N.I.C.E., New Italian Cinema Events, directed by Viviana del Bianco and Grazia Santini, is about to start. This year's program will be held on November 11-13th.

    This year, as always, the program will present some of the best up-and-coming films created by the next generation of new independent Italian directors. Celebrating 21 years in the USA, New Italian Cinema 2011 offers Opening and Closing Night presentations with work by prominent Italian directors.

    The films in this year's program investigate topics including corporate malfeasance, office politics, rural life and war, as experienced by Italians from every walk of life. Opening Night offers the latest by one of Italy's most respected filmmakers, Daniele Luchetti's Our Life (Luchetti is scheduled to be present at the press conference on November 8th as well). Closing Night will be dedicated to Ricky Tognazzi's The Father and the Foreigner. All screenings will be held at the Anthology Film Archives and will be followed by Q&As with the directorsflying from Italy to meet any curious audience.

    Each year the New Italian Cinema Events organization in Florence, working with selection committee members Rod Armstrong and journalists Deborah Young and Barbara Corsi, chooses the best Italian entries from the year's major European film festivals to present in the New Italian Cinema competition. Indeed, N.I.C.E. New Italian Cinema Events is a non-profit cultural association founded in 1991 that aims to promote new Italian cinema abroad through cultural exchanges and festivals. Its founders and members have been working for more than a decade in the organization of such international film festivals. For each Festival the selection committee chooses seven feature films among the best made by up-and-coming film directors throughout the year.

    N.I.C.E. USA, the most established one, shows a selection of seven shorts made recently. The films presented in the N.I.C.E. USA Festival are eligible to receive the “Premio Città di Firenze” (City of Florence Award) which is decided by the American audience by voting cards handed out before each screening. The prestige of the Festival has increased with the passing of years thanks also to the relations established with the most important producers and distributors (Miramax, United Artists, Touchstone Pictures, MGM etc.) and the interest they have shown for the event.


    Thursday, November 10 @7.00 p.m. and 9.30 p.m.

    Our Life (La nostra vita)
    Directed by Daniele Luchetti

    A construction worker, married with two kids, faces a devastating blow in this powerful character portrait. Desperately needing money to support his family, the genial, if casually xenophobic, Claudio (Elio Germano, in a performance that won him the Best Actor prize at Cannes) manipulates his boss for a promotion and borrows money from a loan shark to finance his own project. With a compact script and a camera style that evokes remarkable intimacy, Luchetti deftly details the complications and disasters of Claudio’s life while also offering a compelling social critique of building standards and immigrant labor in present-day Rome. Besides Germano, Our Life also features notable performances by other Italian cinema luminaries such as Raoul Bova and Luca Zingaretti. (98 min, 2010)

    Friday, November 11

    7.00 p.m.

    This World Is For You (Questo mondo è per te)
    Directed by Francesco Falaschi

    In the life-altering summer of 2009, handsome, amiable Matteo faces impending oral exams, a father ill with leukemia and a girlfriend going abroad to study wine. His friends are equally at loose ends—one contemplates the seminary while another goes to rehab. Amid these challenges and circumstances, Matteo is conflicted between pursuing pragmatic employment or fulfilling his dream to establish a floating movie palace for cinephiles. Set on the scenic Tuscan coast, This World Is for You is a playful, fast-paced film about a young man trying to find his place in an environment rife with possibilities but slightly bereft of actual opportunities. (82 min, 2011)

    9.30 p.m.

    Vodka Tonic (8')

    Directed by Ivano Fachin

    10.00 p.m.

    Umberto E

    Directed by Anton Evangelista

    This is the epic story of Umberto Evangelista, a dynamic ninety-year-old Italian immigrant living in New York City. A real-life Cinderella tale, leading us along a path of personal triumphs over childhood abandonment, harsh treatment in orphanages and a rejecting stepmother. In spite of all of his adversities, Umberto chooses love and forgiveness as his weapons of ‘revenge,’ which lead to finding the love of his life - his wife Luisa, and the new life they would have with their children in coming to America. The story is the emblem of a collective epopee that perhaps doesn’t exist anymore, but which would certainly need to be rediscovered. The core of it is the eternal battle between Good and Evil and how, through altruism, sacrifice and a touch of poetry, the first can get the better of any injustice and suffering caused by the second. (45 min, 2011)

    Saturday, November 12

    7.00 p.m.

    The Jewel (Il gioiellino)
    Directed by Andrea Molaioli

    Based on the real-life bankruptcy of the Italian company Parmalat, Molaioli’s film reunites him with the protean Toni Servillo (The Girl by the Lake, N.I.C.E. 2008) to dramatize a particular instance of corporate corruption. In 1992, dairy company Leda decides it needs to diversify. CFO Ernesto Botta suggests going public in order to raise cash, but mismanagement, backroom dealings and widespread financial finagling lead to disaster. Even as the business unravels and it becomes obvious who will be the scapegoat, Botta remains loyal and unflappable. With a wide range of hooded glances and a particular rhythm of speech, Servillo inhabits yet another character unable to extricate himself from a devastating predicament. (103 min, 2011)

    9.00 p.m.

    Some Say No (C’è chi dice no)
    Directed by Giambattista Avellino

    Three friends in different fields band together to fight the system of nepotism that rewards those with the right connections in this lively, Florence-set social satire. Journalist Max, doctor Irma and law professor Samuele all see their job opportunities fizzle when less qualified people are selected for positions in their respective workplaces. Bonding over their misfortunes at a high school reunion dinner, they decide to take revenge in a variety of outrageous ways. From dosing a conference participant with LSD to dognapping, the trio risk their jobs and imprisonment trying to expose the graft that is rife in Italian society. Amusing and trenchant, with an adept and comically gifted cast, the film offers lighthearted hilarity with serious intent. (95 min, 2011)

    Sunday, November 13 @ 7.00 p.m. and 9.30 p.m.

    The Father and the Foreigner (Il padre e lo straniero)
    Directed by Ricky Tognazzi

    Two men from different backgrounds who both have disabled children meet and bond in this constantly surprising dramatic thriller. Diego (Alessandro Gassman from Steam) is a businessman who uses work excuses to distance himself from his handicapped son while Walid (Amr Waked) is a mysterious Syrian who lavishes affection on his disfigured infant. In the process of showing Diego not to fear his child, Walid also involves his new friend in increasingly dangerous circumstances. From quick trips to Syria to meetings with possibly shady strangers, the connection between the two men shifts and deepens in unexpected ways. (107 min, 2010)

  • Dining in & out: Articles & Reviews

    Vinitaly US Tour 2011: Between Tradition and Innovation

    First the good news: in 2010, Italian wines exports to the U.S. reached a total value of $1.26 billion, with a market share close to 30% (in 2000 the value of exports of Italian wine was $570 million with a share of 25%) and with a total volume of almost 2.5 million hectoliters of wine (+8% compared to 2009), overtaking Australia.

    A success all the more important when you consider that the United States is not only the world's leading market but also an increasingly mature and knowledgeable one with 20% of regular users (increased from 10% in 2000 and 16% in 2009) and with a strong affinity for the latest technology use of the internet and social media to discuss and keep abreast of the market and wine world.

    Quality or competitive pricing? Old favorites or new products? Brunello or Franciacorta? Tradition or innovation?

    These are just some of the questions being asked on how Italian wine can keep building on present success in the United States. Through seminars, such as the one at the Italian embassy in Washington on October 17th: “Taste for quality: the success of Italian wine in the United States," moderated by Stevie Kim (Vinitaly International) with a panel of industry experts: Lorenzo Galanti (Italian Embassy USA), Michael O'Brien (General Counsel, Palm Bay International, Inc & National Association of Beverage Importers), Ettore Nicoletto (Santa Margherita Wine Group), Alfio Moriconi, (Total Wine & More), Marilisa Allegrini (Allegrini Winery) and Matteo Lunelli (Ferrari F.lli Lunelli SpA), the Vinitaly US Tour, attempts to find answers to these questions and consequently help producers develop future strategies adapted to the U.S. Market.

    The seminar tried to synthesize Italian wines' success factors such as: the wide selection it can offer at every price range, its popularity as the perfect wine for food & wine pairings, its appeal related to Italian lifestyle. This and many more are the reasons that have made Italian wine the most popular on the tables of Americans. However, the main question remains: how can Italian producers maintain their lead, in an increasingly competitive environment that has seen a gradual but substantial change of wine consumers and consumption habits in the United States?

    The "new" habitual consumer is young ("Millennial" or "Generation X", 18 to 45 years), not only consumes wine during meals or in restaurants but also at home with friends, likes to identify with a certain type of lifestyle, is tech-savvy and uses the internet not only to make online purchases and to research, discuss and talk about wines on social networks, blogs and discussion forums.

    How can we improve the current distribution strategy, marketing and communication for Italian wines in the United States? What should be introduced? How can Italian wines innovate whilst remaining true to their origins and anticipate future market needs?

    An example is the market for sparkling wines. In 2010 imports in this sector increased by 25% compared to 2009, reaching $625 million (an increase in volumes to 570 thousand hectoliters (+18.8% on 2009)).

    And Italy? In 2010 the U.S. exported a total value of $130 million (21% market share) an increase of 11,7% over 2009, while France, Australia and Germany increased by 31%, (respectively, 39,6% and 31.6%).

    The spumante market is “booming" despite being hit the hardest by the recession in 2008 and our producers may have failed to make full use of it, or perhaps only partially so, given the significant growth of export volumes from our country, from 150 to 187 thousand hectoliters.

    This indicates that Italy has increased sales of sparkling wine but at a lower average price, thus

    highlighting a gap to be filled on the high-end market, which will requires a greater communication and market penetration effort.

    Innovative strategies, marketing and new technologies? Can the image of Italian wine be "updated" without being distorted?

    Solutions? Media, Social Networks, Blogs, packaging, investing in distribution channels (large

    importers and wineries), Wine Lovers, Italian-Americans or Italians known to American

    audiences, Wine Enthusiasts, testimonials in the television, radio and film arenas are initiatives that can not only increase public awareness but also give a better understanding of the extraordinary world of Italian wines and would be a few ideas worth developing and implementing.

    Merging theory with practice, the Vinitaly US Tour, continued on October 19th in New York at the Metropolitan Pavilion, with seminars to complete the discussions on the issues raised: How to build your business in the U.S. market, The influence of Social Media in the wine market, the impact of technology on the market and online sales, as well as tastings of Morellino di Scansano, "Volcanic Italy" wines from Soave and Etna, and "From the Alps to the Mediterranean sea," a journey through Italian wine regions.

    The tour concluded with the event "Italian women in Wine," opened by Italy's new Consul

    General in New York, Natalia Quintavalle. Organized for the second year in a row by the American Cancer Society, this event raised $45,000 last year. Participants had the opportunity to meet famous Italian wine-producing women including: Marilisa Allegrini (Allegrini), Elisabetta Geppetti (Fattoria Le Pupille), Camilla Lunelli (Ferrari), Cristina Mariani-May (Castello Banfi), Daniela Mastroberardino (Terredora), Francesca Planeta (Planeta) and actively contribute to the fight against cancer.

  • Events: Reports

    An Evening with Jonathan Galassi's Translation of Giacomo Leopardi's Canti

    The Italian American Writers Association (IAWA) celebrates its 20th Anniversary with a special bilingual reading of Giacomo Leopardi's Canti as translated by Jonathan Galassi, president and publisher of Farrar, Straus and Giroux. The event takes place Thursday, Sept. 15, 6 pm at NYU’s Casa Italiana Zerilli Marimò, 24, West 12th St.

    Representatives of IAWA have declared what an honor it is for them to feature Jonathan Galassi who has also translated the poetry and prose of Eugenio Montale and is the author of two volumes of poems, Morning Run and North Street to read from his critically-acclaimed translation of Giacomo Leopardi's Canti.

    In his 2010 New York Times article, Peter Campion wrote: “The 41 poems in Leopardi’s collected “Canti” are distinct, and beautiful, for dwelling on a threshold between feeling and thought, between the sensuous world and the mind, between presence and absence. Like no other poet, Leopardi captures the subtlest sensations, just before they vanish. His language itself works as a vanishing act: it serves up all the richness of antiquity — gained from years spent steeping in Horace and Virgil — even as tones of skepticism and bitterness begin to eat away at that richness.”

    Campion also had something specific to say about Galassi's work: "What makes Jonathan Galassi’s translation of Leopardi’s poetry so superb is that he understands, and renders, that delicate movement of thought and feeling. Galassi, the author of a magnificent translation of Eugenio Montale’s poetry as well as two collections of his own poems, brings Leopardi’s Canti alive by virtue of a flexible and unpretentious English idiom."

    Joining him at the presentation are award-winning translators: Luigi Bonaffini, of Brooklyn College and editor of Journal of Italian Translation who was awarded the Italian Ministry for Foreign Affairs Translation Prize, for the translation of Phrases and Passages of a Salutary Song, by Mario Luzi; Jane Tylus of NYU who won the Society for the Study of Early Modern Women's translation award for her translation of The Sacred Narratives of Lucrezia Tornabuoni and Michael Palma whose fully rhymed translation of Dante's Inferno was published by Norton in 2002 and reprinted as a Norton Critical Edition in 2007.

    Luigi Bonaffini, who will be reading the Canti in the Italian version, has recently co-edited the soon-to-be-released major work, Poets of the Italian Diaspora: from Latin America to Australia, forthcoming from Fordham University Press []. Poets of the Italian Diaspora is part of a long-range project, by the editors and contributors, to expand the boundaries of the Italian literary canon. Bonaffini is Chairman of the Dept. of Modern Languages and Literatures at Brooklyn College .

    Jane Tylus who teaches early modern translation history, theory, and practice at New York University has written numerous articles for Romanic Review and is awaiting the publication of the forthcoming English translation of Untranslatables, ed. by Barbara Cassin. She is currently writing a book on pilgrimage and Siena, Italy.

    Michael Palma counts twelve translations of modern Italian poets include prize-winning volumes of Guido Gozzano and Diego Valeri with Princeton University Press among his achievements. Palma has also published two poetry chapbooks, The Egg Shape and Antibodies; two full-length collections, A Fortune in Gold and Begin in Gladness; and an online chapbook, The Ghost of Congress Street.

    IAWA's mission is to promote Italian American literature by encouraging the writing, reading, publication, distribution, translation, and study of Italian American writing. For the past 20 years, IAWA has given voice to both emerging and famous authors through its Open Reading series at Cornelia St. Café []; notably, it is he longest running literary series at Cornelia St. Cafe, and takes place on the second Saturday of every month from 5:45 to 7:45 pm.


  • Tourism

    Food Festivals. Italy's Favorite Tourism

    It is official... Italians love festivals, food festivals that is. Italians are indeed known to be people who love to eat and to party but now we have proof, we have data, to support a long lasting rumor.

    Coldiretti (Confederazione Nazionale Coltivatori Diretti), Italy's national federation of farmers, has just released the results of its latest survey. Six Italians out of ten can't resist their attraction to historical (especially medieval) villages, unique vacation spots, but, most of all, local food. So they do not miss any opportunity to crowd sagre (food & folk festivals) and open air markets that take place during religious holidays, historical anniversaries but mostly that feature a specific local product that is in season or tasty local cuisine. We know indeed that each of the twenty Italian regions has specific recipes and cuisine that make it special and unique.

    “This is a real discovery,” Coldiretti representatives stated, “it is the result of the people's need to have a more direct connection with food, culture and local traditions, especially during the summer months when festivals of this kind, festivals whose goal is to promote the quality and variety of local products, are taking place all over the peninsula, in big cities and small towns alike. Shows, games and historical reenactments are the main ingredients, along with the food, of these local celebrations. It is fun for all, families and couples, young and old, alike.”
    The Coldiretti survey also proves that 50% of the people attending these festivals do spend a fair amount of money (a bit more than 10 Euros a person) buying products to take home and/or purchasing tickets for tastings of local products, 37% spend no more than 10 Euros a person and 13% prefer to snoop around and not spend any money (the festivals are free of charge so anybody can attend them). The company continues to say that this definitely helps the “gastronomic vacation” business that, with a turnover of 5 million euros (estimated for 2011) is the one and only segment in constant and continuous growth in the panorama of national tourism. The success of festivals and town markets is due, according to families and young people alike, to the pure enjoyment of small, daily trips that are a nice interruption to a long vacation period or a boring work schedule in the city while others are on away. These often are alternatives to more expensive destinations, local or abroad.

    products), 4606 traditional specialties coming from the twenty regions, 505 DOC, DOGC and IGT wines.” From wild boar, peppers, tomatoes, frogs, apricots, artisan beer and mushrooms, the products featured at these festivals are thousands and so are the festivals themselves. CIA (Confederazione degli Agricoltori), Italy's federation of farmers, has declared that “Italians and tourists alike enjoy the adventure of going to unknown places, in the country or in the mountains, it doesn't really matter, to discover something new and taste it.” It is fun, always new and definitely tasty.

  • Facts & Stories

    Getting Rid of Totò

    It is made of bronze... just like many other busts... busts of important people, people we have admired, cherished, supported. The bust of one of Italy's eternal actors, the Neapolitan comedian Totò, that has been held at the gardens of Piazza Stalla in Alassio (in the province of Savona) for the past three years is leaving its home because the town's mayor has suddenly decided to get rid of it. What exactly is the story? Simple, the town's mayor, Roberto Avogadro, who has ties to Italy's Lega Nord (literally the Northern League, a political party that wants the independence of the north) has stated that he wants to let go of it and “substitute it with the bust of a really illustrious man.” Meaning who? Who could this really illustrious man be? It doesn't really seem to matter as long as he is from a certain part of the country... but let's not assume and just stick to the facts.

    The statement has, obviously, bothered many and the association based in Cuneo called “Uomini di Mondo” (Men of the World) has launched a campaign to buy the statue of the great comedian, as many other cities and towns have. “ Totò was from Naples,” the mayor affirms as he continues to dig his grave “so what is the connection with Alassio?”

    Avogadro, also known as being the mayor who twenty years ago forbade people from wearing bikinis around town, has opened Pandora's box and the reactions are never ending. It is now the turn of one of the Board Members of the independent cultural center, Centro Pannunzio, Pier Franco Quaglieni, who accuses the mayor of Alassio of “being a threat and an offense to the Unity of Italy.” He supports his accusations by reminding people of the mayor's past in the Lega Nord and the activities he promoted when he first started, including posters written in the local dialect (thus incomprehensible to people from any other area). Furious, he almost quoted Totò but unfortunately his renown sentences cannot be translated here as they lose their soul and humor in translation...

    The fate of Totò's bust has shaken many but it is still unknown. Liguria's tourism commissioner, Angelo Berlangieri promises that the statue “will not remain in a burlap bag in the basement for long. This is a piece of news that does not help the promotion of Liguria, a region that welcomes many cultural events during the summer and that loves the film industry.” So Barligieri promised he and his office will fight to find the statue a new home, within the region.

    As we said earlier, many want it: first and foremost Finale Ligure (Savona), then Florence and Portici. But having Avogadro done his military service in Cuneo, Alassio's mayor hopes that the statue will end up in the Piedmontese town. He has said “they are interested, so I really hope it will end up there.” (Why, I wonder, would he care considering that Totò had no ties to Cuneo either?). Indeed, Cuneo's mayor, Alberto Valmaggia has publicly replied: “If they give it to us free of charge we are more than happy to take it.”

    The people's reaction is of disgust, for a gesture that at times seems just a desperate cry for attention. Diana De Curtis, Totò's niece, has justly said that Totò belongs to eveybody as his art has graced and still is entertaining Italians, no matter if they are in the north or south. Richard Peňa, director of the Film Society at Lincoln Center, during a retrospective dedicated to the great comedian, said that “he was the one and only person who was able to overcome the distinction of left and right in Italy.” Laura Caparrotti, representative of the De Curtis family in the US, thinks that “this is just a silly move, that will only end up being a waste of money for a township that could use it for something really important. Also, whether you love him or not, Totò really is a symbol of Italy, a piece of its culture, of its history, of us all. His art knows no boundaries, it is not a region that can stop it. This man, this mayor I mean, will soon be forgotten, while Totò will continue to live in the hearts of all Italians.”