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Six Must-See Films at the 2018 Italian Film Festival

Including a mafia musical, an unhinged horror classic and a crime flick that won its canine cast awards at this year's Cannes Film Festival.
By Sarah Ward
September 11, 2018
By Sarah Ward
September 11, 2018

Still basking in movie-filled memories from this year's Sydney Film Festival or Melbourne International Film Festival? Counting down the days until this year's Brisbane International Film Festival? Either way, take comfort in this nugget of cinephile wisdom: there's always another film festival around the corner.

The next fest hitting screens is the Italian Film Festival, which returns from September 11 and October 24. 2018 marks the event's whopping 19th year, and to celebrate, it's taking a lineup of 37 features and two short films — including 33 Australian premieres — around the country.

Like the hearty Italian food you're going to be craving after each session, the festival serves up quite the feast —  think political dramas and time-bending fables, detective thrillers and madcap comedies, and new award-winners and old classics as well. From all of that and more, we've picked six flicks that you shouldn't miss, including movies with adorable dogs, mother-and-daughter dramas and unhinged horror, just for starters



With political scandals oh-so-frequently splashed across news headlines, the Italian Film Festival's opening night pick couldn't feel more relevant. In fact, it's drawn from the real-life political scandals surrounding former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. Acting legend Toni Servillo steps into Berlusconi's shoes at a time when the infamous figure was experiencing woes in both his personal and professional realms. Exploring the impact of power both on those who have it and those who want it, it's a weighty recounting of a true tale — and with so much to cover, it's hardly surprising that it runs for two-and-a-half hours. Still, with The Great Beauty and The Young Pope's Paolo Sorrentino in the director's chair, not a moment will be wasted. The filmmaker isn't known for wasting any one of his gorgeous images, either.



Thanks to Dogman, Gomorrah's Matteo Garrone gets back into the crime game — but with dogs. The writer/director's newest feature follows a dog groomer who gets caught up in the antics of one of his customers, a petty criminal, and is forced to react to his new situation. Star Marcello Fonte won this year's best actor award at the Cannes Film Festival for his leading performance, while, unsurprisingly, the entire canine cast won the fest's coveted (and cute) Palme Dog award. Italian crime dramas are no stranger to our screens, but this one certainly doesn't follow in the usual two-legged or four-legged footsteps. Amazingly, it's also based on a true story.



Not only one of the best Italian giallo horror films of all time, but one of the best horror films full stop, Suspiria dances with death within a prestigious German academy, just as an American ballet student arrives for a stay. It's the type of movie that, if you haven't already seen it, you'll want to discover the full wonders of its plot for yourself — but let's just say that Dario Argento's colour-saturated classic doesn't follow the expected fancy footwork. Closing out this year's Italian Film Festival with a gorgeous new restoration, this screening of the 41-year-old flick also couldn't come at a better time. In November, a remake by Call Me By Your Name's Luca Guadagnino hits cinemas, starring Tilda Swinton and Dakota Johnson. Even if the new version sits at the top of your most-anticipated list, you owe it to yourself to watch (or re-watch) the original first.



Love and Bullets does the one thing that every other mob effort doesn't. As great as Goodfellas, The Sopranos, Gomorrah and the like all are, none of them combine their crime chaos with song. It's more than just an intriguing concept, with the mafia musical picking up five David di Donatello awards — aka Italy's version of the Oscars — including best film. Story-wise, filmmaking brothers Marco and Antonio Manetti take their cast through the aftermath of a big mob boss' death. Yes, as you can no doubt imagine, it's a comedy. The movie also nabbed gongs for best music, song and costume design, so expect it to look and sound a treat as well.



In 2015, Italian filmmaker Laura Bispuri and actress Alba Rohrwacher teamed up for Sworn Virgin, a compelling, moving film about an Albanian woman who vows to live life in the mountains, without sex and as a man rather than adhere to traditional views about female subservience. Their second collaboration, Daughter of Mine, also explores ideas of femininity, but in a vastly different way. It's also excellent, and exceptionally acted. As the title suggests, motherhood is in the spotlight as Rohrwacher's strong-willed Angelica and Valeria Golino's more traditionally maternal Tina grapple not only with each other, but over what's best for ten-year-old Vittoria (Sara Casu). As a Sardinian summer rolls by, the secret that connects the trio is thrust out into the open, as is a tussle between nature and nurture that shapes a young girl's journey of discovery.



As well as starring in Daughter of Mine, Valeria Golino steps behind the camera with Euphoria, her second feature as a filmmaker. In the process, she directs one of Italy's undeniable stars, Riccardo Scamarcio — who has credits in everything from John Wick: Chapter 2 to Master of None, and also appears in Loro. Scamarcio plays entrepreneur Matteo. He couldn't be more different from his brother Ettore (Valerio Mastandrea), but when they're forced to reunite, it isn't just a case of sibling rivalry. With the usually naturalistic and vibrant Golino helming, the end result shouldn't just serve up the usual family drama either.


The 2018 Italian Film Festival tours Australia between September 11 and October 24, screening at Sydney's Palace Norton Street, Palace Verona, Palace Central and Chauvel Cinemas from September 11 to October 7; Melbourne's Palace Cinema Como, Palace Westgarth, Palace Balwyn, Palace Brighton Bay, Kino Cinemas and The Astor Theatre from September 13 to October 7; Brisbane's Palace Barracks and Palace Centro from September 19 to October 14; and Perth's Cinema Paradiso and Luna on SX from September 27 to October 17. For more information and to buy tickets, visit the festival website.

Published on September 11, 2018 by Sarah Ward
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