In the early months of spring, Brown students enjoy multiple film festivals of consequence — from the French Film Festival to the much-anticipated Ivy Film Festival. The Department of Italian Studies features its own selection of films annually through its Il Cinema Ritrovato festival. But what distinguishes the films of Il Cinema Ritrovato is the distinctly historical perspective of the festival, which is committed to screening films dating all the way back to the early 20th century.
The Italian film festival serves as the American version of an eight-day summer event in Bologna, which is committed to restoring old films and promoting early cinema. Il Cinema Ritrovato’s mission is “to show wonderful films, restored films, forgotten films,” said Guy Borlée, the coordinator of the festival. “We want to give these wonderful films a sort of second life.”
“Restoration is so important because an old film is on film stock, and there are no more theaters with print projectors, except for cinematheques,” Borlée said. As such, these movies on film are forgotten and eventually fall into disrepair. “As time goes by, the oldest material deteriorates, so if you have a very old film, the original film might be damaged or lost. So you have to repair it,” Borlée added.
The Department of Italian Studies hosted four days of screening and “wanted to give a space to different genres,” said Massimo Riva, professor of Italian studies. These films ranged from a 1915 silent film titled “A day with Puccini” to an Italian-American 1980s film titled “Once Upon a Time in America.”
Each year, the mini-festival at Brown features a silent movie night with live music. This year, Thursday night’s showing was a compilation of silent films from the early twentieth century that shed light on life in Venice and Bologna. The films were accompanied by live piano and mandolin.
The festival also makes sure to include “a classic film from the 1960s — the golden age of Italian cinema,” Riva said. This year’s selection was “I knew her well,” directed by Antonio Pietrangeli.
Though the festival primarily focuses on old Italian cinema, international films are frequently featured.This year’s festival featured a Cuban film titled “Memories of Underdevelopment,” since Bologna’s festival restores films from around the world. “There is a historical dimension with (“Memories of Underdevelopment”) — shot four or five years after the revolution; it’s about change. You get to see Havana as it was at the time through the eyes of the main character,” Riva said. “In this way, film is always time-travelling,” he added.
The idea to import a sampling of Bologna’s famous film festival came from the long-standing relationship between Brown and the University of Bologna, Riva said. The Department of Italian Studies sponsors a summer program where students can partake in the actual eight-day long Italian festival. Students in Bologna also have the opportunity to study filmmaking and Italian cinematic culture. “It was only natural … to bring back a piece of the festival to Providence,” Riva said.
Though the Brown leg of the festival has only existed for four years, it has garnered an attendance of “approximately 530 people” throughout the four nights, wrote Valeria Federeci GS in an email to The Herald.
Brown’s Il Cinema Ritrovato is also accompanied by award-winning gelato — described by the The London Observer as the “Best in Europe” — shipped directly from Bologna’s famous Il Gelatauro. Each year, the gelato-maker creates four specific flavors inspired by the festival’s films. For example, for “Memories of Underdevelopment,” the corresponding gelato featured flavors of chocolate, rum and plantains.