Preview: Italian Film Festival


18 November 2016, Buzz Cardiff Features

The Italian Film Festival (IFFC) in Cardiff began last year with the simple aim of moving beyond La Dolce Vita. Aware that many people knew nothing more about Italian cinema than Anita Ekberg dancing in a fountain or Federico Fellini suffering from severe writer’s block, the Italian Cultural Centre Wales set out to blast their ignorance; they decided to illustrate the daring, innovation and originality of contemporary Italian film in a week-long festival across two Cardiff area venues – the Chapter Arts Centre and the Penarth Pier Cinema. The festival premiered films ranging in themes from poetry to gender and migration, and focused on productions with a strong emphasis on new narrative forms and cinematography.

The result was better than they could even have hoped:  all the screenings sold out (a rare thing for any film festival) and the daily Q&As had a strong turnout. Building on this success, the Italian Cultural Centre have partnered with a number of other Italian Film Festivals – including the Maratea Film Festival and the VART in Cagliari – to return the IFFC this November with an even bigger programme.

The festival will launch on with a screening of the latest film from legendary Italian director, Ermanno Olmi, who is famous for his work examining the business world and later films exploring religious and social themes. The festival also offers a preview of an upcoming exhibition of the work of artist and illustrator Silvano Beggio, featuring his character Melanzasca – a toy inspired by the Italian punk scene and legendary bandit, Vallanzasca.

This year’s festival also aims to showcase the work of a new generation of Italian filmmakers by presenting some of their most recently celebrated pieces of Italian cinema. Across the five day event, there will be eleven films screened across two different venues in Cardiff, and a number of actors and directors will speak at their daily Q&As. The Sardegna Film Commission and Lucania Film Commission will also be present at the festival to showcase their films to the festival goers. The festival promises cinephiles an unrivalled opportunity to sample the best of Italian film.

Image: WikiCommons


Preview: Duchess of Malfi


25 February 2014, Varsity Culture Section

T. S. Eliot famously said that Jacobean dramatist John Webster was much possessed with death, and saw “the skull beneath the skin” in every act on stage. In none of Webster’s plays can the skull be seen so clearly leering through the drawn, waxen flesh as in The Duchess of Malfi.

Death pervades this tale of love, corruption, class and the violent domination of women. In an attempt to secure her own happiness, the Duchess of Malfi, played by Charlotte Quinney, marries against the wishes of her sordid, tyrannical brothers – Ferdinand and the Cardinal – to the lowly Antonio. This sets up a chain of events which, when they come cascading down, result in tragedy and the merciless shedding of innocent blood.

Isabelle Kettle, the production’s director, acknowledges that the more sensational aspects of the Duchess’s plight may be the ones which draw people in. She herself laughingly quips that she thinks “sex and violence are really interesting”. It is the characterisation which has helped the play endure, however, and this was what attracted her to directing it, in particular the role of the Duchess – a rare example of a woman at the centre of a Jacobean tragedy. Quinney notes that what Webster seems to be doing for the first time is portraying a woman who “isn’t all about chastity”. She is a strong woman, and one “whose desire is given value within the play”. There is also interest for the actors in the role reversal between Antonio and the Duchess: “She has the power, she comes onto him”. This production stages Antonio as the “wife-figure” to the Duchess. It is these ideas of gender, sex, and power that Quinney says she would sell the play on.

What immediately becomes clear of the cast and crew is the delight they take in their characters and Webster’s idiosyncratic dialogue for each. “They’re real”, says Quinney, and as a result Kettle is determined to put the emphasis on the characters in this reading of the play. “It’s not trying to get across any message”, she asserts, and her aim is for the audience to “find the truth in it through the actors and through the relationships”. As much as the characters strive to find their own individuality and meaning in an oppressive and masculine world, so must the audience in the course of the play.

The actors hope to induce the same emotionality that they experienced in rehearsing this play. Quinney admits freely that she felt overwhelmed by The Duchess of Malfi at times. Kettle has sought to rack up the emotional turmoil, and “there will be a strong sense as the play goes through – and everything collapses and unravels – likewise the set is going to do the same.” Sound should also play an important role in the production, descending into a mix of broken chords and jarring sharps to match the scenery. They create a sense of a “whole world being deconstructed” as the tragedy tightens its vice-like grip on the characters.

This production is set against a backdrop of Italian Fascism in 1933. Kettles states that when she was reading the play the idea of Fascism illuminated her understanding of it: it seemed to be a natural fit. “What is contained in fascism which focuses this play”, says Bloor, is its ideological nucleus: “one, strength; two, control; and three, order. And purity comes out of order, and control of women comes out of strength and order”.

The cast and crew express some dissatisfaction with updates of plays which add aesthetic effects but contribute little to meaning. Bloor adds that a traditional “costume drama” feels too much like a story and produces something that feels distant. That is the very antithesis of her Duchess, and I hope they will succeed in creating the forceful, realistic and nuanced production they hope to.

Image: WikiCommons