Italian Film Festival Event brings 13 films and four directors to town

A scene from “We Have a Pope!”

A visual treat awaits lovers of Italian cinema and culture, and it involves mozzarella cheese and a chance to meet four of Italy’s most innovative contemporary film directors.

The sixth annual Nuovo Cinema Italiano Film Festival will feature 13 films shown at the Sottile Theatre. Students and the general public are invited to view the mix of feature and short films.

The festival, which runs Thursday-Sunday, has become increasingly popular and able to attract more cinematic talent each year, said Giovanna De Luca, festival director and professor of Italian and cinema at the College of Charleston.

At this year’s festival, four Italian directors will present and discuss their works: Edoardo De Angelis (“Mozzarella Stories”), Paola Randi (“Into Paradiso”), Tonino Zangardi (“Sandrine in the Rain”) and Nico Cirasola (“bell’epoker”), who is making his second festival appearance.

Students and film enthusiasts can meet all four directors 1-2 p.m. Friday at the Sottile Theatre.

“To have all of these directors together for the first time in Charleston makes for a very good occasion to understand what is happening in Italy and to ask some questions about how things work there,” De Luca said.

She points to the young and creative De Angelis, whose 2011 film, “Mozzarella Stories,” has garnered much attention in Italy because of its offbeat fusion of comedy, noir and mafia genres. The film portrays Italian and Chinese mozzarella producers who battle for market share via mafia tactics and discounted cheese.

“I’m very curious to meet him,” De Luca said. “I want to know more about his background and his interesting movie, which is visually very powerful.”

De Luca added that she is thrilled to welcome all four directors, who are accustomed to such international film festivals as Cannes and Tribeca.

“This is something very important to Charleston,” De Luca said. “It’s unusual for a regional festival in the United States to attract such talent and is a testament to Charleston’s artistic and cultural allure.”

That is partly because Charleston enjoys a bond with Italian arts and culture thanks to Spoleto Festival USA, founded more than three decades ago by composer Gian Carlo Menotti and others who wanted to create an American sister to the Festival of Two Worlds in Spoleto, Italy.

“This film festival is a great initiative that gives a unique chance to new Italian cinema directors to meet Charleston audiences,” director Randi said. “It is going to be my first visit to Charleston, and I am looking forward to enjoying the legendary warmth of South Carolina hospitality. Also, as I am a big ‘Gone With the Wind’ fan, I couldn’t resist to come to the city where Rhett Butler belongs!”

Three films will make their American premieres at the festival: “Mozzarella Stories,” “Sandrine in the Rain” and Venice Film Festival winner “Shun Li and the Poet.”

“For me, it is an honor and a pleasure to present ‘Mozzarella Stories’ for the first time in North America just in Charleston,” De Angelis said. “The invitation received from the Charleston college is a great opportunity because it is important to know and study how Italian cinema today speaks with strength, vitality and anger.

“Our language has changed from that of the authors of our great tradition, but that tradition is a treasure chest of gold and precious stones from which to draw,” he said.

In addition, films will be introduced and discussed by Anthony Fragola, a documentary filmmaker and professor of cinema at the University of North Carolina-Greensboro.

New this year is a large-format screen, digital and 35 mm projectors, and a high-quality sound system.

Nuovo Cinema Italiano is presented by the Italian studies program at the College of Charleston and Mediterranea Film-Bari. The films are presented in the original Italian and subtitled in English.