English version | What happens at an Italian film festival

Door Redactie op

We’re sitting on the warm stones of Piazza Maggiore. It’s a Wednesday evening, and together with six thousand people on the square we’re all looking at one screen. Who says that black and white film is boring? The laughter of the audience, as Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin are getting themselves in precarious situations, and the standing ovation at the end, for the Teatro Comunale orchestra – who played the original music live during the screening – proof enough. This is the thirtieth edition of the film festival Il Cinema Ritrovato in Bologna, and EXPOSED was there.

What to choose?
If you’ve never been to this festival, this is how it works: with five screens throughout the city centre, 500 films are screened from June 25th till July 2nd. Overwhelmed by this wonderful program, we mark the movies we want to see. And so we arrive slightly sweaty at a screening of “Reflections in a Golden Eye” [1963] on our second day.

And we’re so happy with this choice. This film, about Marlon Brando and Elizabeth Taylor as military power couple in a ruined marriage pushes – for that time – the boundaries of a Hollywood production, with nudity, a gay storyline and querying what ‘the’ norm and what masculinity is.

Filling that square
This is not the only screening this week where we see a full house. How does the organization succeed in making this festival about old movies appealing to a large audience? Programmer Guy Borlée gives us the answer when he visits us for a Q&A. According to him, it is about building a relationship with the public. “When we started thirty years ago, a screening on square with 2.000 viewers was already spectacular. Last night there were 6.000.” How did he manage to build that connection with the audience successfully? “The presentation is important – the quality, the music. Then it does not matter if a film is old or new, the magic is still there. But also because we’ve been organizing this festival for so long, the public knows that they can trust our programming.”

The festival cannot exist without the film archives, says Borlée. Four of the five hundred films they show this year are derived from international archives. One of those films is ‘Who’s Crazy’ from 1965. The film won a prize at Cannes, but then fell into oblivion and disappeared, says Guy Borlée. After an intensive search the film has recently been found.

Film smuggling
One film was even smuggled out of Cuba, he says. This year there is in fact a special programming around Cuban films before and after the revolution. However, the Cuban government prohibited films leavings the country. That brings us to Memorias del Subdesarrollo, a Cuban film from 1968. Havana is degenerated as “a provincial town”, and the main character – a middle class intellectual whose friends all fled to Miami, wanders around the city, begins an affair with a girl. The film cuts back and forth with experimental political footage.

While we process our impressions with a drink in the courtyard of Cinema Lumière, there suddenly gathers a group of people around an old man in a wheelchair: it’s Bernardo Bertolucci [The Dreamers, Last Tango in Paris]. Old but still popular, just like the rest of the festival.

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