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ELYSIA ZECCOLA Lavazza Italian Film Festival interview

The Lavazza Italian Film Festival opens at Cinema Paradiso and Luna on SX today. From September 21 to October 11 it will provide a wealth of current Italian cinema. DAVID O’CONNELL had a talk with festival director Elysia Zeccola, about what we could expect at this year’s event.

Zeccola has been involved since the beginning of the festival. She grew up ripping tickets and serving choc tops in the Palace cinema chain, and it was herself and her father, Antonio Zeccola, that launched the first Lavazza Italian Film Festival almost 20 years ago.

So how many years does this make for the Lavazza Italian Film Festival?

This is the 18th year of the festival. We opened in 2000 in Melbourne and Sydney, and on the second year it went national. So this will be the 17th year for Perth.

And you’ve been involved since the beginning?

I’ve worked on it since the first year. Makes me feel a little old, but time flies when you are having fun.

Who’s the special ambassador for this year’s festival?

She’s actually got a Perth connection. It’s Greta Scacchi, and we’re glad to have her on board as our Festival Ambassador. She is of course known for many films. She has an international career, she’s made Hollywood films like Presumed Innocent with Harrison Ford, and Australian Films like Looking For Alibrandi. Her new film is called Tenderness, and it’s screening in the festival this year, and it’s the new Gianni Amelio film. She will be in Perth for a Q&A on September 23.

I should mention, that Greta was born in Milan, but moved out to Perth when she was 16, with her mum. So she spent some formative years in Perth, and feels quite Italian Australian.

What would be your recommendation for films to see this year?

Indivisible in our centerpiece film and it is really a stunning drama. It’s about two conjoined twins, and their father is really exploiting them. They sing at baptisms and weddings etc… At one of these events there is a doctor that asks, why they haven’t been separated. Then they start to ask questions as to why they’ve never been separated, and the father of course gets angry about it as it is a threat to his livelihood. One twin wants to fall in love for the first time, and do normal things. While the other is concerned about being separated. It’s a really interesting multi-layered film, that has won awards across the world. It’s really cinematic. It’s a little dark and twisted, like a dark fairy tale, but it is a rewarding cinema experience.

I should mention Emma, which is so new that it’s only getting it’s world premiere in Venice as we speak. and will be screening at the festival a week later, and it is the new film from Silvio Soldini who directed Blood and Tulips. Great film, great director-and it’s a romantic drama.

Should I mention something funny?

It’s the Law (L’ora legale), it’s a really funny comedy set in Sicily about a town where a corrupt mayor has had things operating in such a corrupt fashion for so long that when the new mayor starts to shake things up and do everything legally, the town does it know what’s hit them.

Are there any trends that are coming through, either in genre or themes, in Italian cinema at the moment?

The re-occurring theme is definitely about the unemployment issue in Italy at the moment. You can see this in films in the festival, especially  Sun, Heart, Love.

What do you find distinctive about Italian cinema?

It is how Italian films are non-formulaic, they never end as you expect them to. There’s also an eye for beauty with the cinematography – which is usually quite strong. There’s lots of things that make an Italian film worth seeing.

Finally, I should ask what the classic film is this year?

The closing night film is Life Is Beautiful, as it is the 20th anniversary. I can’t believe it is 20 years since it is release, with Roberto Benigni jumping on the chairs at the Academy Awards.

There’s 28 films, a diverse mix, so people can pick what interests them.

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