Turin Film Festival artistic director Stefano Francia di Celle on the reboot of the preeminent independent cinema event in Italy

The 39th edition of the Torino Film Festival, Italy’s premier event for young directors and independent cinema, kicks off on Friday with the international premiere of “Sing 2”. This is the country’s first festival held in venues with 100% seating capacity since the COVID-19 strike, and it will be will also be the first edition in person assembled by artistic director Stefano Francia di Celle, who debuted last year with an online event, due to the pandemic. Di Celle is now restarting Turin for the current digital age.

The festival, which gained international notoriety under the current Venetian summit Alberto Barbera, has always aimed to give visibility to promising newcomers. These include Luca Guadagnino, Michelangelo Frammartino (“Il Buco”) and Pietro Marcello (“Martin Eden”), who received a crucial boost from their launches there. Di Celle’s vision for the future, he said Variety, is rooted in what he calls his “militant” tradition, but he’s also more open to mainstream films and daring experimental works.

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Edited excerpts from the conversation.

Turin has long been known as a global independent filmmaking space where Italians have the opportunity to emerge. What is changing under your watch?

The internet has dramatically broadened the possibilities for everyone to access independent and auteur films, but at the same time, it has changed the habits of the cinephile. It was the basis of our work before the pandemic. After nearly two years of a pandemic, with a huge acceleration in Internet movie viewing, this is something we have to grapple with more than ever. Organizing a festival in November 2021 means reconnecting with the tradition of defending cinemas, looking for new authors in the world and leaving room for Italians who make their first films.

Why did you choose “Sing 2”, for which director Garth Jennings comes, as the opening?

We chose it mainly for three reasons: it is a film aimed at many different audiences; it’s very sophisticated narratively; and it’s a hymn to return to the movie theaters. Thematically, this is also a group of artists who want to emerge and improve their possibilities to express themselves artistically – and do so very boldly, just like our writers who often experiment in difficult production constraints. Then there is also the fact that Garth Jennings started very young with his own independent company in the UK and was able to rally Universal on his impressive debut in “Sing”.

Tell me about the celebrations of Monica Bellucci in Turin

One of the films that is already making the buzz is “The Girl at the Fountain” by [newcomer] Antongiulio Panizzi in which Bellucci plays Anita Ekberg. It is a dialogue between the cinema of yesterday and today and also a dialogue at a distance between two divas who have known – and in the case of Bellucci still knows – a great celebrity. Which, as often, prevented them from expressing themselves differently. The film is the perfect tool to celebrate Monica Bellucci with our Stella Delle Mole Award for Artistic Innovation at a time when she is experimenting more than usual.

You also celebrate Lebanese duo Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige, who recently made “Memory Box” from newspapers and audio recordings they made when they grew up in 1980s Beirut, with a retro feel. Why?

They link the Turinese tradition to the new frontiers of cinema. They alternate between cinema and visual arts, which gives them a broad vision of the potentialities of visual arts and cinema in terms of culture and politics. Their work is centered on memory and resistance; on the capacity of cinema to confront the burning and tragic themes of contemporary reality. This retro is part of the militant section through the festival that can also be found in the documentary sections (international and Italian).

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