A high level of per-capita cinema-going (more than three tickets a year), the number of productions and co-productions (over two hundred a year), as well as the variety of films that come to the big screen, all make France Europe’s most cinema-loving country. This – together with its cultural and geo-historical proximity – is what makes it one of the traditional platforms for Italian cinema. Established, contemporary filmmakers, such as the highly popular Moretti, Palme d’or in 2001, but also Sorrentino and Garrone, are released more or less automatically.
What’s more, the great names that have established the worldwide prestige of the ‘Bel Paese’ never fail to draw their own audiences.
The analysis carried out by MEDIA Salles on the release of Italian films in the country of the Marseillaise in 2017 shows that companies like Tamasa, Les Films du Camelia or Les Acacias have specialized in the distribution of Italian film heritage, if Spring saw “Il posto”, “Detenuto in attesa di giudizio”, “Miseria e nobiltà” on the playbills, programming for August includes “Belle ma povere”, “Ginger e Fred”, “I magliari” and September “I fidanzati”.
But what are the prospects for more recent films and emerging filmmakers? We discuss this with Nicola Curtoni, a young Italian who crossed the Alps to study cinema arts in 2016 and has moved to the area of theatrical screening, to handle programming for the Cinema Manivel (5 screens + 2 under construction) in Redon, Brittany; he talks about his experience in the blog uncinemainfrancia.com
“In France closer attention is certainly paid to world cinema than in other countries: the investment in co-productions, even emerging cinema, is significant and audiences are extremely curious and pay special attention to films from neighbouring Italy. My personal experience shows me that spectators love special film genres, like “Suburra”, as well as works we might define as “arthouse”, especially if the actors are well- known. A good example would be “Le confessioni” by Andò with Toni Servillo.
The role of specialized distributors is fundamental, starting with Bellissima Films: Italian works only.”
Laetitia Antonietti, Head of Distribution for Bellissima Films in the French provinces says:
“As well as nostalgia for the golden years of Italian cinema, in films coming from the ‘Bel Paese’ the French look for something warm and Mediterranean, as well as expressive landscapes”.
Alongside this type of distribution – which has the merit of guaranteeing a constant supply of Italian productions – the presence of a network of theatres across the territory is also essential.
Thanks to dedicated screen-sharing – another key tool – they also manage to reach different audience segments, including fans of Italian cinema, even in small places far from Paris. With interesting returns, especially for low-budget productions that can also capture the taste and interest of French spectators. This applies to documentaries, too.
In this respect Curtoni adds: “Un paese di Calabria, which premièred in my cinema with the producer present, drew 150 spectators into the theatre.”
If the synergy between programmer and distributor is decisive at a local level, nationally festivals play a vital role in boosting the visibility of more recent Italian productions. To quote the competition – and perhaps an award – at the Cannes Festival is all too obvious, but just to be noticed in the Festival’s other sections is a first-class ticket for getting into the French arthouse distribution channels. The lms Curtoni appreciated at the last festival – “A Ciambra”, “Fortunata”, “L’intrusa”, “Sicilian Ghost Story” – already have a distributor. “Cuori puri”, too, which is a universal story, successfully told thanks to two highly credible leading roles, would work in movie theatres and I hope it soon finds a distributor,” adds Curtoni.
But Cannes isn’t all there is: in terms of festivals, a historical gateway for Italian films to access France is that of Annecy Cinéma Italien. In this pretty little lakeside town, significantly located halfway between Rome and Paris, the Peninsula’s productions have been presented ever since 1983.
The next festival, to be held from 25 September to 1 October, will be marked by an important new element: the director is to be Francesco Giai Via.
As well as taking up the discussion with what is contemporary in Italian cinema, an objective that is also of commercial importance makes its appearance in his programme: that of creating an “Industry” platform to facilitate exchanges and agreements regarding both distribution and production.
This is how the PRO version of Annecy Cinéma Italien comes into being. “ This will be a zero edition,” explains Giai Via, “designed to encourage participation and exchange between the producers and sales agents of the films presented at the Festival and those French distributors most attentive to Italian cinema. I particularly wish to emphasize that all eight films taking part in the competition devoted to first and second films by new filmmakers will be present with copies subtitled in French, thanks to the collaboration of Filmitalia.”
Annecy Cinéma Italien as a launchpad for the most recent Italian cinema, out to conquer Europe’s largest market. And the titles? Giai Via will be telling us that right after Venice (but there will certainly be room in his programming for several of the titles from the Festival)!