The Whitten Learning Center is now doubling as an Italian movie theater. The center has become the home base for the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures’ seventh annual Italian Film Festival this October.
Once a week, for Italian heritage month, contemporary Italian films are screened on campus, free to students, faculty and community members.
A professor in the Modern Languages Department and UMIFF founder and coordinator, Manny Rossi, carefully selected four movies to screen. He said he tries to screen films that are controversial and spark conversation, but that are also popular and technically masterful.
“One of our goals is to connect the films to current events, as well as to the audience that is participating,” Rossi said.
This year’s films are “Lasciati Andare,” “Non è un Paese per Giovani,” “Scialla (Stai Sereno)” and “Poveri ma Ricchi.” They vary in theme and genre, ranging from serious dramas to light-hearted comedies.
These movies are also selected according to their accolades. Many films feature award-winning actors and directors, such as “Lasciati Andare,” which stars Carla Signoris, who won a Nastro d’Argento – an award by the association of Italian film critics – for Best Supporting Actress. The film was also nominated for Best Screenplay.
“As opposed to many other Italian film festivals in the city that bring in wonderful classics, such as films by Fellini or Bertolucci, UMIFF concentrates on contemporary cinema and finding value in what is being made today,” Rossi said.
“Lasciati Andare” was the first film the festival screened this year. Directed by Francesco Amato, the film centers on the friendship between a bitter and sullen psychoanalyst, Elia, and an eccentric personal trainer, Claudia.
The film was originally scheduled for later in the festival, but organizers decided to kick things off with comedy after the stressful weeks following Irma.
“This movie was a great collaboration of wit, humor, compassion, life and Italians,” freshman marketing major Anais Mamery said.
“Non è un Paese per Giovani,” was chosen for its depiction of the displacement of Italian youth as they leave home in hopes of a better life.
All films are shown with subtitles, so audience members who do not speak Italian can understand the plot.
“It was surprising because, even though I didn’t understand the language, you could still understand the plot,” said Ana Colicchio, a freshman majoring in international finance and marketing. “I thought it was funny and a good way to fully immerse yourself in the language.”
Rossi said the festival is a labor of love, but the results are well worth it.
“I personally learned to love life watching movies …,” Rossi said. “It’s a wonderful chance for students to look back and reflect, for them to start conversations within the community and experience the richness of where they are living.”
UMIFF is screening “Non è un Paese per Giovani” at 7 p.m. on Oct. 25, in Whitten Learning Center, Room 140.