Lavazza Italian Film Festival

Film, Film festivals
Fortunata Italian Film Festival
Photograph: Supplied Fortunata

Top international festival finds have already been announced for the 18th local feast of Italian cinema

If you’re a film lover in Australia then you probably owe a debt of gratitude to the Zeccola family without knowing it. Brothers Antonio and Franco Zeccola arrived in Melbourne in 1957 at age 14 and 12 and went on to open cinemas for the purpose of screening Italian films to migrants.

Sixty years later Antonio is the grandee of the Palace Cinemas dynasty and one of his daughters, Elysia Zeccola, is the director of the Lavazza Italian Film Festival, which Antonio founded in the late 1990s.

“I grew up watching foreign language films from a young age,” says Elysia. “I’ve always loved that unpredictability of not knowing where the film is going. To this day I don’t like formulaic mainstream films."

The festival ambassador for 2017 is the great Italian-born actor Greta Scacchi. Scacchi arrived in Australia at the age of 15 and brought all kinds of vicarious glory to us when she went to the UK and became a film star at age 23 in the Merchant Ivory classic Heat and Dust (1983). She went on the enjoy an illustrious film, TV and stage career.

Scacchi has a key role in Tenderness, a powerful and moving drama about an ageing lawyer in Naples who befriends his neighbours with unforeseen results. She'll be on hand to discuss the film with Time Out after the screening on Wednesday September 13. Tickets are still available to that session.

Another highlight is Fortunata starring Jasmine Trinca, who won the Best Actress Award in Un Certain Regard at Cannes and the Best Lead Actress Award at the more recent Nastri d’Argento Awards. Sergio Castellitto’s film is the emotionally charged tale of a single mother fighting for her independence.

A major hit in Italy is It's the Law, a comedy is set in the Sicilian village of Pietrammare where the leadership of a corrupt mayor is set to be challenged. 

Messy Christmas tackles religion and diversity with its tale of the search for a baby to play Jesus in the annual nativity scene on an island that has no Christian babies available for the part.

The Great Beauty's Toni Servillo stars in Let Yourself Go as a Jewish psychoanalyst who lives on the same floor as his ex-wife and who meets Claudia, a personal trainer who will change his life.

We haven't had a good body-swap comedy for a while so Wife and Husband could be just the ticket. Pierfrancesco Favino (Suburra) and Kasia Smutniak (Perfect Strangers) star as Andrea and Sofia – after ten years of marriage they are on the verge of divorce when a scientific experiment leaves their bodies seemingly irreversibly swapped.

Benedict Cumberbatch narrates documentary Naples '44adapted from British Intelligence officer Norman Lewis’s memoir. Lewis entered war-torn Naples with the American Fifth Army at the end of WWII.

Director Gabriele Muccino (The Pursuit of Happyness) delivers Summertime, in which a gay couple living in San Francisco takes in two teens traveling from Italy to start a new life in America.

French-Italian pop diva Dalida gets her own biopic starring Sveva Alviti as the tragic singer who performed in more than ten languages and sold over 170 million records.

Buy tickets and read more about the festival here.

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