Italy will be the country in focus at the next edition of Hot Docs, the most important documentary festival in America to be held in Toronto from April 25 to May 5: some of the most interesting recently produced titles will also appear under the spotlight, accompanied by the filmmakers.
This tribute follows the intensification of the relationship between the documentary cinema industries of the two countries which was also made possible thanks to the role played by La Compagnia, Florence, the only movie theater in Italy predominantly dedicated to the programming of documentary films (and one of the few in the world, together with Hot Docs Ted Rogers in Toronto, Bertha Doc House in London and the Maysles Documentary Center in New York).
It was actually two years ago, just six months after the inauguration of the Florentine movie theater owned by the Regional Government of Tuscany and entrusted to the Fondazione Sistema Tuscany (FST) (which took place on October 27 2016) that the first twinning project was carried out between Quelli della Compagnia and Hot Docs which subsequently evolved and was brought to fruition through Docxchange, the platform that networks the four movie theaters scheduling documentaries during the screening period.
“The intention was to share the scheduling, the data regarding the performance of the various titles, the contacts with the international producers or distributors, the launch, communication and film promotion strategies. We are working on the first shared communication packaging and the docexchange.org website is in the process of publication” explains Camilla Toschi, programming manager at La Compagnia.
“The idea promoted by the project is to give credit and space to a genre that has equal merit to drama features but is more difficult, especially in Italy. The network concept becomes pivotal for this reason.”
This is how Tuscany has become a kind of successful island, because, Toschi maintains, “it has created a market space with an audience that has developed a passion and responds positively. You only need to look at the results and the theaters competing for the movies.”
In 2018 La Compagnia hosted 865 screenings of 94 documentaries in 261 days and was the junction point in a network of 63 arthouse city and regional cinemas “that we support financially with an annual ad hoc open call with the Gli Imperdibili [Unmissables] project with which, in collaboration with AGIS, ANEC, ACEC and FICE, we circuit rare, restored quality movies; with desk services and coordination activities for promoting the more difficult titles, for example and, in some cases, also in order to cover the hospitality costs of any guests.
Being a public entity, our objective is not to compete with exhibitors but to provide support and, I have to say that, also thanks to the resources made available, Tuscan exhibitors have done a remarkable job.
Looking at the Florentine market alone several different movie theaters manage to coexist (the Cinema Stensen, the Spazio Alfieri, the Cinema Odeon) without disturbing each other, scheduling experimental cinema all year round and offering a very high quality cultural product, contributing to the formation of an increasingly inquisitive audience.
And there are also a lot of regional entities that function well, I am thinking of the Cinema Le Fornaci in Terranuova Bracciolini, the Cinema Borsalino in Pietrasanta, the Arsenale in Pisa, or the area of the Val d’Elsa which hosts the Multisala Naturale created by Mario Lorini, president of ANEC, a network of theaters in the region that are all at a distance of less than 30 km from each other and share the programming and communication.”
Not restricted to documentaries, La Compagnia is also the home of international festivals: it hosted 14 of them in 2018, with 416 screenings in 70 days, an increase of 8.1% compared to 2017.
“The Regional Government (FST through Sensi Contemporanei) decided to support the festivals which do not pay to rent the theater which receives all the takings!” continues Toschi. “In addition to this support, we rent out the theaters for exhibitions and conferences that are in line with our cultural project. There has been a considerable increase of around 17% in these rentals in the last year.”
The two souls of La Compagnia, documentaries and festivals, are becom- ing increasingly merged also thanks to the Guarantee Minimum project, the experimentation of which began in 2018.
Toschi explains: “At La Compagnia we schedule some titles that we feel are suitable for traditional commercial release and then we propose them to other movie theaters at facilitated conditions. Often it is the festivals that notify us about the movies that could follow this route. We negotiate the international distribution rights with them in order to have the national premiere at the festival (often we take on the cost of the copy or subtitles – in the form of a non repayable grant), then we reschedule them at La Compagnia with 4-5 releases and, according to the results, we present them to the other theaters. In the best case scenario, between the first and the second phase an Italian distributor intervenes and decides to acquire the title.
This is what happened with “Kusama Infinity” released in the cinema in March with Wanted and selected for Lo Schermo dell’Arte, with “Studio 54”, which was presented at the Festival dei Popoli, our New Year’s Eve event, that will be presented again by BIM with a traditional release in all the theaters. “Love Cecil” will also be released with Wanted, another title from Lo Schermo dell’Arte, while we have negotiated the rights to schedule, after the summer, “The fourth estate”, one of the highlights of the Festival dei Popoli, about the work of journalists on the New York Times during the first 100 days of Donald Trump’s presidency.” Completing La Compagnia’s schedule are the screenings for families and schools carried out in collaboration with Lanterne Magiche.
Last but not least are the productions in the region supported by the film commission and financed through the Sensi Contemporanei framework program funds.
In this regard, at the end of April there will be a new open call in support of productions which, last year, was aimed at documentaries but this year will be directed towards works of drama.
We try to alternate the support between reality and drama cinema while confirming that our support for documentaries remains constant, first and foremost on the distribution and promotion front, through the activity of La Compagnia,” reveals Stefania Ippoliti, the Cinema Area manager of FST at the Mediateca Regionale Toscana/Toscana Film Commission. “We are completing the drafting of the Regulations with the Regional Government and with Sensi Contemporanei.”
The allocation will be around € 400,000 and a small part will experiment with the idea of public administration commissioning: “the objectives of particular interest will be indicated, the priorities on which we will put a funding fiche for development. Without, obviously, entering into the creative part, we will suggest topics we believe are worth further examination. These could be Humanism, the Renaissance, to cite some themes we have already worked on with the Medici, and with Leonardo Da Vinci, for example, and for which we believe there is decidedly a need at this time.
Nella sezione: Focus on italy