This article originally appeared in
June 26, 2007
Italy's fest sked a mixed blessing
Plethora of events makes it difficult for any one to stand out
By ERIC J. LYMAN
ROME -- Paramount's decision to use the TaorminaFilmFest earlier this
month as the launch pad for its big-budget action flick "Transformers" is the
opening salvo in a battle between the growing number of Italian film festivals
to set themselves apart from the crowd.
Italy's film festival calendar may
be more crowded than any other,
with established fests such as
Venice, Taormina and Turin all
battling for audiences and
Also in that mix is the deep-
which will hold its sophomore
edition in October, and scores of
second-level events including the
Far East Film Festival in Udine, the European Film Festival in Lecce, the
Milano Film Festival, the Pesaro New Film Festival, the NapoliFilmFest, the
SalentoFearFest, and the Potenza International Film Festival -- none of
which existed a dozen years ago. And more are joining the fray: The Drake
Film Festival opened Saturday, and the Italian media regularly runs stories
about new events in the works.
Each is taking high-profile steps to differentiate itself from its rivals: In early
June, for example, the Coen Brothers went to the NapoliFilmFest to receive a
prize, and the 37th Giffoni Film Festival announced that actor Danny DeVito
will emcee its opening in July.
Last year, Rome and Venice clashed over the timing of announcements
about top-shelf stars at each event, and Turin put itself on the map this year
by naming prize-winning Italian auteur Nanni Moretti as artistic director.
For film distributors, the selection of festivals can represent an
embarrassment of riches.
"Put it this way: Anyone wanting to screen a film in Italy won't be at a loss as
to how to do it," said one U.S. distributor on hand at the Taormina festival. "A
distributor just starts at the top and goes down the list until somebody says
they'll take it."
While that might be good news for distributors, insiders say it's probably
less positive for the fests themselves.
"They are making these festivals because there is a demand, and the
quantity shows that people want to go to them," said Tullio Kezich, veteran
movie critic at the Corriere della Sera, who began covering Italian film
festivals with Venice in 1946. "But you only have so many good films, and so
after a point festivals are forced to lower the bar in order to fill out their
Dirk Schurhoff, head of German sales group Beta Cinema, predicts the
problem in Italy will worsen.
"The various Italian festivals are definitely cannibalizing each other,"
Schurhoff said. "There is a real question whether we need so many big
festivals in Italy and -- with Rome and Venice -- why they are so close
Most Italy-based industryites declined to speak about the subject on the
record, but, privately, the consensus is that at some point in the future the
rise in the number and scope of festivals in Italy will slow and, eventually, a
few insiders predict that some festivals may be forced to close, merge or
The problem is most acute in the fall, when festivals have clustered both
because venues are more readily available and because it positions films to
attract attention ahead of the busier winter months and to be fresh in the
minds of voters for the following year's Oscars and other prizes such as
Italy's David di Donatellos.
Kezich said there were 21 film festivals in Italy during the three-month period
from August to October last year, making the period that includes both
Venice and Rome particularly cut-throat.
But according to Richard Borg, UIP-Italia's managing director and one of the
people responsible for bringing "Transformers" to Taormina, the calendar
can be a benefit for a festival that goes against the tide.
"The summer blockbuster film has been a regular thing in the U.S. market,
but it is just arriving in Italy," Borg said. "That trend can help festivals that are
positioned as a springboard for the summer season."