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On Feb 8, the 7th New Mexico Film and Cultural Festival returns!

From February 8 to February 16, Italian Festivals of New Mexico is hosting the 7th NM Italian Film and Cultural Festival. This is a wonderful event that celebrates Italian film, food, dance, art, and music. All films are in Italian with English subtitles. Here’s a link to the festival’s website.

Italian Film & Culture Festival 2014
Italian Film & Culture Festival 2014
Courtesy of the Italian Festivals of New Mexico
KiMo Theater
Lindsay Waite

The Italian Festivals of New Mexico is a nonprofit organization that presents entertaining and inspiring Italian culture while at the same time raising funds for the University of New Mexico Children’s Hospital. More information on its mission can be obtained here.

Tickets are $10 for single films and go up to $275 for an All Festival Pass (that includes the opening KiMo concert, the reception at the Andaluz, the Sunday Festa, all the film screenings, and Il Gran Finale). Tickets can be purchased online, or at the various venues. Also, you can get program and ticket information at The Cardenas Art Center, 1101 Cardenas NE. Program booklets about the Festival are available on the second floor of the Art Center.

Films are selected each year by a committee. This year, as explained by board vice president Dan Puccetti, the films chosen are current ones, produced between 2007 and 2011, in order “to offer the viewer a slice of current Italian life.” The board members of Italian Festivals of New Mexico, along with several dozen volunteers, work tirelessly to present this celebration of Italian film and culture.

Prior to several screenings, there is a special feature - including photos set to music of anthropologist and photographer Donatella Davanzo, award-winning music videos of screenwriter and director Elena de Candia, and music of singer John Zito (of the 1960s pop group the Valentinos) on Valentine’s Day.

The Hotel Andaluz is the official partner, offering discounted room rates via this link and a setting for the Opening Gala reception on February 8th.

The festival’s Opening Gala begins at 4:00 pm on Saturday, February 8 at the KiMo Theater, 423 Central Ave NW, with a concert. Interesting to note, the KiMo was built by an Italian immigrant (Oreste Bachechi) who arrived in Albuquerque around 1885. In fact, a large number of Italian immigrants from the Tuscany region came to Albuquerque at the end of the 1800s through the early 1900s.

Tickets for the Opening Gala at the KiMo range from $15 to $50 and can be purchased online or at the theater. Entertainment at the Opening Gala includes performance of a number of Italian opera choruses by the New Mexico Symphonic Chorus under the direction of Roger Melone, a traditional Italian folk dance performed by the Keshet Dance Company, and a greeting on film from the Italian men’s choir, the Coro Illersberg di Trieste. A cash bar that includes wine from Casa Rondena Winery is also available.

At 6:00 pm on February 8 at The Hotel Andaluz, 125 Second St NW, there will be a Gala Reception. These tickets are $125, which includes a $50 KiMo concert ticket. Included at the reception are a display of paintings and sculptures of the festival’s Director-in-Residence and guest of honor, Demetrio Casile. Here's more information about this director, from the festival's website.

Music at the Gala Reception will be performed by the Eleganza String Quartet and appetizers, desserts and Antinori wines will be provided.

Next on Sunday, February 9, there is The Sunday Festa - Tango Nights in Venice - at the South Broadway Cultural Center at 1025 Broadway SE from 1:00 pm to 4:30 pm. Tickets are $45.

Italian filmmaker Donatella Davanzo’s photography exhibit, “Tango Dancing in Venice” will be screened first. Next, follows the film “Io Sono Li” (Shun Li and the Poet), filmed in the coastal town Chioggia, often called “Little Venice.” After this screening, there will be a Tango demonstration (and a lesson, for those willing) by Double Time Dance Studio in a lovely setting with appetizers and Antinori wines.

This first film of the festival - “lo Soni Li” - explores the relationship between a young Chinese woman named Shin Li (Tao Zhao) and a fisherman. Shin Li is forcibly removed from her homeland and her son to work as a bartender in Chioggia. Bepi (Rade Serbedzija), a Slavic fisherman nicknamed "the poet," patronizes this bar and gradually a friendship develops between the two, upsetting both the Italians and the Chinese communities. Tao Zhao received the best actress prize at Italy's 2012 David di Donatello Awards. Check out the trailer (above left) to get a glimpse at the extraordinary beauty of this film.

Also, Santa Fe residents take note. There are some special events for you also on February 9. "lo Sono Li" will be shown at The Screen on the campus of Santa Fe University of Art & Design followed by dinner at Osteria D’Assisi. Here is a link with more information about the Santa Fe events.

On Tuesday, February 11 at 5:00 pm at the Scalo Northern Italian Grill, 3500 Central Avenue SE, there is a cash bar reception for Donatella Davanzo, the festival’s official photographer. Her photo exhibition video, “Carnevale in Venice” will screen before that evening’s feature film.

Following this reception, at 7:00 pm at the Guild Cinema (right across the street at 3405 Central Ave NE) , “Matrimoni e Altri Disastri” (“Weddings and other Disasters) (Italy, 2010) screens. This romantic comedy, directed by Nina di Majo, focuses on Nana (Margherita Buy), an independent woman who manages a bookstore and lives with her cat. She is thrust into the role of wedding planner (aided by her future brother-in-law) for her sister, and a series of comedic plot twists begin. Check the festival’s website for a link to the Italian trailer for this film.

Wednesday, February 12, beginning at 7:00 pm at the Guild Cinema, first is a video short, Elena de Candia’s music video, “Lascia che me lasci andare” 
(“Let me lose control”). Then, “Terraferma” (“Solid Land”) (Italy, 2011) screens, a highly-acclaimed film directed and written by Emanuele Crialese. People living on small island south of Italy suffer because the fishing business is declining. Meanwhile, though, African immigrants who flee political and economic difficulties are seeking refuge in boats. Ernesto (Mimmo Cuticchio), an elderly fisherman, knows that the law forbids him from rescuing any of the immigrants. When Ernesto sees several drowning, including a pregnant woman and her son, he saves them. The consequences to Ernesto play out in this film as he decides to offer the woman and her son shelter. The festival’s website includes a link to the Italian trailer.

On Thursday, February 13, 2014, beginning at 7:00 pm at the Guild Cinema, another video short of Elena de Candia, the music video “Sciami” (“Swarms”), plays first. 

Then, “Giorni e Nuvole” (“Days and Clouds”) (Italy, 2007) is featured. Directed by Silvio Soldini, this drama is about a couple that has it all. Elsa (Margherita Buy) and her husband Michele (Antonio Albanese) agree that she can leave her job to pursue studies in art history. Their situation changes, though, as Michele loses his job and has a luckless search for a position. Can their relationship survive? This film has won numerous awards, including Best Film, Best Actor, and Best Actress at the 2008 David di Donatello Awards. An Italian trailer and more details are available on the festival’s website.

There is a special free screening and discussion on Friday, February 14 at 2:00 pm at the African American Performing Arts Center, 310 San Pedro NE. The film, “Melina con Rabbia e con Sapere” (“Melina with Anger and with Knowledge”) (Italy, 2012), is about a teenager with big dreams (Giovanna Cacciola). There are many obstacles in her way, but Melina persists. This heart-warming film, set in Calabria, was selected by the Italian Ministry of Culture as a film of national cultural importance. The writer / director Demetrio Casile (from Calabria) will be at the screening to talk about his film. More information and the Italian trailer are on the festival’s website.

The evening of February 14, beginning at 6:00 pm, and also at the African American Performing Arts Center, is a Valentine’s Day celebration. There will be desserts, Italian soft drinks, chocolates, and a cash bar provided by The Cooperage.

Then, at 7:00 pm, Neapolitan love songs will be performed by Albuquerque musician John Zito. And of course, what else can be presented later that evening but a romantic comedy? Following the music is the film “EX (Tanti Baci Dopo)” (“Many Kisses Later”) (Italy, 2009), a story about six couples who intermingle between Christmas and Valentine’s Day. Yes, there are many kisses, much comedy, and drama as well in this entertaining film that was a huge hit in Italy when released. More info about all the Valentine's Day events and the Italian trailer are on the festival’s website.

On Saturday, February 15, there are 3 films and a Bocci Tournament.

First is the Marchiondo Family Bocce Tournament. It runs from 10:00 am until approximately 5:00 pm at the Albuquerque Convention Center, 401 Second St NW. 80 entries are available and advance registration is required. The entry fee is $40 per person or $80 per team. Plus, there are prizes. Spectators are welcome, and there is also food, beer, wine, demonstrations, and lessons. Here’s a link for details and registration information.

Also on February 15, at 1:00 pm and 6:00 pm at The Guild Cinema, you can watch another music video of Elena de Candia - “Lampioni di Sole a Milano” (“Streetlamps of Sun in Milan”). Then, “Immaturi” (“The Immature”) (Italy 2011) is shown. In Italy, final exams are called Maturity Exams. This film brings seven former high school friends back to re-take their Maturity Exams due to some administrative glitch. When they pass, the reunited friends plan a trip to a Greek island. How time and age changes people is explored in this comedic look at friendship and life. An Italian trailer and more information is on the festival’s website.

Finally, on Saturday, February, 15, at 3:30 pm and 8:30 pm, “20 Sigarette” (“20 Cigarettes”) plays following another screening of Elena de Candia’s music video short Sciami” (“Swarms”). Filmmaker Aureliano Amadei co-wrote and directed this semi-autobiographical account about an Italian filmmaker who gets an opportunity to shoot a film in Iraq in 2003. Actor Vinicio Marchioni portrays Amadei in this film that looks at war, death, heroics, truth, and lies. This first film of Amadei has been lauded for its production, direction, editing, and acting. More details and an Italian trailer is here.

Sunday, February 16, is the last day of this festival. At 1:00 pm at the Guild Cinema, is “Il Gran Finale.” This is a unique event in which a film is screened, and then there is an intermission. The audience is directed across the street to Scalo Northern Italian Grill at 3500 Central SE for a glass of wine and a treat. Tickets are $55 and this has been a “sold out” event, so get your tickets early.

Prior to the feature film, Donatella Davanzo’s photographic exhibition, “Carnevale in Venice” is screened. Then, “Solo Un Padre” (“Just a Father”) (Italy, 2008) plays. This is part romantic comedy and part drama, centering on the life of Carlo (Luca Argentero) as he struggles with the death of his wife, leaving him alone to care for his newborn daughter. When Camille (Diane Fleri) enters his life, things begin to change. Directed by Luca Lucini, this film is based on Nick Earl’s 2001 novel, “Perfect Skin.” The festival’s website provides more detail and the Italian trailer.

Don't miss this celebration of the Italian cultural contributions as seen through an Albuquerque lens. Check out the festival’s website for more details and to purchase tickets online.

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