The twentieth edition of Giornate degli Autori is just days away, with a program featuring several titles that attest to the courageous spirit of an independent cinema that is growing along with Giornate and other events around the world. This year’s lineup brings together films from different latitudes, filtered through the sensibilities of filmmakers with just as different backstories. Whether dramas or comedies, in B&N or splashy pop colors; fantasy pictures or costume dramas, what all these films share is the urge to destroy the world as we know it to build a better one. They aspire to an empathy that goes beyond strife, and their love of cinema rings loud and clear.
The fourth film by Japanese filmmaker Kyoshi Sugita – a revelation at numerous festivals the world over, thanks to his previous work Haruharasan no uta (2021) – Following the Sound is about empathy and altruism. In one scene, Sugita has his characters use the video camera as a way to reevoke their memories. The solitary young woman who is the lead character of this story observes pain in the faces of strangers lonely themselves, who turn into people she knows and can embrace.
Spanish filmmaker Víctor Iriarte is making his feature directorial debut with Sobre todo de noche, after filming a number of shorts and serving several years as head of programming at the cultural center Tabakalera in San Sabastián. A mother is desperately seeking her son, who was stolen at birth: a story inspired by 300,000 such cases of missing children that have made headlines in Spain for decades. It’s a film about grief, the desire for vendetta, and the humanity inherent in women. Yet it also exudes its writer’s love of cinema itself, in its blend of genres on display and in the life of the young co-star/son, who explains how he has imagined his own mother all his life, in all the films he has ever gone to see.
In the black comedy Humanist Vampire Seeking Consenting Suicidal Person by Canada’s Ariane Louis-Seize, the gaze of the young, suicidal Paul, one of the two lead characters, turns hopeful, and a shy smile appears on his face, when he glimpses an old film camera in Sasha’s room – Sasha being a vampire who over-empathizes with humankind. Indeed, references to film and the filmic imagination abound and culminate in a finale that is a nod to a genuine classic in the science fiction film genre. With its fondness for self-referencing and its dark humor, the film is a paean to women’s empowerment and the freedom of choice, at any cost.
Backstage, the Moroccan film co-directed by Afef Ben Mahmoud and Khalil Benkirane, uses a car accident as a pretext to turn the camera on a dance troupe off-stage. The backdrops for their dance performance consist of video installations of natural landscapes on fire, heaps of garbage, and an environment being destroyed, superimposed on the troupe as the film progresses. The images on the screen of their show turn into a place for the dancers to face their own private sorrows.
Italy’s own Tommaso Santambrogio inaugurates the Giornate competition lineup with Oceans Are the Real Continents, his first film in a neorealist black-and-white about anticipation, in a constant metaphorical switching between real life and theater, or the concept of play, and storytelling in all its forms. Santambrogio chooses Cuba as the location for the film, while two other Italian titles at Giornate this year have turned to France (Gianluca Matarrese’s The Zola Experience) and Brazil (Edoardo Morabito’s The Outpost). All three filmmakers have made an important contribution to the internationalization of Italian cinema, now exploring new places, new languages, and production options.
One forerunner of this trend is Luca Guadagnino, who has spent twenty years broadening the frontiers of Italian cinema by taking it beyond the national borders. He will be honored at Giornate 2023 with the SIAE Andrea Purgatori Lifetime Achievement Award, a tribute to his accomplishments as a writer and director.
And then there’s Greek filmmaker Zacharius Mavroeidis who takes on the very idea of filmmaking and crafts his third feature film The Summer with Carmen. It’s a queer comedy bursting with humanity, in which the clichès of gay comedy are turned on their head thanks to the two mostly swimsuit-clad leads, intent on writing the film of their lives. All against the backdrop of Athens’ beaches, flings that start, others that cool off, Georges Bizet’s Carmen, and the clueless canine co-star.
After serving as Jury President at Giornate 2022, Céline Sciamma returns this year with a remarkable gift for us: a highly personal short film about encounters, real or literary as they may be, between poetry and a film legend of the likes of the beautiful Kim Novak. It’s a love letter and at once a farewell to Italian poet Patrizia Cavalli, whose own home and store of memories the French filmmaker has explored in This is How a Child Becomes a Poet.
Teona Strugar Mitevska is also bidding adieu, one year after her The Happiest Man in the World premiered at Venice in the Horizons section. Her goodbye to the world involves the world she destroys in 21 days Until the End of the World, in a message written by a movie camera trained on herself for 21 days, taking the form of just as many themes that speak of the filmmaker’s idea of freedom, her weaknesses, and the meaning of her protest.
Giornate reaffirms its commitment to cinema written and directed by women and to the environmental issues that many films in the official selection and in Venetian Nights take to heart; moreover, Giornate’s curiosity and investment in new filmmakers is there for all to see. As it was twenty years ago, when Jean Marc Vallée was on hand at Giornate for the world premiere of his C.R.A.Z.Y. On August 31st, in a partnership with SODEC (Société de Développement des Entreprises Culturelles), the Quebec delegation in Rome, and production companies Item 7 and Attraction, Giornate will pay homage to the Quebec filmmaker who died last year with a special evening event and preview of the restored version of C.R.A.Z.Y.