Articles by: Natasha Lardera

  • Art & Culture

    Raise Social Awareness with 4 Continents 4 Change

    After the great success in Italy, the Shoot4Change photo tour stops in New York at the SOHO Photo Gallery (15 White Street) with an exhibition curated by Grace Roth and Yelena Futeran that opened on July 5th ( and goes on through the 31st) titled 4 Continents 4 Change. This is their first collective exhibition and it showcases images from the continents of Asia, Africa, Europe and the Americas, aiming to raise public awareness on social issues by shining a light on events occurring in forgotten regions of the world. 

     Shoot4Change, a global network of volunteer photographers founded by Antonio Amendola, whose notable work has been praised in the New York Times, the Daily Telegraph, Rolling Stones Magazine, Wired, Sky and La Repubblica, operates under the motto “Shoot local, Change global.” 

    “We are not naive to believe that we can change the world, but what we do know is that every photo and story that we publish and talk about makes us more aware. We are changing our own perspective and how we see the world. The change must come from each one of us and it start with the photos,” Amendola said in the past. “In today's world, we are so desensitized by news, images of war, the celebrity culture and the need for immediate gratification from photos we receive through cell phones and facebook. We wanted to preserve the beauty that is in capturing images, in discussing them and in initiating our viewers to the anticipate the next story. But most of all, we wanted to tell the untold stories that the mainstream media would not feature. Our goal is to allow the communities to speak for themselves and show us their struggles.”

    4 Continents 4 Change explores all aspects of the human condition through the eyes of over thirty photographers (more than half are Italian) including children, students, amateurs and National Geographic professionals. The collection demonstrates all methods of image capture ranging from high end professional equipment to the use of the iPhone.

    “We chose stories that we felt would represent the concept of 4 Continents 4 Change at its best,” curator Yelena Futeran explained. “Our goal was to provide the viewers with a wide range of work from our photographers that are involved in the network and the stories we cover. We chose 14 'Featured Stories' from the 4 Continents by some of our pro photographers. Many of them are award-winning artists and have been exhibited throughout the world. On the collage wall, we showcase work that came from a wide range of photographers, such as the 16 year old Italian photographer (Francesco Romeo) who did work in Burkina Faso.”

    Shoot4Change photographers in Asia tell the story of “Those Who Remained,” with images from the streets of Fukushima after the 2011 Tsunami. Images from Myanmar by Grace Roth show a world rich in color and texture, despite widespread poverty. “On May 2, 2008, Cyclone Nargis made landfall in Myanmar, crossing the south of the country over two days, leaving a trail of death and destruction. Nearly 85,000 were killed and 50,000 went missing,” the photographer said. “I traveled to Myanmar two months later preparing for the worst, expecting to see a country in total devastation. Countless people had lost their homes, their jobs, friends and family and despite these tragedies remained optimistic and hopeful. I was invited into their homes, I was offered tea, I was allowed to document intimate moments without questions. In the face of everything the Burmese had endured, they remained stoic and showed pride in what they still had left.”

    The pictures from Africa, capture the “City of the Dead,” in Cairo, Egypt, with its haunting scenes of villagers who live in a monumental cemetery. Amendola himself is the author of this series. “What is amazing here is the overlapping of the concepts of life and death, old and new,” he said, “people live among the tombs and kids play on them. But always with total respect for those buried underground. In 90% of the cases, the buried ones do not belong to the family living ‘upstairs’, but they care about them like they were their beloved departed ones.”And in Burkina Faso, a landlocked country in West Africa, the natives are captured in gritty, mesmerizing images by the aforementioned Francesco Romeo.

    In Europe, in Italy to be exact,  photographer Giovanni Barba tells the story of Cristina and Salvatore in “The Mud House,” where traces of the memory of the land and its history remain etched into a house and the family that inhabits it. These are eople who worked their entire lives in the fields of Teano, in the heartland of Terra di Lavoro, the territory in Lazio and Campagna. They live far into the middle of nowhere in rooms overcome by mold. “Now, too old and worn out to work, they spend their remaining days in the company of alcohol, waiting for the occasional visit from their children or relatives.”

    In the Americas, viewers come face to face with the gripping topic of “Mental Illness in the American Prisons,” (photos by Jenn Ackerman) poverty and violence in the low income communities of New York City and life in the Amazon, where medical missionaries bring treatment to impoverished coastal communities.

    An installation of images from the Occupy Movement unites Europe and America with photos from both the Rome and New York actions, and the work of Next Generation, the Shoot4Change international project to teach social photography to children around the world demonstrates the global alliance that unifies the organization. 

    4 Continents 4 Change opened on July 5th in conjunction with SOHO Photo Gallery's annual National Photography Competition winner's exhibition. All proceeds generated from sales of the collection will be used to assist in funding local projects and/or other charitable causes.

    Following New York, the tour will stop in Mexico City before returning to Europe with an exhibition schedules to open in Rome in December 2012.

  • Art & Culture

    Bianco Trash, Garbage As Art

    He was born in Rome but he lives and works in New York. He has exhibited both in New York and abroad including shows at KunstWerke in Berlin, The Katonah Museum of Art and the Cartier Foundation in Paris. He is the recipient of a residency at American Apparel and of a grant from the Italian Cultural Institute of New York. His film and video career has included directorial work for both Elton John and Bryan Adams. In collaboration with Florian Böhm and Wolfgang Scheppe, he produced ENDCOMMERCIAL®, a definitive catalog of his visual, urban studies. 

    His name is Luca Pizzaroni and his latest project is now on view at Fred Torres Collaborations (527 West 29th Street in Chelsea) until July 27. Bianco Trash is the artist’s third solo exhibition at the gallery, and it features 8 photographs of garbage-dump trash, over15 acrylic paintings on black garbage bags, and an installation by the artist. 

    “The sweet singing of garbage trucks constantly working every night, the intense squealing of rats enjoying a good leftover meal, the colors of flying plastic bags in a super noisy New York City street, are just some of the inspirations that I collect to create my paintings and pictures,” the artist declared and added that he was curious to see where all the trash we produce ends up.

    “Americans make more trash than anyone else on the planet, throwing away about 7 pounds per person per day, 365 days a year. Trash has become the most valuable goods to export, which then is sold back to us as products waiting to be trashed again. We are each on track to generate around 100 tons of trash across our lifetime; our American Dream is definitely linked to this accumulation of trash,” Pizzaroni explained, “My trips to the landfill in Middlesex County, New Jersey made me understand that when there is traffic of garbage trucks going to the landfill it is a sign of people buying - trash is a way to understand our economy.”

    “Bianco Trash investigates American consumption, international commerce, and environmentalism. This new body of work continues Pizzaroni’s inquiry into the American culture of consumption, which began with several series based on his experiences working in the fashion world. The artist has been fascinated with American culture, particularly film, since he was a child watching American movies, and then later working on the sets of CineCittá. Pizzaroni approaches his interest in American culture from the viewpoint of an immigrant – ultimately trying to deconstruct the American Dream visually. Featured in the exhibition are recent photographs the artist made of the landfills of New Jersey, just outside of New York City. Wandering through the trash, Pizzaroni documented the result of American consumption, bringing to the forefront the cycle wherein consumers buy cheap disposable goods, largely imported from Asia, which end up as waste, only to purchase more that is thrown away.” The photograph Thank You For Shopping (which features a white plastic bag with the sentence written in red) serves not only as a reminder of the waste as a result of shopping, and that trash does not simply vanish, but goes somewhere.

    All the pictures have titles that speak volumes: “Summer Styles,” portrays a chic clothing catalogue fro children lying crumpled in the foreground, “Latest from the Wall Street Journal” shows the newspaper buried in the rubble, while “Surf in USA” and “Buy One get One Free” show waves of garbage and plastic bags.

    In 2011 Pizzaroni began experimenting with white paint on black trash bags. As in past work, he is interested in the role of chance, or serendipity in the way that the paint adheres to the plastic and the marks formed. The Bianco Trash paintings nod to the white paintings of Ryman, and the gestural marks of action painting and abstract expressionism. In this sense, the paintings belie the material, and challenge the tradition of paint on canvas and “high art.”

    Gallery director Yana Balson, declared to the Wall Street Journal that Pizzaroni’s work is “not a criticism of the culture. It’s more that he is bringing it to you so you can view it for yourself. He wants you to be able to smell it.” Fortunately that is just a beautiful figure of speech.

    Still, after seeing all the waste he portrays it is impossible not to criticize the way we live. 

  • Dining in & out: Articles & Reviews

    Italy Shines at the 58th Edition of the Summer Fancy Food Show

    Summer's grandest culinary event, the Summer Fancy Food Show, has come to an end. The 58th edition closed after three days of the industry's top buyers and foodservice professionals walking the aisles in search of the best selections of specialty foods and beverages.

    Among 2,250 exhibitors, out of all international expositors, the Italian pavilion was, yet again, the vastest, with a total of almost 300 exhibitors, amongst them producers, consortia, associations, regional offices and chambers of commerce.

    But what is even more striking than the number of producers participating is the variety of products presented. Italy showcased the best of its olive oils and balsamic vinegars, pasta, hams, preserved vegetables, confectionery and bakery products, cheeses, tomatoes and fine wines. Quality is still top notch and the international market recognizes that by purchasing in great quantities, despite of the continuous threat of Italian sounding things.

    “Based on what the producers who attended the 58th edition of the Fancy Food Show said, I can say that things are going better and better,” Italian Trade Commissioner Aniello Musella said, “Business is growing and moving towards the end of the economic crisis. This year there was a larger number of buyers and orders placed and that helped not only economically but it really lifted spirits up.”

    Particular attention was paid to the producers coming from Emilia-Romagna, the region that was mostly damaged by recent earthquakes. “The spirit amongst the producers couldn't have been higher. In a way the destruction brought by nature has brought on a sort of resurrection. The Consortia of Grana Padano and Parmigiano Reggiano were really aggressive and motivated to continue to reign supreme in the international market. Producers from the area presented high quality, prestigious balsamic vinegars, products of great value that are greatly appreciated by American buyers,” Mr. Musella added.

    The American market plays a strategic role for the Italian wine and food production. In 2011 the USA imported from Italy food and wine for a value of 3.63 billion dollars thus registering an increment of 13% compared to the previous year. In the hierarchy of foreign suppliers, Italy occupies the seventh position, preceded, among others, by Canada, Mexico and China.

    Still, for some products, Italy maintains total leadership: olive oil holds a market share of 56%, pasta of 30.4%, prosciutto of 67%, mineral water of 32% and cheese of 28.9%. The Italian wine market continued to show positive trends, with a market share of 31.05% and a value of about $ 1.5 billion and an increase of 19% over 2010.

    “The first trimester of 2012 is showing some contrasting information,” Mr Musella explained, “There is a decrease of 2,6% for wine and an increase of 1,4 for food products. But this is not totally reliable, as the results of the first three months, often affected by the climate, are not that influential on the overall progress.”

    Italian producers pay the price of creating such delicious products, thus the plague of Italian sounding, local products that trick the consumer in believing that were “Italian Made” (they use packaging, names, images and colors that evoke the authentic Italian products). The Italian Trade Commission is leading a constant battle against this process of imitation. For years now they have been organizing information seminars, tastings of authentic products, information campaigns in the press, in order to make known the authentic Italian product to the American consumer.

    There is a constant growth in support for Italian food, that is also due by the work of America's First Lady, Michelle Obama and her campaign for healthy eating.

    The region of Apulia, for example, dedicated to her a 1,400 year old olive tree known as '”the Queen” for her efforts in promoting the values of the Mediterranean diet. “The ancient olive tree in the southeastern Italian city of Lecce produces 600 kilograms of olives a year and has a diameter of 14 meters (46 feet). The estimated 100 liters (60 gallons) of olive oil produced from the tree will be delivered to the White House beginning this fall,” reports.

    “The Mediterranean diet is seen by scientists worldwide as the best antidote against obesity and cardiovascular diseases,” Luca Franchetti Pardo, Italian Embassy Deputy Chief of Mission Minister who attended the show, said.

    What else can be said about the greatness of Italian production? There is a continuous industrial research related to growing consumer segments, such as gluten free, kosher, vegetarian, organic.

    “The Italian producers have understood the importance of the US market trends and rush in great numbers to the annual Summer Fancy Food,” Mr. Musella concluded. “There is great excitement amongst them regarding the return to New York City next year. Although the show has been great in the capital, New York is still seen as the best place to attract more producers, mostly because only buyers from the largest companies attended the show in Washington while in NY there is more access to small and niche companies thus giving a broader possibility to Italian producers to get on the market.”


  • Events: Reports

    Star Wigs: Italian Mastery in Hairstyles

    Now playing in theaters, Snow White and the Huntsman, starring Kristen Stewart, Charlize Theron, and Chris Hemsworth, is the newest Hollywood movie retelling the German fairy tale “Snow White” by the Brothers Grimm that sees our titular heroine targeted by The Huntsman. He has been tasked to find Snow White and return her to the evil Queen Ravenna but ends up trying to help her efforts to defeat Ravenna and claim her kingdom.

    Charlize Theron shines as Queen Ravenna, “with mad eyes, her a bit shouty, man-hating, obsessed with beauty (she literally sucks the youth out of women) queen is the epitome of everything a ‘good’ villainess should be.” She looks stunning, as always, in intricate hand-made costumes by award winning designer Colleen Atwood while her golden locks are styled in a fancy updo with braids (for a tutorial on how to do it, check out)

    Her hair was created by celebrity hairstylist Enzo Angileri, one of the most coveted and admired stylists working in Hollywood today. His clientele are among the world’s most beautiful and famous men and women: Jennifer Lopez, Faith Hill, Lucy Liu, Tom Cruise, and Nicole Kidman are just a few.

    “As a young boy growing up in Sicily and Milan, Enzo dreamed of being a hairdresser. He’d study the hairstyles of his favorite Italian movie stars in black and white films, and the styles by experimenting on willing family members. After Milan he moved to Los Angeles where his career reached new heights in feature films, music videos, commercials, print advertising, and fashion editorial. While his passion lies in editorial work, Enzo has achieved great success creating hairstyles for film.”

    Reproductions of Theron's Queen Ravenna's hairstyles can be viewed at Casa Italiana Zerilli Marimò until June 15.

    On the occasion of the 2012 edition of Open Roads, Italian film festival organized by Cinecittà Luce and the Film Society of Lincoln Center, Dress in Dreams by Elisabetta Cantone and Francesca Silvestri present Star Wigs (show ends on June 15), a tribute to one of the most important crafts in the film industry and to the skilled artisans who work away from the spotlight to create the heads of the film stars.

    Displayed at Casa Italiana Zerilli Marimò are some really spectacular wigs: the enormous creations for Marie Antoinette, film by Sofia Coppola starring Kirsten Dunst (featuring crazy curls, feathers, flowers and little birds), created by Rocchetti & Rocchetti, one of the greatest workshops in the world as well as the 18th century wigs from Fellini's Casanova and from the more recent version starring Heath Ledger exhibited on white and golden faces covered with crystals, created by the Italo-Persian artist Howton Re.

    Rocchetti & Rocchetti has been an important player in the entertainment industry since 1874. With its team of 16 expert craftsmen, all women, led by Fernanda Rocchetti (who, at 88, still works non stop), the workshop makes wigs for films, theater and television. Among their most known creations are the wigs for Gangs of New York, the aforementioned Marie Antoinette and Casanova, Tristan and Isolde, The Leopard, Death in Venice and most of Fellini's films (including La Dolce Vita).

    Guests can also view, alas not pose with, Elisabeth Taylor's wig for her role of Cleopatra, and Nicole Kidman's for her role in Moulin Rouge. There also are original casts created for Al Pacino, Robert De Niro and Harvey Keitel.

    Star Wigs also includes a special section dedicated to fashion, an industry which has always worked hand in hand with cinema, with maestro Sergio Valente's outrageous wigs along with hair-dresses made of vegetable fibers created by the students of the Rome Academy for Fashion and Costume.

    Sergio Valente, hairstylist of the stars, boasts a terrific career that has brought him around the world. He made his debut in 1966 with a cover of Vogue Italy signed by Helmut Newton. He has worked on stars like Marcello Mastroianni, Sharon Stone, Charlize Theron and fashion icons like Linda Evangelista, Cindy Crawford and Claudia Schiffer. His work has been essential not only on film sets but especially on the catwalk and he is requested by the greatest designers such as Valentino, Fendi, Versace and Oscar de la Renta.

    Valente was at Casa Italiana and confirmed that “working for both fashion and cinema is similar in a way but very different in another. You need to thoroughly prepare for both, study and create. Yet for fashion you can go crazy, let your imagination and creativity run wild, while for cinema you have to respect some rules. For example a specific style or a certain era.” His creations on display at Casa Italiana are simply breathtaking, they are edgy sculptures that only an skilled artist can create.

    Last but not least, people can also see the reproductions of Lady Gaga's most exciting futuristic hairstyles and some of her hairdos created by Rocchetti & Rocchetti for Delfina Delettrez Fendi's jewel exhibition in Paris.

    The show is yet another testimony of the grandeur of Italian craftsmanship. In the words of Consul General Natalia Quintavalle, who was at the show's opening, “Italian excellence behind the scenes makes the magic of cinema possible.” Although small we contribute in the grandest way.

  • Events: Reports

    Terraferma, Shun Li & the Poet and La-bas. Immigration in Italian Cinema at the Film Society of Lincoln Center's Open Roads

    At least 1.500 people are known to have lost their lives attempting to cross the Mediterranean in 2011. Stories of hopeful migrants who try to escape their countries on boats and reach Italian shores are not rare events anymore but every day news. Italian newspapers have articles by title like “A boat carrying as many as 300 terrified migrants from Libya capsized in rough seas off the Italian coast as rescuers, hampered by strong winds, struggled to get to them,” and “Five people were found dead in a rickety boat off Italy’s southernmost tip which was carrying around 60 immigrants, the Italian coast guard, adding that a rescue mission was under way.”

    An example, one among many, the report Lives lost in the Mediterranean Sea: who is responsible? presented at the Parliamentary Assembly in March 2012 “focuses on one particularly harrowing case in which a small boat left Tripoli with 72 people on board and after two weeks at sea drifted back to Libya with only nine survivors. No one went to the aid of this boat, despite a distress call logged by the Italian Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre, which pinpointed the boat’s position. There were also a number of alleged direct contacts between the boat in distress and other vessels, including a helicopter that dropped biscuits and water, but never returned, two fishing vessels, both of which refused to provide assistance, and a large military vessel which came into close contact with the boat, but ignored obvious distress signals.”
    Back in Libya the nine survivors were released yet they fled the country. None knows what happened to them after that.
    This is a specific case but not unique as stories of immigration are not in the news anymore, but are mostly inspiring Italian cinema.
    Stories like the ones mentioned above have inspired Terraferma, Emanuele Crialese's fourth film that is playing at Lincoln Center's Open Roads festival on June 13th at 2.15 and 6.15 pm (“Crialese decided to make the film in 2009, after reading the story of an African woman who was one of only five survivors on a crammed boat that spent 21 days drifting at sea without assistance before running aground on Lampedusa”). This dreamy yet hard-hitting social critique is set on a small island off the coast of Sicily that's still untouched by tourism, where people face the challenge of coping with clandestine immigrant who, day after day, try to make the island their first stop in Italy to proceed to the rest of the country where they have family or friends waiting for them. One day, Filippo, a young local boy who lost his father at sea and goes fishing with his grandfather, and Ernesto (the grandpa himself) see a boat of immigrants. Some are so desperate to make it to land that they jump in the water. After having informed the Coast Guard, they pull some out and carry them to shore, thus respecting the law of the sea, none in the water is left to die, and disrespecting the national law that there must be no contact with the illegal migrants and who helps them is guilty of abatement.
    Water is symbolically viewed as the source of life, renewal, purification rebirth. In Terraferma water is a dark force that hides even darker human beings who, in the middle of the night, are hidden in the waves and desperately try to make it to shore but they get their hands beaten, as they try to climb up the smallest boat, or pushed by into the depths of the sea. The water hides shoes, toys, all sorts of objects that pollute it but that meant something to their desperate owners who made the ultimate trip to a better life.

    Filippo and his grandfather do get in trouble but their situation could even be worse if the authorities were to find out that they have saved a pregnant Ethiopian woman and her son. The family has to live with the difficulty of hiding someone dangerous, and finding a way to get rid of them. The film constantly asks you the question “what would you do?” would you respond to your human instinct to help someone no matter who he is or would you respect the law, a law that is more and more often simply inhuman?
    The same questions can be found in another film presented at Open Roads that is centered on immigration: Andrea Segre's Shun Li and the Poet.
    After several documentaries on immigration, Segre's first feature is the delicate and insightful story of a Chinese woman who, brought to Italy by a broker who she's slowly paying off while saving money to bring across her son, is sent from her factory job in the outskirts of Rome, to a bar in Chioggia, a small island in the Veneto lagoon, the place where Segre's mother comes from. There she becomes friend with another immigrant, Bepi a fisherman nicknamed The Poet because he enjoys rhyming, who came to Italy decades earlier from Eastern Europe. The two have a special understanding between them but their friendship is not thoroughly appreciated by both Italians and Chinese alike.
    In Segre's film, a careful look into the immigrant world, the characters have already made it to Italy yet the better life that they are supposed to find is still far away. Shun Li has no days off, she must continuously work to pay off her debt, she is treated like a possession that is moved around as the broker, or better yet, her owner, prefers. Still, somehow, despite all the unfairness, people can find a special kind of support system.
    Water is a character in this film as well, Chioggia is surrounded by it. But instead of being blue

    and in movement as the one in Terraferma, it is gray and still yet it brings new life on shore. Bepi is a fisherman as well. “In the spiritual sense, fishermen are those who instruct men in the truths of life, giving them food for the mind, and elevating them out of a merely natural- minded and sensuous state, and into a spiritual state of mind.”
    La-bas is another immigration story that was presented at Open Roads. Guido Lombardi's film is the tale of a talented young artist, Yusouf, from Africa who is promised a job by an uncle who already lives in Italy. He ends up in Castel Volturno home to about 20.000 clandestine African immigrants. Here he is witness of the struggles people go through to live day by day, including dealing with the Camorra.
    At the beginning of the film Yusouf has never seen the water and asks to please have a look at the sea, again here, the symbol of a new beginning.
    The presence of these films shows that within mainstream, commercial film projects, there is a growing interest to focus on social-economic problems that affect an always greater numbers of people. These films focus not only on the traumatic arrival of the migrant but also on the marginalization/exploitation of the migrant once he/she has entered the country, real challenges for today's Italy.

  • Art & Culture

    "Reality" by Garrone Winner at Cannes Film Festival

    A while back, Italian film director Matteo Garrone in an interview to Italian press agency Ansa said “being selected to participate at the 65th edition of the Cannes Film Festival is a great opportunity and a beautiful adventure.” His film, Reality (initially titled Big House) was the only Italian film competing although Italy was  also represented by two non-competing films Io e te a mezzanotte by Bernardo Bertolucci and Dracula 3D by Dario Argento.

     Garrone was happy to be back at Cannes after having won the Grand Prix in 2008 with his film Gomorrah, the organized crime story based on the book by the same name by Roberto Saviano. “After Gomorrah I wanted to do something different, most likely a comedy but I am not sure I succeeded. As things progressed the comedy got a little darker,” Garrone said during the interview. The central topic of Reality is reality TV and what regular people would do to be in a show. “It is not a film on Big Brother,” he specified, “It is not an exposè or something against TV. It is the folktale of a fishmonger with a great personality who, pushed by his family, tries to make it in the show business by participating to Big Brother, a sort of Paradise on Earth.” Entering the Big Brother house becomes an idea that traps Luciano and gradually takes over his life. The idea comes from a real story and it is a  satirical look into contemporary society.

    Little did he know that he was going to win the Grand Prix once again. Not having seen the film, we are taking the synopsis from Luciano (Aniello Arena) is a Neapolitan fishmonger intent on landing a role on "Big Brother." Initially, he endures a low-key existence with his wife (Loredana Simioli) and young children, enthusiastically hawking fish from his tiny stand and running cheap scams for extra money on the side. Driven by some intangible combination of ego and alpha-male aggression, he strives to impress his family at every turn.

    When his daughters come across "Big Brother" auditions at the local mall and beg him to take a stab at it, he barrels straight ahead. After harassing the jaded host Enzo (Raffaele Ferrante), a former contestant, Luciano gets a fleeting chance to address the cameras. From that moment, Luciano's perception of his opportunities start to shift and the movie's perspective moves with him. Increasingly obsessed with the possibilities of gaining fame and lifelong security for himself and his family, Luciano's type-A personality kicks in as he embraces the enthusiasm of his tiny community and lets it get to his head -- quite literally. 

    The grade given to the film is an A- and predictions for its American release are that “Although not bound for major commercial success, Reality should continue to play well along the festival circuit and land a midsized U.S. release where it could garner strong reactions in major cities in addition to VOD (akin to the popularity that greeted Gomorra).”

    According to “Oscilloscope Laboratories has acquired U.S. rights to Matteo Garrone's Reality. In a release announcing the acquisition, Oscilloscope's David Laub called the film 'a complex, provocative, and deeply compelling look at our media-obsessed culture, executed by one of the most interesting and talented filmmakers working today. Garrone pays homage to classical filmmakers such as Fellini and Scorsese while crafting a fresh and very relevant contemporary story.'

    The company plans to showcase the film at additional festivals throughout the fall, and to follow with a theatrical, DVD and digital release in 2013.”

    The film has created buzz not just for its story but for another reason as well: its leading actor. Nominated for his starring role, Aniello Arena has a dark past and he is currently serving a life sentence in prison. The 44 year old Neapolitan was a member of a hit squad which shot dead rival clan members in the grimy suburbs of Naples in 1991, and wounded an eight-year-old child in the process. “I turned that black page in my life over a long time ago and I am no longer that man,” Arena told the Corriere della Sera newspaper. “I would never have imagined that I would open a book, let alone recite Brecht or Shakespeare.” Indeed Arena is an actor in the theater company of the Volterra prison. Garrone stumbled across him at one of the prison theater shows and was immediately struck by his talent. According to IMDB he has been hailed as an unlikely blend of Robert de Niro Mr Punch and Totò, Italy's best loved comic actor.  

    “It was he (Arena) who really developed the character of Luciano. He gives an extraordinary interpretation of a very complex role. This is a man who, having been in jail for nearly 20 years, has discovered a world that he had no idea about,” Garrone told the Telegraph. Arena was allowed out of prison on day release to make the film but he could not attend the festival. 

  • Events: Reports

    Open Roads, the Leading North American Showcase for Contemporary Italian Cinema

    The Film Society of Lincoln Center has announced the lineup for their annual showcase of Italian Cinema, Open Roads: New Italian Cinema, which will take place from June 8-14.

    Open Roads: New Italian Cinema has been organized by The Film Society of Lincoln Center together with Istituto Luce-Cinecittà-Filmitalia and the support of Ministero per i Beni e le Attivitá Culturali (Direzione Generale per il Cinema) in collaboration with the Italian Cultural Institute of New York, the Alexander Bodini Foundation, Casa Italiana Zerilli-Marimó and Antonio Monda.

    This year’s lineup includes impressive debuts, a return of favorite filmmakers as well as several award winners including Terraferma by Emanuele Crialese, Special Jury Prize winner at the 2011 Venice Film Festival and La-Bas: A Criminal Education by Guido Lombardi, Winner of “Lion of the Future” award at the 2011 Venice Film Festival. A diverse selection of titles also includes comedies such as A Flat for Three by Carlo Verdone, Escort in Love by Massimiliano Bruno, and the return of genre cinema with The Legend of Kaspar Hauser by Davide Manuli starring Vincent Gallo and The Arrival of Wang by Antonio & Marco Manetti. The 2012 lineup expertly showcases the fact that today’s young Italian filmmakers are embracing classic storytelling and breathing new life into them.

    “The range of work on display in this year's Open Roads is truly remarkable,” Film Society of Lincoln Center Program Director, Richard Peña stated, “Everywhere one looks, Italian filmmakers are venturing off into exciting new directions, tipping their hats to their country's great film tradition while telling surprising new stories in astonishingly new ways.”

    The series will feature directorial debuts by two of Italy’s finest screenwriters, Francesco Bruni whose debut Easy! was voted best film in the “Controcampo Italiano” section of last year’s Venice Film Festival and Ivan Cotroneo’s comedic turn in the director’s chair with Kryptonite. Other debuts include filmmaker Pippo Mezzapesa’s Annalisa and the debut feature by the De Serio brothers, Gianluca and Massimliano, titled Seven Acts of Mercy and features astonishing performances by lead veteran actor Robert Herlitzka and newcomer Olimpia Melinte.

    Such masters as Ermanno Olmi will return this year with The Cardboard Village, a striking parable about the defense of faith in a world posed to deny it; the new film by Ferzan Ozpetek, Magnificent Presence, inspired bv 1961 Italian comedy directed by Antonio Pietrangeli’s Ghosts of Rome and has been brilliantly updated; and one of Italy’s most popular contemporary filmmakers Carlo Verdone, who has returned to the screen with a kind of Odd Couple for the new millennium titled A Flat for Three.

    Another highlight this year includes winner of Best Documentary at the 2011 Golden Globe awards in Italy, Gianfranco Giagni’s film Dante Ferretti: Italian Production Designer. A tribute to one of the greatest artists working today, winner of three Oscars (most recently for the extraordinary look of Hugo) and a key, longtime collaborator of directors ranging from Fellini and Pasolini to Terry Gilliam, Tim Burton and Martin Scorsese.



    Pippo Mezzapesa, 2011, Italy; 82m
    Another standout in a year of several impressive Italian feature film debuts, Annalisa follows the exploits of two young men from Apulia who, judging from their own parents’ lives, don’t seem to have too many auspicious prospects. Mezzapesa brilliantly captures the rhythm of teenage time: events occur unpredictably, haphazardly, with great attention paid to providing the texture and atmosphere of these young lives.
    WED, JUN 13, 8:15PM. Director Pippo Mezzapesa in-person!

    The Arrival of Wang
    Antonio & Marco Manetti, 2011, Italy; 80m
    A respected Chinese interpreter, Gaia, receives an intriguing if somewhat mysterious phone call from an old client: they need her services as soon as possible, although they can’t say much about the job for which they’re hiring her. The dialog is razor-sharp, and the action moves briskly; just as we become certain that we understand what’s truly happening, brother directors Antonio and Marco Manetti come along and pull the rug out from under our feet, sending us back to square one.
    SUN. JUN 10, 7:50PM, Directors Antonio & Marco Manetti in person! WED. JUN 13, 4:15PM

    The Cardboard Village

    Ermanno Olmi, 2011, Italy; 87m
    An old church is scheduled for demolition: the paintings have been taken off the walls, the sacred objects put away, and a giant, mechanical arm starts to take down the life-size crucifix that hangs over the altar. Yet, despite seeing the destruction of a place in which he has devoted so much of his life, the old priest feels a certain joy. Olmi starts with a philosophical or spiritual theme and then fashions a story that gives these themes a powerful, very contemporary relevance.
    FRI. JUN 8, 4PM; TUES. JUN 12, 8:50PM

    Dante Ferretti: Italian Production Designer
    Gianfranco Giagni, 2010, Italy; 52m
    A loving, insightful tribute to one of the greatest artists working in cinema today: Dante Ferretti. Ferretti discusses his art, taking us to those places that have inspired his designs as well as sharing and explains his sketches and models. Those interviewed for the film include Leonardo DiCaprio, Terry Gilliam, Giuseppe Tornatore and Martin Scorsese.
    SAT. JUN 9, 5:30PM. Attendance still has to be confirmed.

    Diaz: Don’t Clean Up This Blood
    Daniele Vicari, 2012, Italy/Romania/France; 127m

    This film is the searing rendition of the events surrounding the horrifying and still controversial police raid at the Diaz Pascoli School in Genoa during the 2001 G8 Summit. The summit was drawing to an end; although there had been numerous clashes between the police and the many protesters who had descended upon the city, things had been calm for hours. Around midnight, dozens of uniformed police officers arrived at Diaz, a temporary shelter for the many international protesters, as well as a site for various social forums. For the next two hours, the police moved down its hallways, indiscriminately attacking everyone they could find, sending dozens off to the hospital or a detention center.
    FRI. JUN 8, 9PM. Direcor Daniele Vicari in person!


    Francesco Bruni, 2011, Italy; 95m
    By turns hilarious and heartbreaking, Easy chronicles one man’s unusual path to growing up. Bruno, a formerly talented writer who now ghostwrites celebrity autobiographies, also gives boring, listless private lessons to bored, listless students. One day he finds out he is the father of one of his students. It is now time to do some parenting.
    FRI. JUN 8, 1:45PM; SAT. JUNE 9, 7:30PM. Director Francesco Bruni in person at June 9 screening!

    Escort in Love
    Massimiliano Bruno, 2011, Italy; 95m
    Alice lives a phenomenally pampered life. Then one day, her somewhat shady husband is killed in a car accident, and Alice learns the horrible truth: the family is completely broke, all the opulence based on dubious loans tinged with some underworld connections. Alice must find a way to support herself and her son, but she’s a bit lacking in the marketable skills department, until she discovers the wonderful world of escort services. In the best tradition of Italian comedy, Escort in Love offers pointed political criticism in between its explosions of laughter.
    SUN. JUN 10, NOON. Actress Paola Cortellesi in person!

    Carlo Verdone, 2012, Italy; 119m

    Three divorced men who decide to share an apartment together in Rome. All three are drifting towards uncertain futures while still stuck in unresolved pasts. One (Verdone) is a record collector lost in a world of classic rock; another (Pier Francesco Favino) is a former film critic reduced to writing gossip columns. The last (Marco Giallini) tries to sell real estate as kind of excuse to meet women. Clearly a response to the economic and spiritual crisis gripping Italy, A Flat for Three is one of Verdone’s most sharply observed comedies.
    SUN. JUN 10, 5PM; MON. JUN 11, 1:30PM. Attendance still has to be confirmed.

    Michele Rho, 2011, Italy; 120m
    Two brothers, Alessandro and Pietro, live in a small village in the Apennines at the end of the 19th century. When their mother dies, she leaves them with a magnificent bequest: two beautiful horses, from which they can make their livings. Several years later, the brothers are still close, yet it’s clear that each is increasingly eager to pursue his own, very separate dreams. The film doesn’t feel mechanical or predictable: even when we can feel the hand of fate in the lives of these characters, we know that at any second the action can hurtle into another direction.
    MON. JUN 11, 8:30PM, Director Michele Rho in person! TUES. JUN 12, 1:30PM


    Ivan Cotroneo, 2011, Italy; 99m
    Bittersweet comedy about a large, colorful Neapolitan family struggling against both changing times and internal tensions. Set in the seventies, the world is evolving all around these characters, and their anxiety and even befuddlement with this new world is always shown with sympathy—even when it’s laced with humor.
    MON. JUN 11, 6:15PM, Director Ivan Cotroneo in-person! THURS. JUN 14, 1PM

    Là-bas: A Criminal Education
    Guido Lombardi, 2011, Italy; 100m
    “Down there,” in French “là-bas,” for many Africans is simply a password for Europe, the place that has attracted so many of them in the past decades. One of those caught in web is Yusouf, a talented young artist promised a job by an uncle already established in Italy. Unable at first to find his uncle, Yusouf makes his way to Castel Volturno, about 18 miles from Naples and home to about 20,000 African immigrants, the vast majority clandestine. Discovering the various legal, semi-legal and outright illegal ways these people struggle on day by day, Yusouf also gets to witness the role of the Camorra, Naples’ deadly version of the Mafia, in their use and exploitation.
    SUN. JUN 10, 10PM

    The Legend of Kaspar Hauser

    Davide Manuli, 2012, Italy;90m
    The film riffs on the famous European legend about Kaspar Houser, the mysterious, “wild boy” who simply appeared on the streets of Nuremberg in 1828. Shot in luscious black-and-white, the film follows this updated Kaspar after he washes up on the beach of an almost deserted Mediterranean island, clad in a track suit and sporting an iPod.
    SAT. JUN 9, 10PM. Director Davide Manuli in person!

    Magnificent Presence
    Ferzan Ozpetek, 2012, Italy; 105m
    This is the story of Pietro, an aspiring actor approaching 30 who’s just moved to Rome. After crashing with a cousin for a while, Pietro finds his own place, a rather extraordinary apartment offered for an extremely reasonable price. Pietro moves in, but begins to notice that each night when he returns some of his things have been moved. It soon becomes clear to him: Pietro is not living alone.
    FRI. JUN 8, 6:15PM, Director Ferzan Ozpetek in person! MON. JUN 11, 4PM

    My Tomorrow

    Marina Spada, 2011, Italy; 88m
    As she stands before audiences giving her motivational lectures, human resources manager Monica is the very portrait of success. Yet there is something that simply doesn’t feel quite right. Director and co-writer Marina Spada creates a terrifically rich character study that avoids clichés. Spada also offers a fascinating look at Milan, a very different kind of Italy that rarely makes it into the movies.
    SAT. JUN 9, 3PM. Director Marina Spada in person!

    Seven Acts of Mercy
    Gianluca and Massimliano De Serio, 2011, Italy/Romania; 103m
    One of Cravaggio’s greatest masterworks depicts all seven Christian acts of mercy (feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, etc.) in one magnificent painting; the debut feature of the De Serio brothers depicts a re-imagining of these acts in the contemporary relationship between an old man and a desperate young woman.
    SUN. JUN 10, 2:30PM, Directors Gianluca and Massimliano De Serio in person! TUES. JUN 12, 4PM

    Shun Li and the Poet

    Andrea Segre, 2011, Italy/France; 96m
    Brought to Italy by a “broker” who she’s slowly paying off while saving money to bring across her son, Shun Li is sent from her factory job to a bar in Chioggia, a small island in the Veneto lagoon. There she strikes up a friendship with Bepi, a fisherman nicknamed “the Poet,” himself a representative of an earlier immigration to Italy from Eastern Europe. The two come to share a special understanding between them, and their relationship transforms them both.
    SAT. JUN 9, 12:30PM. Director Andrea Segre in person!

    Emanuele Crialese, 2011, Italy/France; 88m
    Filippo, whose own father was lost at sea years ago, lives with his mother and grandfather on a small island off the coast of Sicily. Still untouched by tourism, the island faces a challenge from the dozens of clandestine immigrants who each week try to make the island their launch pad for getting to Italy.
    *WED. JUN 13, 2:30PM & 6:15PM

    All screenings will be held at the Film Society of Lincoln Center's Walter Reade Theater, located at 165 West 65th Street, between Amsterdam Avenue and Broadway.

  • Events: Reports

    18 Ius Soli: Addressing Citizenship in Modern Day Italy

    On November 15, 2011 Giorgio Napolitano, President of the Republic of Italy, addressing a delegation of the new citizens at Quirinale, the Presidential Palace, called for reforms of the citizenship law to grant citizenship to children born in Italy of immigrant parents. “I hope that Parliament can address the issue of citizenship for children born to foreign immigrants in Italy,” he said, “It is important to remember that children of immigrant origin at school and in society are a challenge we have to deal with but also a fruitful stimulus, precisely because they come from different cultures. It should not be a source of concern.” “Denying citizenship,” he added, “is a true folly, an absurdity.”

    Second generation immigrants are an integral part of the Italian society, “societies need new energy, especially ours, which is aging and fossilized,” the president added. More recently, in a letter to the Mayor of Nichelino (Turin) who on 6th May 2012 awarded honorary citizenship to 450 children born in the area of immigrant parents, President Napolitano said awarding honorary citizenship is a precious contribution to raising public awareness about the issue.

    At present there are thousands of young people who were born in Italy, speak Italian fluently, have studied in Italian schools and have lived only in Italy and yet are not entitled to Italian citizenship.

    Out of 100 children born in Italy, 42 remain non-citizens when they turn 18. Supposedly, migrants and their children acquire citizenship after 10 years of residence in Italy. In many other countries, being born there is enough to become a citizen. Birthright citizenship in the United States, for example, refers to a person's acquisition of US by virtue of the circumstances of his/her birth.

    Ius soli (the right of soil) is a right by which nationality or citizenship can be recognized to any individual born in the territory of the related state. It prevents persons born and raised in a state from remaining foreign nationals with limited rights to residence and political participation. In 2010 it existed “in some form in 19 of the 33 European countries included in the EUDO Citizenship study. Ius soli has, for example, been introduced or strengthened in Germany (2000), Portugal (2006), Luxembourg (2009) and Greece (2010), while ius soli was removed in Malta (1989) and qualified in Ireland (2004). Ireland was the last pure ius soli regime in Europe, and here it has been made subject to additional conditions.”

    The topic has been thoroughly addressed in 18 Ius Soli an Award-winning grassroots Italian documentary directed by the Italian-Gahanian director Fred Kudjo Kuwornu. Questions are raised on the issue of citizenship for the 1.000.000 children born in Italy whose citizenship is denied because - born of immigrant parents - they have no Italian "blood". Meanwhile someone who “was born and raised in Brazil and has never been in Italy but who has a grand father who was from Italy can get citizenship in a blink of an eye.”

    The film was presented at Casa Italiana Zerilli Marimò on Friday, May 25 at 6.00 PM. The director addended the screening.

    The film puts together the stories of 18 guys and girls of Asian, South American or African descent who were born and raised in different regions of Italy. If you watch the film with the eyes closed there is no way to tell they come from immigrant families, their accents are so thick, so Italian that, some of them say, people on the bus or in restaurants are so surprised to hear them speak that way and they do ask. Yes people ask why they speak Italian so well. Let's make it clear to them all... they are Italian, that's why.

    “We are not immigrants,” one of them says, “we do not come from another country, we did not cross any border. We are here since the beginning of our life.” Yet they have to walk around with tons of paperwork, renew their residence permits continuously while being careful of not falling out of status because of slow bureaucracy. They cannot participate in national contests or join the army. They cannot be out of work or out of school. Every day they are afraid of being sent to a country that they most likely have never visited, where they do not know anybody and whose language they barely speak.

    I-Italy had a chance to ask director Fred Kudjo Kuwornu a few questions before the screening.

    Why did you decide to address this topic?

    A couple of years ago, here in the United States, I read an article online about those who are born in Italy from foreign parents who are not automatically considered Italian at birth as it happens in other countries. This was food for thought. I never had to face citizenship issues as one of my parents is indeed Italian, so I never asked myself what this actually means. I needed to find out.

    Generally speaking, are Italian citizens aware of this situation?

    When I produced the documentary very few knew much about this issue. Napolitano's speech back in November raised some awareness so more and more people got intrigued. This is a civil right that was mostly ignored, but it is becoming incredibly controversial.

    Your film starts with Napolitano's speech that is followed by insults to Italian soccer player Mario Balotelli, how come?

    The president's speech is heartfelt, beautiful and inspiring to all while Balotelli represents a new generation of young Italians who can and must become champions in their field by always trying to be the best they can be.

    How did you select the guys who are in the film?

    The guys in the film were selected during a long casting process organized in collaboration with several associations, including Anolf (Associazione Nazionale oltre le Frontiere, an association that helps immigrants in creating a culture based on integration, tolerance and respect). We put ads all over the place, including social networks. I was looking for guys who had interesting stories and who were also involved in social services.

    How does the audience react to the film?
    They all agree that it is now time for things to change and let Italy move forward by changing the citizenship laws thus enabling these kids to have the same chances their contemporaries have. They will be able to become whatever they want: doctors, lawyers, magistrates, cops or soldiers. We need them to break through all cultural barriers by being able to blend in those work environments that, as of now, only welcome Italian citizens.

    Why do you think Italy is behind other countries who have already overcome this issue?

    I believe it is only because Italy is a country that is slow in keeping up with changing times on many different issues, not just on this one. It is due to the scarce foresight of our ruling class, whether it be political, entrepreneurial or cultural.

    Here in the US we have birthright citizenship, but there are groups who fight to abolish it, do you think this will influence things in Italy?

    Those trying to abolish it are a minority, and mostly they are just trying to put some limitations on its application. I agree with this. The meaning of IUS SOLI is not cut and dry, it's not how it used to be in the past. It has evolved. Today's immigration is not the same of the 1900's. In the past it was normal to think that the offspring of an immigrant born in the US would have stayed, just like his parents, in the country. Now the challenges are many and it is right to have a short period of time where the intentions of the family living in the country are analyzed. Italy could set the example and move in that direction.

    How does all this affect you personally?

    As I mentioned earlier, this is a situation I did not experience personally yet it is affecting me as a citizen. I have thought about it and all Italians should do so. If the law does not change, Italy will lose all the 1 000 000 future citizens, and along with them, their talents and abilities to improve quality of life and the economic situation of Italy. I believe that whoever is a patriot and loves Italy should join this cause and fight for its application.


  • Dining in & out: Articles & Reviews

    Slow Food at the Italian Cultural Institute. Conquering US People

    “No matter what country you are in, when you turn the TV on there is some sort of cooking show. Someone surrounded by pots and pans and all types of ingredients, who is following a recipe. That's entertaining but that's not the idea of gastronomy that we promote,” Carlo Petrini, gastronomist, journalist, Italian writer and above all, the founder of the Slow Food cultural movement, told the crowd at the Italian Cultural Institute who had come to hear him speak.


    "Slowness" believers, while Petrini spoke about the University of Gastronomic Studies and its mission to create new professionals in the gastronomy system.

    What's a gastronome? “The gastronome is a new type of professional who understands the connections between food production and consumption, from agriculture and zoology to processing and distribution to cookery and communications. Gastronomes safeguard society and the environment, and build food-system sustainability while acting as cultural interpreters between food-world communities. As leaders in making change and creating successes in food and wine tourism, product and regional marketing, project management and food innovation, gastronomes add value along the entire length of the food production chain.” And the University is successfully creating these new professionals.

    The University of Gastronomic Sciences (UNISG, Università degli Studi di Scienze Gastronomiche), born and promoted in 2004 by the International Slow Food association in collaboration with the Piedmont and Emilia Romagna regional authorities, is a private university legally recognized by the Italian state.

    Situated in Pollenzo, near Bra, in the province of Cuneo (Piedmont), it offers three study programs: a three-year undergraduate degree in Gastronomic Sciences, a two-year graduate degree in the Promotion and Management of the gastronomic heritage and tourism, and a one-year Master in Food Culture and Communication comprising three specialization courses-Human Ecology and Sustainability; Food, Place and Identity; Media, Representation and High-Quality Food.

    At the end of 2011, 1,009 students had studied at the University of Gastronomic Sciences since its inception with a substantial balance between Italian and foreign (52% against 48%). “But our goal is for it to change and increase the number of international students,” Petrini added.

    The students have come from 60 different countries and that has completely changed the face of the town of Bra. “Cultural exchange and interaction between people of different nationalities basically is the first topic we teach at the University,” Petrini explained. People come from countries like India, the United States, Mauritania, Brazil and Japan thus bringing along their experiences on food and society, food and the economy, food and culture and food and politics. “The University's purpose is thus to endow food with academic dignity as a complex, multidisciplinary phenomenon through the study of a renewed food culture.”

    The new job title that emerges from its study programs is that of the gastronome, a person equipped with knowledge and skills in the agricultural and food sector, capable of working in the fields of the market economy and communication, driving food production and consumption towards proper, useful choices and helping to create a sustainable future for the planet.

    Stefano Noceti is a Food Consultant at Gustiamo, a Bronx based food importer. A  2009 graduate of the University, Stefano sent his resume to several places in Italy and the United States but he got responses only from the US, possibly because Italy is still not open to new figures. “I was a supporter of the Slow Food movement, and after getting my law degree I decided to attend the UNISG and get a Master's in Gastronomic Science and Quality Products. The reason why I picked it was because I wanted to attend a school that offered a real degree and not just cooking classes.”

    Stefano's experience was really positive and useful. “Courses were well structured and divided into a technical part, followed by a tasting, and then experience on the field where we would compare the artisanal versus the industrial product.” His studies brought him and his course mates to several Italian regions, and some European countries, such as Spain, France and Norway, where product comparison was a must. During trips students perform important documentation work, recording video interviews with and collecting the testimonies of repositories of rural and gastronomic knowledge in the areas visited. “The course was really successful in creating a new professional figure that was missing and that the business needed. There are producers who have exceptional products but no promotional skills, so here is where the new gastronome is necessary,” Stefano added. The gastronome is that missing link.

    Enthralled by his enthusiasm and knowledge, the audience at the Institute could have listened to Petrini for hours, yet the statement that raised the loudest applause was “All these chefs we see on TV are not important, the biggest stars in gastronomy are women who, with their ever lasting hard work, have fed the world without throwing anything away, creating excellent dishes, such as Tuscan ribollita and ravioli, with leftovers.” This is just one expression of the wide philosophy of Slow Food.

    “Slow Food is a global grassroots organization that envisions a world in which all people can access and enjoy food that is good for them, good for those who grow it and good for the planet. A non-profit member-supported association, Slow Food was founded in 1989 to counter the rise of fast food and fast life, the disappearance of local food traditions and to encourage people to be aware about the food they eat, where it comes from, how it tastes and how our food choices affect the rest of the world. Slow Food believes that everyone has a fundamental right to the pleasure of good food and consequently the responsibility to protect the heritage of food, tradition and culture that make this pleasure possible.”

    “If tomatoes are picked by immigrants who are treated badly, they are not good,” Petrini explained, the food we eat should taste good and be healthy, it should be produced in a clean way that does not harm the environment, animal welfare, the workers and  food producers should receive fair compensation for their work.

    As of today, Slow Food, which was founded in 1989,has over 100,000 members joined in 1,300 local chapters worldwide, as well as a network of 2,000 food communities who practice small-scale and sustainable production of quality foods. In the USA there are more than 200 chapters across the country. “We preach about slowness,' Petrini said, “but we are moving fast and conquering people by their stomach is our real power.”

  • Art & Culture

    Vatican Falls: An Uncompromising Look at Power, Conscience and Forgiveness

    “I was seriously amazed that the Church kept getting away with what they did. And then they chose a Pope who was actually responsible for covering up the scandal. Why weren't people more outraged?”

    Playwright Frank J. Avella, author of Vatican Falls, is very adamant about raising awareness on the real facts concerning the sex scandal that hit, and is still damaging, the Catholic Church.
    Based on factual material, his latest play follows the life of one survivor who struggles with understanding how those closest to him could damage him the deepest. The multi-genre, non-linear play probes the conflicting feelings involved in most sexual abuse situations and dares to confront the truth about the ever-growing scandal and the Church’s complicity in it.
    An ambitious new drama, Vatican Falls, is scheduled to be performed in a stage reading directed by Laura Caparrotti of Kairos Italy Theatre on May 15th, 2012 at 6:45PM at the National Comedy Theatre (347 West 36th St., between 8th & 9th Aves). The cast features Francesco Andolfi (Gianluca, a young Italian), Carlotta Brentan (Claudia, an irresistible and sexy Roman woman), Drew Bruck (Charlie, a very blue collar Bostonian), Matthew Crooks (Matt, a geeky Irish-American), Carlos Dengler (Father David, a charming and fearless priest), Joshua Dixon (Vi, a force to be reckoned with), Kalen J. Hall (Monsignor, the commanding and imposing Papal confidante), Liza Harris (Teresa, a strong willed Italian-American), Lucia Grillo (US Government Representative), Devon Talbott (Peter, an innocent teen boy) & Rob Ventre (Riccardo, a charismatic Italian-American singer and songwritercoming to terms with his abuse).
    Vatican Falls was set to have its World Premiere in Rome, Italy, last May but was canceled the night before opening amidst controversy and claims of death threats. This will mark the first U.S. presentation of the play to an audience since the last workshop in 2010.
    i-Italy reached Frank J. Avella for a few questions that shed some light on the origins of this controversial play.

    What brought you to write a play on the Catholic Sex Abuse Scandal?
    “In 2002, like so many others, I was appalled by the breaking scandal but not shocked. I had known boys who were molested and never spoke out because of shame or fear or both. The ensuing months produced so many articles, opening a floodgate of allegations that seemed never-ending. I was working on a few different projects at the time but had always wanted to develop a theatrical piece that addressed the enormity of it all via one survivor’s journey to hell and back. I wanted to write it for the survivors--I wanted to write it from their perspective. In 2006, I began an all-encompassing research odyssey, interviewing survivors, journalists, and priests; pouring through transcripts, articles and visiting Italy. Documentaries had been produced. A terrific Showtime film, Our Fathers, captured the breaking of the scandal very well. And Doubt opened (although that play is not about the sex abuse scandal). I wanted to do more.
    “I also became fascinated by the fact that there were very few instances of 'retaliation.' I interviewed Michael Rezendes, one of the major Boston Globe reporters responsible for the original series of stories and when I told him of my 'fictional twist" idea he confided that many days around the editorial table he and his fellow journalists would wonder why no one was fighting back in any violent way. So I began studying the genesis of modern terrorism (the Muslims fighting for independence in Algeria) and wondering what would happen if these survivors banded together and took on what my character Vi calls: 'one of the most powerful regime in the world.'”
    Frank received a commission from the Know Theatre in Cincinnati (where his play Iris had quite a successful run). “They gave me that push to meld all the elements of my epic story together,” he concludes.
    The story centers on Riccardo, a young Italian-American singer/songwriter based in Rome. He is a member of SCAR (Survivors of Catholic Abuse Refuge), a group of revolutionaries, who initially band together to seek an apology from the Vatican but turn to terrorism. Riccardo meets the stunning Claudia, a Roman in her 30s. After an unconventional courtship, they fall in love.
    As the play unfolds, we meet Riccardo’s delusional abuser, Father David. In looking back, Riccardo must deal with the conflicts inherent in coming to terms with his abuse and how his relationship with Father David forever permeates his identity, psychologically, sexually and spiritually. Riccardo must ultimately confront his past and then decide how far he is willing to go to exact revenge on an impassive institution. “This play is just like embroidery made with many different threads that come together in one final piece,” Laura Caparrotti explains, “I have worked with the actors, scene by scene, trying to lead them into a text that continuously travels in time, between past and present.”
    Vatican Falls is based on factual accounts and events. Is this what happened to one person or the collection of different experiences that are fused together in one story?
    “The latter. It's a collection of different experiences fused together. Each story is true. Charlie and Matt actually tell their stories and I actually had to dial it down because the real details --most audiences would not have been able to stomach. Father David is also a composite of a number of unknown and one or two infamous priests who seemed to have little remorse. We call them delusional but the Church leaders creates that mindset. And all the facts in the play are true.

    The Rome show was canceled, and there were threats. How did that make you feel? Are you afraid something is going to happen here as well?Were any of those threats done to you?
    “I was devastated. I should say WE were devastated as the amazing cast and crew devoted over two months of their lives to this project…to my play…to have the rug pulled out from under them literally at the last moment. It was and is--by far-- the worst thing that has ever happened to me in my career to date. I spent the next few months trying to get to the bottom of the reasons (what I like to call email wars) and found an elaborate and intense blame game among the producers (Francesca Scarano and Teatro Vascello's Manuela Kustermann). Unwilling to accept responsibility and make amends, Scarano and Kustermann, to date, have not answered for their roles in the fiasco--and they should.
    There were alleged death threats and I was told some were aimed at me but I never directly received any and I am not so certain what I believe as far as all that goes. It certainly would not surprise me to find this to be true. I do know certain people close to the production have theories based on what they saw and heard that claim there may have been some deliberate sabotage going on. I won't elaborate since it's hearsay--but when pieces begin to fit--you have to wonder.
    I am not concerned with threats here. I am writing the truth. And this play does not bash Catholicism. It does, however, paint a not so pretty but provable portrait of those in Papal power. I hope audiences will understand that.”
    The reading benefits SNAP (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests), the largest, oldest and most active support group for women and men wounded by religious authority figures. Recent headline news reports about the Catholic Church putting legal pressure on SNAP to hand over more than two decades of confidential information has put the group at the forefront of a major battle with Vatican attorneys wishing to silence them once and for all. SNAP is holding steadfast in their efforts to protect the privacy of victims, witnesses--even journalists who have come to them for help in the past. This very important group that has provided a safe haven for survivors since 1988. SNAP recently filed a lawsuit against the Vatican for crimes against humanity.
    How did your support for SNAP start?
    “SNAP was always one of my main sources for my research and after I recovered from the fiasco in Rome I had decided I wanted to do a fundraiser for this extraordinary group so I contacted the head of the NYC chapter, Mary Caplan. We had lunch and bonded immediately. She read the play and really believes in it. And the group has been under fire with Vatican attorneys wanting them to disclose private documents. They need our help now more than ever.”
    The reading is scheduled for May 15th. The National Comedy Theatre is located at 347 West 36th St. (between 8th & 9th Aves), NYC. Tickets range from $20 to $50.
    Reservations via: or call 973-715-2356.