Italian Film Festival 2016

Sept 14th – Oct 9th

A world premiere of the first-ever Australian-Italian co-production is just one of the highlights of the 2016 Lavazza Italian Film Festival, which kicks off at Palace Norton Street on September 13. There’s plenty more too, once again this year movie lovers will be spoilt for choices of the very best Italy has to offer.

The Space Between, a love story set in spectacular northern Italy, is set to be one of the hottest Festival items, though the opening’s night’s dark comedy, the award winning Perfect Strangers, will be a hard act to follow. So will some of the other special presentations and highlights featured on this page, like the hilarious smash hit comedy Where Am I Going.

The rest of the program is divided into three sections. It’s Complicated consists of eight films all about relationships. And in Italy they’re always complicated. Italy’s best-known leading ladies get their own section, Donne Italiane and finally, Lights, Drama, Action! contains many mainstream thrillers and offbeat dramas, like the topical Arianna, which sensitively explores what it means to be born intersex.

For more information on this year’s festival, a full programme of all the films screening at all venues, details of all special events and to buy tickets, head to

★ Thanks to Palace Cinemas and the Lavazza Italian Film Festival,we have 10 double in season passes to give away in this issue and the next. See our Giveaways page for details.


World Premiere: The Space Between

The launch of Melbourne filmmaker Ruth Borgobello’s The Space Between, the first ever Australian-Italian co-production, is the next big event after the opening. The film tells the love story of a former chef and a spirited Australian girl. It’s set in the stunningly beautiful vineyards and mountains of Northern Italy in Friuli Venezia Giulia.

Ruth was drawn to the country of her father’s birth at age 22, and as she told Ciao, was quickly seduced by the light, style and energy of Italy. “It was a very emotional moment,” she says. “And it was at this time that I met my future husband and the idea for this film was born.”

Getting it made took quite a while. “Australia and Italy have very different approaches to co-productions, as well as financing and overall working methods,” she says. “That makes it very difficult to match up.” But after several successful shorts and setting up the production company Mondo Studio Films, The Space Between was finally ready to roll.

Flavio Parenti, who many know from I am Love, was cast as the lead. He plays Marco, a 35-year-old who, despite his skill as a chef, has to hold down a dead-end factory job in Udine amid the deepening economic crisis in Italy. He passes his time in an empty relationship and after his best friend Claudio is killed in a car accident he tries to keep Claudio’s struggling bookshop business alive. Then he meets Australian girl Olivia (Maeve Dermody), an aspiring furniture designer who is visiting Italy, the land of her father and grandparents.

“Fortunately, there was an instant chemistry between Flavio and Maeve when they met,” Ruth says. “The spark deepened between them on set, making my job easy. It’s always a risk, casting love interests in two different countries and relying only on instinct to get it right.”

Though the title suggests there may always be a gap. “That’s not really the cultural distance,” Ruth explains. “Actually it symbolises the space between dreams and reality. The heart of the film is really this intersection between love and loss – the birth of a relationship that collides with the departure of another.”

That sounds teary, I suggest. Will we cry? “I hope so!” Ruth laughs. Or more likely discover, as the LIFF guide explains, “a celebration of the spirit of la dolce vita – a stylistically and emotionally beautiful film appealing to the romantic in us all.”

The Space Between premieres at Palace Norton Street on Wednesday Sept 14 at 7pm. After the film there’s a Q&A with the director Ruth Borgobello and lead actress Maeve Dermody.


Opening Night Gala: Perfect Strangers

The brittle and fiendishly clever comedy Perfect Strangers, directed by Paolo Genovese, opens the festival on a deliciously dark note. A dinner party descends into chaos and backstabbing when a group of friends decide to make every phone call and text message public over the course of one evening. The cunningly crafted script won Best Screenplay at Tribeca Film Festival, and on its home turf the film itself scooped up Best Film and Best Screenplay at the 2016 David di Donatello Awards.

Tuesday 13th Sept at Palace Norton Street, 7pm


Mid Festival Party: Where Am I Going?

Quo Vado? is the highest grossing Italian film ever and the country’s second biggest box office hit (Avatar only just pipped it). Co-writer Luca Maedici stars as his satirically comic character – Checco Zalone, a bigoted but hilarious nitwit who just wants what all Italians want – a cushy job in the public service and a big pension!

Thursday Sept 22 at Palace Norton St, Limoncello di Capri cocktails and music from 7.15pm.


Closing Night: Roman Holiday

Rome gets plenty of lens-love in movies, but rarely has the city been portrayed quite so wonderfully as in William Wyler‘s 1953 hit rom-com. This was the film that sent Audrey Hepburn‘s star soaring when she was teamed with Gregory Peck. It’s still a magnificent crowdpleaser, as this sublime digital restoration shows.

Sunday Oct 9 at Palace Norton St. Italian fine wines, gourmet ice cream and music from 5.15pm.




Direct from Cannes: Fiore

Variety cheekily labeled this socio-realist chicks-in-the-slammer story “Arancione is the New Black” and fair enough, there’s plenty of similarities between the two crowd-pleasing dramas. But Claudio Giovannesi’s smoothly directed movie has something better than the hit Netflix series – its beautiful young star, newcomer Daphne Scoccia, who is both haunting and mesmerising throughout. She plays a new inmate navigating her way through life in a tough juvenile detention prison, and eventually finding love inside. From the looks of this Italian facility, it’s not so bad – certainly nothing like the horrors we have in the Northern Territory! ★★★★


Direct from Venice: The Wordly Girl

An official selection in competition at Venice Film Festival, Marco Danieli’s passionate debut feature will screen here in Australia at LIFF just days later. It’s an intense and moving story of the tormented love between the deeply religious Giulia (Sara Serraiocco) and Libero (Michele Riondino) – two young people from diametrically opposite worlds. Slowly Guila becomes completely cut off from the reality she once knew. ★★★★


Special Presentation: Rocco And His Brothers

When the avowed Marxist Luchino Visconti’s epic melodrama about social migration and moral decay was released in 1960 it was met with scandal (labelled “obscene”) – and massive box office success. Viewers today of this beautifully digitally restored version won’t understand that fuss, but will still be left reeling by its operatic power and explosive climax. It may feel a little overwrought, but there’s no doubting this is a classic, easily the equal of his own latter better-known masterpieces, The Leopard and Death in Venice. ★★★★★


Festival Centrepiece: Sweet Dreams

We know Italian men love their mammas, and if Marco Bellocchio’s dewy-eyed adaptation of journalist Massimo’s Gramellini’s best-selling autobiography is any guide, all that emotion can become obsessional and even a bit debilitating. Still, you may need to bring tissues; even hard-nosed critics at Cannes, where the film just opened the Director’s Fortnight, were moved, calling it “remarkable” and “beautifully crafted.” (The Film Stage). ★★★★


Australian Premiere: The Italian Race

For a high-adrenaline action movie, Matteo Rovere’s latest packs quite an emotional punch as well as being nail-bitingly exciting. While veteran actor Stefan Accorsi does most of the heavy lifting (he plays a former champion GT racing driver, now a destitute drug addict), it’s 17-year old newcomer Matilda De Angelis who plays his resourceful younger sister who really impresses. What a firecracker! Could she be the next Jennifer Lawrence? ★★★★