With the presentation to the press of the Casa Torino Film Festival, the run-up to TFF40 came to an end. It will begin (screenings, events, masterclasses) on November 25th with the opening ceremony at the Teatro Regio in Turin, for the first time also broadcast live on radio as part of Hollywood Party on Rai Radio3, dedicated to «a tale through music and images on the relationship between the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and cinema».
Last week, the opening press conference of the event took place at the Cinema Quattro Fontane in Rome, celebrating the important milestone of its fortieth edition, coinciding with the long-awaited emergence from the devastating pandemic nightmare.
The promoters unveiled an ambitious, varied and richly innovative program, both in terms of the films on offer and the spaces for interaction between artists and the public, laying the foundations for an edition full of expectations.
In terms of logistics, the first novelty is the Casa Torino Film Festival, which will be located in the Cavallerizza Reale, also the festival’s Media Centre, thanks to the collaboration with our University. The centre aims to become «the nerve centre of the festival where most of the meetings and events will take place», as the new artistic director Steve Della Casa presented it (in fact a veteran already at the helm of the TFF between 1999 and 2002, and one of its founders in 1982 under the impetus of Gianni Rondolino and Ansano Giannarelli). Moreover, as summarised by the president of the National Museum of Cinema in Turin, the TFF’s promoting body, Enzo Ghigo, the entire city will be involved through a «look of the city that will go beyond the usual festival spaces to dress up the squares and streets of Turin with real works of art, created by the brilliant graphic trait of Ugo Nespolo, who also signed the guiding image». A sort of urban mapping that has long been in vogue in large metropolises and is likely to appeal to visitors of all ages.
Many guests will arrive in Turin during the festival, well-known faces from show business, music, cinema and beyond. The legendary protagonist of A Clockwork Orange, Malcolm McDowell (who will receive the Star of the Mole, will be honoured with a retrospective and will hold a masterclass), Paola Cortellesi, Toni Servillo, Mario Martone, Paolo Sorrentino, but also Vittorio Sgarbi, the singer Noemi, the producer Marina Cicogna, Michele Placido, Sergio Castellitto, the former goal twins Vialli and Mancini, Simona Ventura and many others will be among the guests.
As far as the program is concerned, in addition to a competition of national and international previews divided into the feature, documentary and short film sections, a rich out-of-competition section stands out (for a total of 173 works, 81 of which are world premieres) ranging from the solo show of the young Spanish director Carlos Vermut to the Portraits and Landscapes category, from the more “committed” section (Of Conflicts and Ideas) to the New Worlds of Auteur, up to Crazies, an anthology of films on what is new in horror production worldwide, destined to send the multitude of fans of the genre into raptures.
Not forgetting Back to life (the restored films), High Noon (the misunderstood classic American westerns), the homage to documentary filmmaker/collector Mike Kaplan, and the unfailing Masterclasses, what stands out is the strongly heterogeneous character of a program aimed at highlighting first works as well as average genre cinema (plus the so-called B-series production but with cult-movie potential), trying to be «a festival that remembers the past but thinks of the future, a festival that is cultured but popular, research but fun. A festival that wants to be a party».
With a keen eye on contemporary issues such as environmental sustainability, gender violence, which will also be remembered by the event’s patroness Pilar Fogliati with the anniversary of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, the many guests who will meet the public «telling their ideas and their point of view» and the varied schedule, the director emphasizes the festival’s desire to combine high and low culture, aiming to involve professionals from the sector, the event’s loyal audience and those who, intrigued by the novelties, will be able to approach the event.
Translated by Federica Maria Briglia and Mattia Prelle
The cinema of Joanna Hadjithomas and Kalil Joreige – to whom the thirty-ninth edition of the Turin Film Festival dedicated a solo show and a masterclass, both curated by Massimo Causo – may lie between the beginning and the end of their artistic and cinematographic career. That means it is between the postcards of the opening credits of their first feature film, Around the Pink House (Al Bayt Al Zaher, 1999), and the box, the audiovisual archive of memory and remembrance that, like a very personal and foreign body, opens Memory Box (2021). Between these two extremes, within the more general framework of the history of Lebanon, of its destruction and of its reconstruction, there is a long and complex reflection on cinema, on the status of the image and, in particular, of the memory-image. When the past passes, the construction of a collective and shared memory becomes a difficult operation, which leaves enough room for memories and handy images that preclude the possibility of a complex narrative in favour of a superficial, conciliatory and pacifying narrative. This is what often happens after internal or fratricidal wars, which are followed by a reconstruction so fast that the past cannot be processed. This is also the case of Lebanon, considered the Switzerland of the Middle East in the 1960s: it was turned upside down first by a civil war and then by the conflict with Israel. The whole artistic parable of Hadjithomas and Joreige refers to this reality, and, in addition to cinema, crosses over into photography, performance arts and plastic arts. Their artistic parable contains its own moment of reflection and self-reflection. It is particularly evident in the performance Aida Sauve Moi, which makes explicit the questions that drive the expressive and creative urgency and necessity of the two directors: this is an indefinite and permeable border between reality and fiction, between personal experience and history. Their parable also contains the concept of latency, which is not only the physical, chemical and material concept of the negative impressed and never developed, but it also represents all the individual and particular latent stories, existing and never revealed, of the kidnapped and murdered Lebanese citizens, and of all the corpses that have never been found. Other elements included in their artistic parable include: the materiality of the image and of the testimonial object itself; the crossing and the attempt to take back public and collective spaces; and, finally, a boundless love for cinema. The last of these elements should be interpreted above all as an instrument of resistance and political commitment (in this regard, see Open the Door, Please , a passionate and cinephile homage to the cinema of Jacques Tati). Joanna Hadjithomas and Kalil Joreige’s one is a self-reflexive cinema that also reflects on the status of the images it represents. This cinema has its genesis precisely in the overexposure to stereotyped images, whether they concern the civil war or the 1960s, as witnessed during the masterclass entitled Memory Work – Resistant AestheticsinHadjithomas & Joreige’sworks (Rosita Di Peri also attended the event).
Actually, Around the Pink House has its origin in an earlier photographic project called Wonder Beirut. Hadjitomas and Joreige invented the figure of a Lebanese photographer, who immortalised Beirut in the 1960s and 1970s, before the civil war; the photographer then literally and materially burnt the buildings depicted on his postcards as they were bombed until the images were completely transfigured. The film does not tell the story of the Lebanese civil war, but rather the reconstruction of the capital in the 1990s, a period in which “the sound of bombs has given way to that of bulldozers” and in which the rubble shown in the background, physical and painful traces of a recent past, enters into a profound dialectic with the story of reconstruction and rebirth, which nonetheless involves the destruction of entire buildings. The maison rose itself is an archive of memory, of Lebanon’s history, a physical place that bears the marks of war, the memories of people who disappeared and the presence of refugees who were forced to leave their villages.
The maison rose is also an attempt done by a community to take its space back. This is the same public and collective space that Catherine Deneuve, the spirit of European cinema invoked in Lebanon as a foreign and empathetic body and led by Rabih Mrué (a recurring actor in the filmography of Hadjithomas and Joreige, he is a face that embodies the generational drama), wants to see but is prevented from doing so. Je veux voir (2008) is a journey through a country devastated by the conflict with Israel. It stems from the need to show unconventional images (i.e. different from those broadcast by the various television stations) and to investigate new places, in a sort of palingenesis of the gaze and images of war. While in Rounds (2001), the wandering around the city – a Beirut that uses the rubble of buildings to build new roads by the sea – programmatically precludes the vision of public and city space, which is relegated to an off-screen that is always overexposed. Kiam 2000 – 2007, which began in 1999 and ended in 2008, is also the ideal counter-field to Je veux voir, since the detention camp described in it is an absolute off-screen narration, which can be only imagined by the human testimonies of the internees who invite us to reconstruct it in absentia. The film opens, once again, to an explicit reflection on memory. In 2006, in fact, the camp was turned into a museum and, still in 2006, was bombed by the Israeli army. Made almost entirely with rigorous close-ups and extreme close-ups, these vicissitudes gave rise to the need for Kiam: the urgency of the testimony necessarily refers to the camp, to its presence, it summons it and ultimately affirms its existence.
Their cinema is constantly in communication with the absence and the missing pictures, both personal, as in The Lost Film (Al Film Al Mafkoud, 2003), and collective (The Lebanese Rocket Society, 2012). And the ghost – as the directors admitted more than once – is a recurring figure in Lebanese culture and in its people’s daily life. A Perfect Day (Yawmoun Akhar, 2005) deals with ghost stories: piled up corpses in mass graves that no one discovered during the reconstruction of Beirut liven up and expand the story, claiming through a deafening silence their existence and death. This is a matter of faith and persistence of memory, because who believes in the ghost’s survival will be able to see it and reunite with it, whereas who tries to forget is forced to roam along the streets of a city that cannot be owned and cannot be seen (the contact lens do not adjust the sight, they rather produce a twisted and hallucinated vision of Beirut). Moreover, the film is based on the story of Joreige’s uncle, kidnapped during the war and still “missing”; one day, after many years, the directors found an undeveloped photo negative, a latent and phantasmal picture. The decision of transforming the negative-in-power into image-in-act corresponds to the desire of bringing back to light a unique and universal story, both personal and collective, through different concrete manipulations of the film. This story carries the marks of history, of the flow of time. Similarly, the city of Smirne is, in its reconstruction, a physical trace of the history passage: in Ysmirna (2016) the comparison between the early 1900s city map and the modern one shows the temporal distance of a mythical city, told by Joanna’s family and the one of the poet Etel Adnan (both of them have never been in the city of, respectively, their grandparents and parents), through an oral storytelling that intends to be a reenactment of a past in which one can find their roots.
Hadjithomas and Joreige’s more than twenty years of artistic activities and personal experiences break into a Lebanese family migrated to Canada, in the form of a big cardboard box. The package from Lebanon is an archive containing letters, photographs, notebooks, recordings of radio broadcastings and undeveloped films (Memory Box is freely inspired by the mailing correspondence that Joanna had with a friend of hers who migrated to Paris, suddenly interrupted after six years). This is an archive that causes the explosion of the underlying conflicts between the three different generations and, at the same time, it’s responsible for the deflagration of the film. Even if most of the films by Hadjithomas and Joreige have a material essence (and most of the films shown during the retrospective were projected in 35mm), Memory Box has a digital concept. Alex, the daughter, edits and manipulates the civil war testimonies according to her own grammar, which includes smartphones, instant communication, digital post-production and immateriality. The distance in space and time, and the reconstruction of the 1980s through their icons are not nostalgic at all, they are just needed to testimony and transfer the story. The intergenerational confrontation (the grandmother, Maia; the mother, who represents the directors’ generation; and the daughter) is about approaching the story of Lebanon, and thus becomes a matter of identity and belonging, that is opening up several possibilities of the storytelling for those generations that never experienced the conflict and whose memory may be lost.
The one of Joanna Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige is an artistically and conceptually coherent career that finds its raison d’être in the moral duty of making concretely, materially and visibly collective and public what the passage of the story of Lebanon has discolored, as if the past were an unimpressed and undeveloped film. An idea of political and civic cinema, a product of more than twenty years of activity that displays in the intergenerational confrontation of Memory Box the need to narrate the past in order to live the present and to imagine the future once again.
Translated by Francesca Schiavello and Benedetta Di Fiore
It was 2019 when the Italian audience got to know the world that the debuting director Phaim Buyan brought to the big screen in Bangla, his first work: a gentrified, suburban, Roman world (the events of the film took place in “Torpigna”, short for Tor Pignattara), perfect for the zoomers generation; an ironic world, sometimes even cynical when it comes to the condition of second generation immigrants and their difficult process of integration; a world and an atmosphere perfectly recognizable by those born in the second half of the nineties onwards.
Slow panoramic scour a sidereal landscape, an expanse of mountains covered by snow and dominated by the wind. It is perhaps an alien territory that is at the center of El elemento enigmático, a hostile environment in which three men struggle to advance. Men in helmets and motorcycle suits, without face or voice (we under stand the dialogues only through subtitles), wandering aimlessly waiting for their own end. An atmosphere of suspension persist throughout the movie, a work difficult to categorize, halfway between storytelling and video art. Indeed, if it is possible to trace aspects dear to science fiction,such as the clash between nature and man, these are sucked into the omnipresent aura of mystery, a dense and at the same time impalpabile atmosphere, like the icy vapors emanating here from the rocks.
A bar, a few lights on: some dim colored neon-lights, the counter’s illumination, an old jukebox emitting a soft glare in a corner. Paul (Peter Outerbridge), the bartender, is about to close the place while outside in the night,a snowstormblows.All of a sudden Steve (RJ Mitte) bursts in,a wanderercarrying a story from a different bar, of a different bartender, of a different stranger brought there by the storm. From this first one, a lot more stories come up, while midnight approachesand someoneis relentlessly driving in the snow.
Red Aninsri opens with a dialogue between cats. They communicate through the most artificial of cinematographic techniques that allow them to speak: dubbing. No attempt to follow the expressions of their faces or their movements. The human voice adheres to their bodies forcibly asserting its technological superiority. That of Red Aninsri is a universe in which everything is exquisitely fake, where an incurable discrepancy remains between the images of the world and their sounds.
Among the films of this edition of the Torino Film Festival, Une dernière fois represents an anomalous object. Indeed, on closer inspection it does not often happen that a film defined as pornographic crosses the boundaries of sector events which although increasing still constitute a separate universe, well distinguished from generalist festivals. Let’s put aside the misunderstandings (and for some the hopes): Olympe de G.’s first feature film is not just sex, just as its purpose is not (only) to excite us. It is not because the sixty-nine healthy and wealthy protagonist Salomé (Brigitte Lahaie) has decided to die. And it is from this serene but irrevocable choice that sexual interactions are born, the succession of embraces in search of the right person with whom to live her “last time”.
February 6th, 1978 – On a sidewalk in Washington D.C., a body was found. It was Linda Lipnack Kuehl, a journalist who devoted the last ten years of her life to writing a (never finished) biography of the legendary jazz singer Billie Holiday. During her research, she interviewed dozens of people and investigated thoroughly on the singer’s life. The heritage she left is priceless: 125 audiotapes, 200 hours of interviews and a manuscript. Billie is the result of the analysis and punctual use of this unpublished material: a colossal project directed by James Erskine, who decided to create a documentary about the singer and then found himself in charge of a rare task, beginning with the purchase of this precious material from a collector in New Jersey.
Funny Face opens with the close-up of Saul (Cosmo Jarvis), an introverted boy from Coney Island, looking into the camera wearing a grotesque grinning mask. Like The Joker, even the protagonist of Tim Sutton’s new film is an outcast who craves revenge for wrongs suffered. The mask thus establishes a direct dialogue with pop iconology which, starting with Todd Phillips’ latest film (Joker, 2019), has made that smile a symbol of oppression.
Eighteen years after the last edition, the competitive section of short films returns to the Torino Film Festival. Two programs, twelve shorts chosen from more than 500 titles for six female directors and six male directors from all over the world. Very different talents compared to a heterogeneous parterre that combines a fascinating and precious variety of techniques and ideas. It is proof of the importance and strength of a complex and demanding genre capable of “giving back the cinematographic machine in a small way” at an international level, according to the recruiter Daniele De Cicco
Madagascar, third millennium. In a jam-packed prison whose inmates have to spend their hour of air in an incredibly lousy court, there is a prison guard who is tormented by the memory of her homicidal father, who was never captured nor prosecuted for his crimes. When one of the inmates claims that he met her father, the guard’s obsession becomes even more urgent.
“What is the cost of evoking pain, considering that it cannot be erased?”. If it is true that a photograph can stop a moment in time, Da lontano, più forte is a journey dotted with instants, memories and words, which revolutionizes the theme of coping with grief, giving it a new, more complete meaning. The director Annamaria Macripò leads us in a personal and intimate dimension, to discover a twenty-year-long diary (from 1998 to 2018), full of images and thoughts related to her mother’s illness and loss. It is all about welcoming pain -the keyword of the journey-, a full and deep acceptance of it as our own.
«Every noble, grandiose and impeccable instant is formed, filled, crumbled and recreated in a new instant that is created, formed, consumed, crumbled and redone in a new instant that is created, formed, filled, bent and connected to the next that announces itself, that is created, formed, filled and exhausted in the next that is born, that arises and succumbs and into the next that comes it arises, restores, matures and joins itself to the next that is formed… This continues without ending and stopping, without fatigue and accidents, with an immeasurable and monumental perfection» -Henri Michaux
«I wanted to do a show with a language I invented to bring people together for just one night. […] They insisted that I do it again but I didn’t want to». The theater of Jorge Bonino (1935-1990) is pure to the extent that every one of his works, words or actions is presence, an act inextricably linked to the moment in which it is expressed.
To die is not difficult. Difficult is the life of those who remain, after death has passed in front of them; and Mario learned this in the hard way..
Mario (the very young Thomas Prenn) is young and handsome and he loves to dance. But Mario is not Lenz (Noah Saavedra), the young promise of the country, even more beautiful and talented than him. Mario survived so he will be asked to the bitter end why he is not the one who died in place of Lenz, victim of an attack in Rome.
« There’s nothing mystic [in my cinema], please, try to understand. It is only about remembrance, preserving other people’s memory and knowing what to do with the past. »..
These words reveal the unpretentiousness of a great artist who has a clear aim: to use images to sculpt an irreversibly transformed world. The camera is the most suitable instrument for analysing the life of a country which is slowly forgetting about its recent past and starting to rediscover the joy of ancient times: an archaic love for life which regains its space on the movie film. Marcel Khutsiev, main director of the “new wave” developed in the Soviet Union following Stalin’s death, revives in the Back To Life section of the Torino Film Festival with his 1967 feature film Iyulskiy dozhd (July Rain).
During the winter of 1974, Werner Herzog travelled on foot from Munich to Paris to save his friend and mentor’s life, the film critic Lotte Eisner, who is critically ill. A symbolic act of love that the director told in the book Of Walking on Ice(Sentieri nel ghiaccio). In this documentary, presented out of competition in the section TFF Doc Paesaggio of 38° Torino Film Festival, Pablo Maqueda takes its cue from Herzog’s writing and retraces its steps in a journey halfway between the travelogue and the bildungsroman, which becomes an opportunity to reflect on the meaning of making cinema today.
A line, a cut, a shot. These are the means used by director Philip Rizk for his ambitious project to tell the long and complex history of colonialism and its consequences that keep tormenting the most fragile territories, which now lack sustenance and are left in chaos. A fate they share with America which was conquered by cowboys, and Syria nowadays.
In a former sugar factory that has been converted into laboratories for experimenting therapies capable of stopping aging, Dr. Ruben (Signe Egholm Olsen) conducts her experiments, financially supported by Thomas (Anders Heinrichsen). The theories of the doctor, specifically a veterinarian, allow her to soon find an effective cure only for men. However, therapy for women is not so immediate and requires additional research, which is performed on human guinea pigs – including Mia (Sara Hjort Ditlevsen), Thomas’s wife – who are kidnapped by Ruben’s two male assistants, the Dog and the Pig.
In the heart of the Appalachian Mountains, at an altitude of about three hundred meters, there is Talcum, a small, independent village. Brian Ritchie and his family have been living for decades here, where there used to be mines. They have seen the development of economic decline, environmental decay and social violence. Local people are called hillbillies, which means yokels, rednecks, a name that has become their identity. Among them, there’s Brian himself, who lives trapped between a mythical past and a future with no perspectives. He is one of the last witnesses of an endangered world, which serves as the inspiration for this poetry.
Divided into two separate programs of about one hour each, there are eight films that make up the competitive ITALIANA.CORTI section of the 38th Torino Film Festival. The variety of gazes is remarkable but perhaps there is a common thread that unites them and that must be sought in the attention that almost all directors turn to intimate and everyday stories, often able to rise, sometimes unexpectedly, towards the territories of epic. Above all they share a lively linguistic research which usually uses archival material, found footage, Super 8, or collage in the almost desperate experimentation of new expressive solutions.