ALBERTO LA MONICA
Festival del Cinema Europeo Director
While every festival is a challenge to the present and future of cinema, the challenge that the 21st Festival del Cinema Europeo is facing in this extremely difficult 2020 is one of resistance and confidence. This edition, on which we have been working for more than a year, is taking place in November, far from our traditional slot in the calendar. An edition that the very difficult moment that is marking our country and the whole world because of the pandemic has transformed into an act of faith in the possibility for cinema to exist and to resist, despite the adversities and despite the priorities dictated by the emergency.
So here we are ready to offer our contribution to the will of the whole film world to portray the present with the tools of images and imagination, of culture as acquired knowledge and cultures as an encounter of different feelings and stories. The Festival del Cinema Europeo, which was ready to bring the films and filmmakers of its 21st edition to the traditional screens of the Multiplex Cinema Massimo in Lecce, has once again to come to terms with reality, which forces the moments of “face-to-face” sociality to take a step back, but also offers a step forward for the opportunity to open up to that virtuality, which, through the tools of the web, makes it possible to reach a potentially wider and more varied audience. With the support of Festival Scope, one of the first and most prestigious streaming platforms for professionals and enthusiasts, the films of the 21st Festival del Cinema Europeo can reach the Italian audience, just as the talks with the Masters of European and Italian Cinema and with some of the authors of the selected films find a wider audience on our online platform.
So here we are with the 12 European films of the Competition, competing for the awarding of the Golden Olive Tree – Cristina Soldano Award for Best Film and the other awards assigned by our prestigious Jury. And here we are proud to virtually welcome Olivier Assayas, Protagonist of European Cinema, and Dario Argento, Protagonist of Italian Cinema, who are at the centre of the video conference meetings made freely accessible to the audience of the Festival, live-streaming events hosted from the halls of the Carlo V Castle in Lecce, testifying to the will of cinema and the Festival to resist and keep staying in the places where it has always been located.
And the halls of the castle in Lecce also host the photographic exhibition that crowns the Tribute to Aldo Fabrizi on the thirtieth anniversary of his death. The exhibition, curated by his granddaughter Cielo Pessione, can be visited during the days of the Festival and accompanies the retrospective dedicated to the 9 films written, produced and directed by Fabrizi during his extraordinary career as an actor. Also, the Tribute to Alda Merini with the homage organised by Cosimo Damiano Damato together with Violante Placido and Erica Mou, and the screening of his director’s cut, with new images of Alda Merini, of Damato’s documentary, which premiered at Venice in 2009. There are also the three debuting Italian filmmakers selected as finalists of the Mario Verdone Award, now in its 11th edition, as well as the 11 authors of the documentaries of Cinema & Reality, the section that every year brings to the Festival its contribution of reflections on social and cultural issues. As always, the Festival gives space to young debuting authors with the Festival in Short section, which includes the Puglia Show Competition, the usual Showcase dedicated to Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia (Experimental Film Centre) and the Emidio Greco Award.
The Festival’s interest in European Cinema is also expressed, as always, through the showing of the three films selected as finalists of the European Parliament’s Lux Prize and of the EFA Shorts, the short films nominated for the European Film Academy’s Best European Short Film Award. In addition, this year there are two new pieces that make us particularly proud: the Circe Project, dedicated to Albanian and Montenegrin cinema, which also includes the establishment of the Euro-Adriatic Festival Network, and the Sparc Project, dedicated to the cooperation between Italy and Greece, which includes the online roundtable Puglia Meets Greece and a selection of Greek and Apulian feature and short films.
Lastly, also this year, and even more so this year, we believe that it is essential to open up to students and teachers, by following up our “Festival nelle Scuole” (Festival in Schools) project, which, taking advantage of the opportunities provided by distance learning, offers the participating schools a series of films to be watched through streaming during class hours and live streaming meetings with the film masters “hosted” by the Festival.
All this to consolidate the roots of the Festival del Cinema Europeo even in a year that is prompting us all to test our ability to find solutions and face difficulties by looking to the horizon. Because ours, like all festivals, is an instrument of debate and elaboration of an idea of cinema and a culture of being together. But it is also an instrument that, through its satellite activities, generates awareness, promotion, employment and growth for the local territory and for those who animate it. An extra value that, in a difficult year like this, should certainly not be forgotten.