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BENVENUTI AL NORDFeel like vis­it­ing some­where new, but don’t have the time or money right now? A film fest­iv­al is the next best thing. If you want to under­stand a coun­try and its cul­ture, it’s hard to go past watch­ing their com­mer­cial cinema – their mul­ti­plex and block­buster fare rather than the arthouse.

That’s why the region­al film fest­ivals are so import­ant – and the Itali­an Film Fest­iv­al is king, with attend­ance fig­ures every year that are great­er than all the oth­er region­al fest­ivals put togeth­er. Fest­iv­al dir­ect­or Tony Lam­bert has been at this for over a dozen years and his for­mula works – a well-con­struc­ted sur­vey of the cur­rent Itali­an cinema fea­tur­ing broad com­ed­ies, romances and his­tor­ic­al dra­mas. These are the films that Itali­ans have been watching.

This year’s fest­iv­al opens at the Para­mount on 9 Octo­ber with a gala screen­ing of Wel­come to the North (a sequel to the 2010 smash hit Wel­come to the South, itself a remake of the French com­edy Wel­come to the Sticks). After that, we have two-and-a-half weeks of screen­ings, with most films play­ing four or five times.

I’ve already had a sneak pre­view of four of the 18 titles and they were – jus­ti­fi­ably – all over the place. Love is in the Air is a broad sex com­edy that hints at a sau­ci­ness that it doesn’t quite deliv­er on. Dull busi­ness­man Andrea and beau­ti­ful house­wife Giulia are promp­ted to spice up their love life by the arrival of Giulia’s old school friend Max – now a Hol­ly­wood porn star. The whole house­holdtry and mine the fam­ous lothario for tips, but the actu­al les­sons learned are much more tra­di­tion­al. Ori­gin­ally released in 3D, the ver­sion we will see here doesn’t have quite the same visu­al ‘pop’ but the broad Carry On-style humour will appeal to many.

In The Entre­pren­eur, a fact­ory own­er (Pier­francesco Favino from Rush) struggles to keep his busi­ness and his mar­riage afloat. Until a dis­ap­point­ing denoue­ment, acclaimed dir­ect­or Giuli­ano Mont­aldo builds palp­able ten­sion and the de-sat­ur­ated-to-almost-black-and-white pho­to­graphy makes Tur­in look like the fad­ing indus­tri­al power­house it is.

An inden­tured Chinese immig­rant forges an unlikely friend­ship with an age­ing fish­er­man in Shun Li and the Poet, win­ner of sev­er­al Itali­an film awards, includ­ing for lead act­ress Tao Zhao. The poet is played by famil­i­ar face, Croa­tian Rade Ser­bedz­ijia with a grizzled warmth that coun­ter­points the ugly, ignor­ant racism of his friends and the cold-hearted prac­tic­al­ity of the Chinese busi­ness­men. Dir­ect­or Andrea Segre uses the Chiog­gia set­ting per­fectly – an old world work­ing-class town on the Venice lagoon, its his­tory con­trast­ing with the faces of the new arrivals.

The only film in the fest­iv­al to have played here before is 2012 Ber­lin Golden Bear win­ner Caesar Must Die, but, from memory, it got a little bur­ied in last year’s film fest­iv­al pro­gramme and deserves more atten­tion than that. In it, a group of hardened pris­on­ers stage Juli­us Caesar. The film isn’t a doc­u­ment­ary, even though the per­formers are play­ing them­selves play­ing Shakespeare. It’s fas­cin­at­ing watch­ing the power rela­tion­ships of the cons (and ex-cons) mir­ror those of the characters.

For more inform­a­tion vis­it








Mr Pip

(Andrew Adam­son)


A year after its world premiere in Toronto, this adapt­a­tion of Lloyd Jones’ Book­er short­l­is­ted nov­el finally makes it to loc­al screens. Hugh Laurie stars as the teach­er who encour­ages Bou­gain­ville school­chil­dren to have Great Expect­a­tions. By many accounts it was the toughest loc­a­tion shoot in New Zea­l­and cinema history.






Machete Kills

(Robert Rodrig­uez)


A sequel to the bril­liant and under­rated com­ic thrill­er Machete, which con­firmed Danny Trejo as the hard­est man in cinema, our hero is fight­ing to save the plan­et from a mad man try­ing to launch weapons from space. This one boasts unlikely star power, with sup­port from Mel Gib­son, Charlie Sheen (as the Pres­id­ent) and Lady Gaga.






(Denis Vil­len­euve)


Denis Vil­len­euve made a splash in 2010 with the strik­ing Incen­dies, and his first Amer­ic­an fea­ture seems set to polar­ise audi­ences after launch­ing to acclaim at Tel­lur­ide and Toronto. Hugh Jack­man plays a dis­traught fath­er forced to become a vigil­ante and Jake Gyl­len­haal is the cop try­ing to stop him.





Bey­ond the Edge

(Leanne Pooley)


Wellington’s own Chad Mof­fitt plays Sir Edmund Hil­lary in the long-awaited 3D doc­u­ment­ary retell­ing of the almost mira­cu­lous first suc­cess­ful ascent of Everest. It’s already mak­ing waves at the Toronto Film Festival.





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