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The Director

ALBERTO LA MONICA – Artistic director of the European Film Festival

We have been waiting a long time for this moment and it has finally arrived: Cinema is back in theatres and the European Film Festival too is back to light up the big screen. Once again it does so in Lecce, at the Massimo Multiplex Cinema, renewing (a little out of season, enjoying the autumn resumption instead of the spring blossoming…) a tradition made of love for the Seventh Art, passion for the culture of being together, attention for the protagonists of Italian and European cinema, desire to know and recognise the new talents of an art that constantly manages to renew itself. So here is the 22nd edition of the European Film Festival, which embraces again the city of Lecce, its passionate and demanding audience, its ancient places full of life. It does so after an edition taking place in the middle of the pandemic and entirely online, successfully meeting the national audience through online streaming, which has allowed our festival, like many others, to continue to be alive and active in an extremely difficult time for the culture of being together. 

An encounter, that of the European Film Festival, which confirms the formula of an event that intends to make way for viewings, meetings, debates and the pleasure of sharing knowledge. So the Competition of national premieres is back again, films that tell us about the realities of today’s Europe, a selection of works competing for the Golden Olive Tree Award, selected from among the most significant productions of the past year. As always, there will also be the prestigious presence of big names that have marked the path of this art in Italy and Europe: the Protagonists of Cinema, whom we invite to the festival in order to award them the Golden Olive Tree to crown an extremely bright and remarkable career. Hungarian master István Szabó is this year’s Protagonist of European Cinema, the most internationally successful representative of a cinematography that has given us great directors, known for his manifesto film, Mephisto, but appreciated and awarded ever since his debut. An exponent of our most genuine Italian tradition is, instead, Giovanna Ralli, Protagonist of Italian Cinema, representative of a cheerful and simple femininity who, over the years, has been able to embody the changing ways of being a woman in our country. Alongside them, the festival’s attention to the future of Italian cinema also reasserts itself: with the Mario Verdone Award, which for the twelfth year will highlight a young Italian filmmaker by awarding his or her debut film; and with the Emidio Greco Award, which for the ninth year will highlight a young Italian author of short films. The context of European cinema confirms its precious attention for our festival through the Best European Comedies section, a showcase of the best European comedies still unreleased in Italy, the presentation of the three films selected as finalists for the Lux Award of the European Parliament and through EFA Shorts, the short films nominated for the European Best Short Film Awards in collaboration with the European Film Academy. Our relationship with films hitting cinemas, in their day-to-day programming, is confirmed by the attention that national distributors devote to our festival, offering previews of the films that are about to be discovered by Italian audiences: this is the case of Per tutta la vita by Paolo Costella, the opening film of the festival, co-written with Paolo Genovese, but also of The Worst Person in the World by Joachim Trier and Tom Medina by Tony Gatlif. But there is also a film that we are particularly proud to bring to the light of the big screen, after the success it has had through home streaming: we are talking about Si vive una volta sola, the latest film by Carlo Verdone, which Amazon Prime has granted us for an exclusive public screening. The collaboration with the Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia is confirmed through the showcase of the films made within the framework of its various courses and through the restorations carried out by the Cineteca Nazionale (this year, Nino Manfredi’s directorial debut, Between Miracles), just as ever present is the desire to explore the issues of the world around us through the documentaries of the Cinema and Reality section. Lastly, the Festival’s relationship with Apulian cinema is consolidated through the traditional Puglia Show showcase, as is the willingness to invest in the cinema-goers of the future through education: even in a complex year like this one, the Festival nelle Scuole (Festival in Schools) project will not fail to be carried out, bringing filmmakers and films to schools whose pupils cannot come to the cinema. This too is a way of rediscovering the desire to be together in front of the cinema screen: in the name of joy, culture and participation.

Happy festival to all!