While there is a lot in this article that is true there is also a fair bit of liberty taken. Firstly, our distributors - Palace Distribution from Australia have been extremely helpful. There was no difficulty in sourcing product - the only reason I programmed 5 films that had previously screened at the International Film Festival in 2015 was because I LOVED THEM. Bill Gosden does a brilliant job at curating the International Film Festival and I wanted to see those films again and to encourage friends to see those films they had missed. Perhaps it was a little narcissistic for me to screen my first feature film in my first film festival but..... I get to screen my first feature film in an Italian Film Festival that I run! And with Rebecca's Crossing Rachmininoff, about an Italian-New Zealand pianist, again, a fantastic film that should be given more screenings. We need to support New Zealand filmmakers and if I can do that as part of the Cinema Italiano Festival then I will.
And as for calling the showing of Italian films in NZ "a burden' - well it's not. Partnering with quality and generous sponsors is absolutely integral to the success of running a film festival - it is not a partnership that I intend to become nonchalant about. I want to thank every business and every person that has helped Renee and I embark on this journey. Certainly challenging but come on - I get to watch and share Italian films with people - whats not to love!
Come and see some Italian films and show your support
Ci vediamo a presto
Cinema Italiano Festival Article in The Herald - April 28, 2016
In Italy, they would probably say Paolo Rotondo is "pazzo", which means crazy. The Neapolitan-born actor and director has, with his wife Renee Mark, shouldered the burden of the Italian Film Festival laid down by previous director, Tony Lambert.
Lambert pulled the plug following the 2014 festival - his 14th in charge - after losing about $200,000 trying to keep the event afloat; it had been in survival mode, he said, and it was to be "consigned to the history books".
But Rotondo, whose debut feature, Orphans & Kingdoms is in cinemas now, said his love forthe cinema of the country where he was born - and the urgings of friends who said "Paolo, do something!" - forced him to pick up the challenge.
"Growing up Italian in New Zealand - I came here when I was 11 - I was very proud of my heritage. The festival was where I got my fix of 'Italian-ness', and I went to just about every one of the films in the old Italian festival."
Rotondo, who attended university in Italy, was the inaugural recipient of a scholarship for Italian filmmakers which took him to the fabled Cinecitta studios in Rome. Italian films don't typically reach cinema screens here. Distributors in Australia who have the regional rights are reluctant to undertake the expense of publicising a release in such a small market unless the film has substantial box-office potential.
This difficulty of sourcing product is perhaps reflected in the line-up: five of the 21 features have screened in recent midwinter festivals and two New Zealand pictures with an Italian connection (Orphans & Kingdoms and the documentary Crossing Rachmaninoff) have played here.
But the programme has a good cross-section of drama, romcom and documentary, together with a masterpiece from the past; a remastered Bertolucci's 1970 adaptation of Alberto Moravia's The Conformist with Jean-Louis Trintignant.
Of particular interest is a new film by the octogenerian Taviani brothers, Paolo and Vittorio, whose Padre Padrone was a high-water mark of the 70s. Last seen in the 2012 festival with the wonderful Caesar Must Die, about a production of Julius Caesar in a prison, they are represented here by Wondrous Boccaccio a dramatisation of five of the stories from The Decameron.
"I can't imagine they'll be doing many more films," says Rotondo. The Decameron is to Italian literature what Chaucer is to English and I think that mash-up of masters is outrageously beautiful."
The film that most surprised him is Bella Vita a surf documentary. "For a start, I didn't know there was surf in Italy," he says. "The Mediterranean of Naples is like a lake. But the film is about an Italian-American who reconnects with his whakapapa in Italy through surfing. I found it surprisingly moving."
Even more improbable is a Mafia comedy, The Mafia Kills Only In Summer which was in the main festival last year. "It's such a gem," says Rotondo.