From the Venice’s Leone d’Oro (“Sacro Fra”) to the Oscar for best foreign film (“La grandebellezza”), and up to the recent CannesGrand Prix (“Le meraviglie”), Italian cinema has enjoyed a packed season of international acknowledgements. An industry that produces content for exportation and that in recent years has become a showcase for Made in Italy abroad and given impetus to the country. A crucial role in Italy’s foreign promotion efforts is played by its network of cultural institutes, embassies and consulates, and the Italian experts that collaborate with them. These include critic, historian and producer MarcoMüller, Director of the Rome International Film Festival who, in the month of April worked with the Italian Cultural Institute of Oslo on the event “Rome in Cinema/Cinema in Rome”, a series of screenings and encounters centred on the Eternal City.
From Russia to China: Italian Cultural Institute promotion andforeign market penetration
“Cinema can speak in a very modern way about the beauty ofItaly”, Müller said in an interview conducted by the MFA Multimedia group and PEI News at the headquarters of MIBAC Directorate General for Cinema in Rome.
In Oslo “we started thinking early on about mapping out the city, we chose a variety of Roman films shot and made in the capital”. The importance of the events organised by the various Italian Cultural Institutes (IIC) “is enormous, and the results show; every time one or two films manage to find major distributors in markets that Italian cinema has had difficulty penetrating in recent years. We have worked with the IIC network in such a way as to select the films that could best work for that particular country”.
Describing contemporary crises
Contemporary Italian filmmaking’s dynamism is confirmed also by the way it describes modern-dayeconomic, urban, humanitarian crises. “Italian cinema”, Müller explains, “has diversified its approach to realism. We can see the proof of that in “SacroGra”, which does not pretend to explain or outright criticise or complain, but simply to depict reality, to lead viewers to think, to make an effort. Italian cinema is able to photograph what is happening around the country and to express human emotions and experiences, without hopping on the typical political band-wagons”.
Winds of revolution in cinema
Müller also reflects on foreign filmmaking from Europe to the Middle East and the Mediterranean. He analyses the new input that the winds of revolution have brought to cinema and the filmmakers dedicated to telling the story of the complex transitions they have witnessed first-hand. “It is always difficult to talk about crises while they are happening, to find enough distance; to elicit emotion you can’t stay on a subject too long. You have to find the proper distance, which is that of cinema”.
The next Rome Festival
Müller’s next undertaking is, in fact, the Rome International Film Festival, of which he is Director. The selection of films to be screened “should try to form the most variegated picture possible. We will not be forgetting documentary film, since luckily there is lots going on in that area. Over recent years, we have brought some very young directors onto the international scenario as a result of the Rome festival. Films that began on the festival circuit and that have had the possibility of making it into various markets”, such as China. And speaking of China, he recalls the “the experience with Anica: we created a focus on the Chinese market at the Rome Festival and a dozen or so real distributors came, not just the businessmen that show up sometimes, but people curious about Italian cinema and who bought Italian films, mostly comedies. Anyone who plans a macro-event like this festival has to be careful not to put up barriers, there has to be a good dose of the kind of cinema that isimmediately involving, entertaining and appealing. I would not have imagined that our new comedic cinema would have hit the mark in countries so far away, and instead it’s happened”.
“State of Health” of Italian cinema
Finally, a look at the “state of health” of Italian cinema: on the one hand marked by years of under-financing and, on the other, by the emergence of new talent, and the affirmation of some of our most celebrated filmmakers. Müller explains that “from the economic point of view”, the models to look to are those of France and the UK. “The French”, he says, “can bask in the glory of having a cinema well-supported and sustained in all phases from shooting to promotion, there’s always the possibility to get help from the government. In Italy at this moment the government has yet to decide how much the FUS (funding for entertainment) will be this year andis still deciding on how to re-launch cinema and live entertainment. Unfortunately, we can be sure that this year we won’t come up to the amounts that France is able to donate to its artists and producers. Italy needs to strengthen the economy, is seeking to cut back and optimise, and on the basis of this perhaps some thought can be given to different and innovative measures to promote Italian cinema, even on the international scenario. In the UK,Müller adds, “an important role is played by State television channels, which cannot even be compared with the efforts of RAI Cinema, whose budget is one-third that of British television. It would be great also if Sky and Mediaset would start taking a chance on Italian cinema, and not only in the pursuit of traditional genre and subgenre works”.