Coming up in The Season at Villa La Pietra, the World Premiere of PBS biographical film of Sammy Davis Jr. directed by Sam Pollard and written by Laurence Maslon, who will be in attendance to present the film. It is the first documentary to examine the personal and artistic identity of this extraordinary entertainer in the context of the social and racial evolution of the 20th Century.
Sammy Davis Jr. (1925-1990) “was the ultimate hipster, who lived at both the margin and the center, who indeed brought the margin to the center of American life.”
– “Rat Pack’s Sammy Davis Jr. Lives on Through Daughter’s Stories”, NPR, May 8, 2014.
The film screening will be followed by a conversation with Laurence Maslon.
A crowd of people were already overflowing onto Via Camillo Cavour from the packed Cinema La Compagnia when I arrived. It was strange to see the area so lively, especially on a Tuesday night. April 4th was the opening of this year’s Middle East Now film festival in Florence. Marked by a musical performance by Bachar Mar-Khalife and a screening of Last Men in Aleppo by Firas Fayyad (the winner the Sundance film festival), the festival had drawn in Florence and all of the seats in the cinema were filled from 9pm to midnight. I could go on for hours about the rollercoaster of emotions Last Men in Aleppo put me through, but I think it is better for everyone to watch it for themselves. Read more
Middle East Now is back in Florence from April 4 to April 9 2017, with 44 films and a full program of events, special projects, talks and meetings. Cinema wise, Syria, the highlight of this edition, will be portrayed through multiple documentaries, short films, installations and talks, starting with the opening film-documentary “Last Men in Aleppo” by Feras Feyyad and Steen Johannessen, winner of the Grand Jury Prize at the last Sundance Film Festival. The film programme also includes beautiful stories by female directors. To name a few: the Lebanese dark comedy “Solitaire” by Sophie Boutros, from Tunisia the beautiful feature film “Foreign Body” by Raja Amari, co-starring the great actress Hiam Abbass, and many more.
Nicole Miller was born in 1982. Belonging to the ‘Millennial generation’, she grew up during the ‘digital explosion’, and maybe this can help us understand her decision to use an electronic art form for her project.
Simply by seeing images extracted from her video, you can get a sense of the preconceptions and bias people may have of the man portrayed. The man is seen jerking his head, seemingly undergoing body spasms and manic-like episodes, from states of extreme joy to extreme anger and/or pain. And the first impression the video usually makes is that of a mentally ill man undergoing a manic attack. Read more
Documentary filmmaker Daphne Matziaraki followed a Greek Coast Guard Captain for 3 weeks as he and his team rescued refugees from the sea off the Greek Island of Lesbos, 4.1 miles from the Turkish coast. Her documentary short film was nominated for a 2017 Academy Award.
“When I returned home to Greece last fall to make a film about the refugee crisis, I discovered a situation I had never imagined possible. The turquoise sea that surrounds the beautiful Greek island of Lesbos, just 4.1 miles from the Turkish coast, is these days a deadly gantlet, choked with terrified adults and small children on flimsy, dangerous boats. I had never seen people escaping war before, and neither had the island’s residents. I couldn’t believe there was no support for these families to safely escape whatever conflict had caused them to flee. The scene was haunting.”
Congratulations to Syrian photographer Issa Touma for winning the British Film Institute’s 2016 Award for Best Short Film for his ‘9 Days – From My Window in Aleppo’. The film chronicles the start of the Syrian uprising in the city of Aleppo. Entirely shot from his bedroom window over the course of nine days, he presents an unparalleled, unprecedented angle of this war.
Jury president Mat Kirkby said: “Not only does his documentary show what one person, one camera and a restricted view of an alleyway can do to reveal something as complex, confusing, and terrifying as a civil war, but also it demonstrates the power of film to reach the wider world, and make those of us more fortunate re-assess the freedom we take for granted.”
The film has just recently received a nomination for a European Film Award.
Italian Ghanaian director and activist Fred Kuwornu will come to Villa Sassetti at 6 p.m. on April 21 for the dialogue “Diversity in the Film Industry,” part of the “Race, Racism and Xenophobia in a Global Context” series that NYU Florence is organizing this semester. Kuwornu will present his documentary “Blaxploitalian: 100 Years of Blackness in the Italian Cinema” (2016), which explores the careers of black actors in Italian film. The documentary’s website describes it as “a call-to-action for increased diversity” and more dignified roles for these actors. Read more
Misan Sagay is a British screenwriter whose credits include the screenplay for the ABC television movie based up Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God, starring Halle Berry, and the 2013 film Belle. Sagay’s work on Belle won her the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Writing in a Motion Picture.
Belle is a period drama inspired by a painting of Dido Elizabeth Belle, a woman who was born to a slave mother and British naval officer father, and raised by her grand-uncle William Murray, First Earl of Mansfield.
Read a Huffington Post article Sagay wrote about the process of bringing Belle to the screen: http://huff.to/1j0e8Ad
This week New York filmmakers Elizabeth Hemmerdinger, Anne De Mare, Kirsten Kelly and Laverne Berry are joining us to present award wining film The Homestretch, about the problem of youth homelessness, and works in progress including Dance with Me “a universal story of children struggling to be accepted for who they are, not for what they look like or what they cannot do as easily as their peers.”