At last year's Venice Film Festival, Artistic Director Alberto Barbera bemoaned the relative lack of young filmmaking talent in Italy, leading many to question if Italian cinema was in a rut. As reported by Variety:
"The average quality was even lower than last year," Barbera noted in July after his lineup was announced. "This year the big name Italian auteurs had either just made a film, or still had to make it, or didn't finish it in time... the quality of the other [directors] is just so disappointing!" he lamented.
Rather than opining on the state of contemporary Italian cinema, Filmatique surveyed five young directors from Italy whose debut films have all been well-received at prestigious international film festivals— Alessio Rigo de Righi & Matteo Zoppis (Il Solengo), Lamberto Sanfelice (Cloro), Carlo Lavagna (Arianna), Eleonora Danco (N-Capace) and Duccio Chiarini (Short Skin).
We asked them all the same question: Do you believe Italian cinema is in a rut? If so, what do you believe to be the cause— cultural forces, institutional practices, lack of resources, or otherwise? If not, how would you compare today's cinema in Italy to that of past generations?
Il Solengo, Alessio Rigo de Righi & Matteo Zoppis (2015)
ALESSIO RIGO DE RIGHI & MATTEO ZOPPIS: There are many talented young filmmakers in Italy that need to overcome a heavy hand lurking above them in terms of competition with more established filmmakers, like everywhere else. A complicated national funding system doesn't help, nor do old producers that are reluctant to invest in new talents, and certainly not cinema practitioners that don't like to take on movies with unconventional themes or at least those that are not considered safe. And today, the taste of the public which is slaughtered by television and cinema without any true direction, has only room for improvement.
LAMBERTO SANFELICE: I believe the opposite. Talent is not lacking and the many works of young filmmakers playing at international festivals are proof. The difficulties young filmmakers encounter depend in part on the kind of support projects get, and a production system that should be revised and adapted to a more modern way of making cinema.
CARLO LAVAGNA: In Italy, nobody wants to risk— they are all so fucking scared of failing, of not meeting the demands of the market, but they don't have the slightest idea of who they are. They perceive of themselves as something unclearly defined, almost metaphysical, a force obligated to keep making piece of shit movies. There is a very low consideration of audience and the audience's ability to understand stories outside classical structures.
If the system doesn't take real risks— starting with the two major film funding providers, MIBAC and Rai Cinema— there will be no more beautiful films in our country. However, I see a subversive force trying to make its way. Younger directors and producers want to break the mold. We'll see.
ELEONORA DANCO: I don't have a full understanding of the current film industry climate in Italy required to express a correct opinion. Some things are original and entertaining, others less. But I welcome decline— only from there can something be reborn.
I think we need to start asking ourselves different questions. Until a few years ago Italy has seen great geniuses, fantastic innovators in our cinema. The others still try to copy us! We should look at our past with ambition, and try to push ourselves beyond that point. I see the past as a challenge, an encouragement to surpass the great masters or at least take that energy to move forward and progress, instead of lingering around what's safe.
Artists are like bad weeds that grow when you least expect it. I'm sure institutions are guilty of not having created the appropriate channels nor the strategy to invest in new talent. They should detach themselves from bureaucracy and develop a more dynamic structure.
From my personal experience, I can say that despite the fact that my film received two Special Mentions in the Official Selection of the Torino Film Festival, and was appointed as Film of the Year from the Sindacato dei Critici Cinematografici Italiani (Italian Film Critics' Syndicate), and was nominated for the David di Donatello as Best First Film, among many other prizes— it never found distribution. Nobody has invested a cent to promote it. It was left to fend for itself, despite positive critical reception and an enthusiastic audience. If you have no other way of competing besides word of mouth among friends and acquaintances, it's a massacre.
What's missing is a collective strategy to support new directors. My film keeps being requested and screened but that's thanks to two years of hard work that I have done personally. This is typical in Italy— all that waste. It's sad.
DUCCIO CHIARINI: I think cinema in Italy, like everywhere else, is facing a delicate period of redefinition because of the increasing power of TV and therefore rethinking itself as a form of expression. As for Italian directors— I see many young and talented Italian filmmakers emerging.