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ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT

Five Must-See Films at the 2019 Lavazza Italian Film Festival

From a cross-cultural romantic comedy to a harrowing exploration of child trafficking trade in southern Italy.
By Sarah Ward
August 30, 2019
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Five Must-See Films at the 2019 Lavazza Italian Film Festival

From a cross-cultural romantic comedy to a harrowing exploration of child trafficking trade in southern Italy.
By Sarah Ward
August 30, 2019
  shares

What begins with a look behind the glossy facade of Italy's superstar footballers, ends with a wide-ranging homage to one of its biggest-ever stars, and also features everything from sordid political tales to striking crime dramas? This year's Lavazza Italian Film Festival, which tours Palace Cinemas' sites around the country from September 17. For over a month, it'll showcase Italy's latest and greatest flicks — and a few old favourites — to Australian cinephiles.

In the fest's 20th anniversary event, 26 new hits and classic gems will light up the big screen. Whether you're keen for a hearty laugh at a comedic delight, or can't wait to pay tribute to an Italian filmmaker like no other, they're on this year's festival bill. For all that and more, here are our top six picks.

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THE VICE OF HOPE

Whenever a film peers at everyday existence, exploring the reality of life among average, working-class and/or struggling folks, it owes a debt to Italy. As the Second World War came to an end almost eight decades ago, the country's filmmakers turned their attention to the plight of ordinary people, sparking the birth of Italian neorealism. Set in Caserta, north of Naples, and using dialogue largely in the dialect of the region, Edoardo De Angelis' crime drama The Vice of Hope carries on social realist traditions as it tells the tale of a woman (Pina Turco) caught up in the child trafficking trade. And, after De Angelis' 2017 Lavazza Italian Film Festival hit Indivisible, it continues the writer and director's spate of sensitive but powerful features.

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I'M NOT A KILLER

Across his two-decade career, Ricardo Scamarcio hasn't just become one of Italy's biggest cinema stars. He has also popped up in Netflix's Master of None — in its Italy-set scenes, naturally — and dallied with none other than John Wick in Rome-set sequel John Wick: Chapter 2. Now, he dabbles with a murder mystery, all thanks to the Lavazza Italian Film Festival's I'm Not a Killer. Scamarcio plays Deputy Police Superintendent Francesco Prencipe, whose best friend (Alessio Boni) is found dead the morning after the pair reunite for the first time in nearly two years. There's no prizes for guessing just where fingers start pointing. However, ranging beyond the obvious and questioning clues that seem to point in a clear-cut direction is what a good thriller is all about. I'm Not a Killer also marks the second stint behind the camera for Andrea Zaccariello, who switches genres after his 2013 comedy Ci vediamo domani.

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DON'T STOP ME NOW

Mid-life malaise meets the spy game in Don't Stop Me Now, an Italian comedy that promises something different within two well-worn genres. Films about folks wondering if this is all there is to life are as common as big-screen espionage escapades — that is, very — but director Riccardo Milani and actor Paola Cortellesi offer a new twist as the real-life couple bring the two together for their latest collaboration. Cortellesi plays Giovanna, an accountant and mother who seems stuck in a rut. At their reunion, her high-school best friends all seem caught in similar situations as well. But, despite her mild-mannered appearance, Giovanna is actually a secret agent, which means she knows how to bring a little spice (and disguises, country-hopping and all kinds of anarchic antics) to her pals' routine existence.

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THE CONFORMIST

Catching a classic film on the big screen is hardly a rare treat these days, but it's not every day that you get the chance to see Bernado Bertolucci's The Conformist in a cinema. First released in 1971, set in the 1930s and based on Alberto Moravia's 1950 neo-realist novel, the political drama follows the cowardly Marcello Clerici (Jean-Louis Trintignant) as he navigates life in Italy under the spread of fascism. When Clerici is tasked by the government with killing a political refugee, he agrees to the deadly deed, even though the target is his former college professor. In a movie that's equally smart, unsettling and expressive — and rightfully called a masterpiece — Bertolucci ponders just what kind of person blindly conforms to such a cruel regime, with ample assistance from his superb star Trintignant, as well as from acclaimed cinematographer Vittorio Storaro.

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BANGLA

When Bangla premiered at this year's Rotterdam International Film Festival, it earned comparisons to huge 2017 crowd-pleaser The Big Sick, and it's easy to see why. Phaim Bhuiyan, a 23-year-old first-time feature filmmaker, not only writes, directs and stars in this cross-cultural rom-com, but has drawn its honest and perceptive story from his own experiences as an Italian-born Muslim from a Bangladeshi family. When his on-screen character, who is also called Phaim, meets Asia (Carlotta Antonelli), their attraction is both instant and mutual. But his background — and, specifically, Islam's strict decree against sex before marriage — throws more than a few obstacles in the path of romance. The result is a keenly observed tale of multi-cultural life in Italy today, as told by someone who hasn't just been there and done that, but is still living through it.

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The Lavazza Italian Film Festival tours Australia from September 17, screening at Sydney's Palace Norton Street, Palace Verona, Palace Central and Chauvel Cinema from September 17–October 16; Melbourne's Palace Cinema Como, Palace Westgarth, Palace Brighton Bay, Palace Balwyn, Kino Cinemas and The Astor Theatre from September 19–October 16; Brisbane's Palace Barracks and Palace James Street from September 25–October 16; and Perth's Palace Cinema Paradiso and Luna on SX from October 2–23. For more information, visit the festival website.

Published on August 30, 2019 by Sarah Ward

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