Last weekend, the Department of Italian Studies hosted “Il Cinema Ritrovato on Tour,” an Italian film festival showcasing a selection of rare and restored films from the world-renowned Cineteca Bologna. The event marked the tenth anniversary of the festival’s first visit to the University.
Held in the Martinos Auditorium at the Granoff Center for the Creative Arts, the festival’s name comes from the acclaimed Il Cinema Ritrovato film festival, which has taken place annually in Bologna, Italy since 1986. Featuring a selection of five films, the traveling festival — its name means “rediscovered cinema” in English — aims to highlight works of cinema that have been carefully preserved by the Cineteca Bologna archives.
“So much has been lost of 20th century film,” said organizer Massimo Riva, professor of Italian studies and affiliated professor of modern culture and media. “It is a great effort, that of not only preserving and restoring, but of showing films, especially in a festival setting, so people can enjoy and appreciate them together.”
The festival opened on Friday night with a screening of Charles Resiner’s 1928 film “Steamboat Bill, Jr.,” which featured a live musical accompaniment. The festival also included screenings of Govindan Aravindan’s 1978 film “Thampu,” Vittorio De Sica’s 1946 neorealist film “Sciuscià,” Pier Paolo Pasolini’s 1963 short film “La Ricotta” and Alessandro Blasetti’s 1954 romantic comedy “Peccato Che Sia Una Canaglia.”
The partnership between Il Cinema Ritrovato and the University originates from a study abroad program which sends students to Bologna each year that has been running for close to four decades, Riva said. “The Cineteca is one of the major cultural institutions in Bologna,” Riva said. “Ten years ago, we thought, ‘Why don't we enhance this collaboration and bring some piece of the festival to Providence?’”
This year, Riva worked alongside the curator of Il Cinema Ritrovato, Guy Borlée, to select the five films shown at Brown. “It’s a very hard selection to make. Out of 400 films, we have to select four or five at the most,” Riva said. “What we’ve been doing is focusing on the Italian classics: We go from silent to more recent films and neorealist masterpieces.”
In addition to showcasing classic works of Italian cinema, the festival has often screened films from nations that have been historically underrepresented in showcases of foreign arts in the United States, such as Cuba and Egypt, Riva said.
Consistent in the program’s wide variety of films is a mission to highlight the role of restoration in preserving film history, Riva said. “To go to a theater — the Martinos Auditorium — (and) to sit together, watch an old film and maybe have a conversation about it, is invaluable,” he said.
Rachelle Rahmé GS, a first-year MFA student studying poetry and literary arts, also noted the value of showcasing foreign cinema.
“I consider myself a cinephile, and I’m always looking for good cinema here in Providence, and it actually doesn’t exist as much as I think it should,” she said. “I’m very glad to know events like this exist.”
Following the screening of “La Ricotta,” festival organizers held a discussion in collaboration with the Cogut Institute for the Humanities’ Film-Thinking series, which was started by Timothy Bewes, professor of English and interim chair of the Department of English, in 2019.
“The idea of the discussion is to have a conversation that is serious but informal,” Bewes said. "I think that Cinema Ritrovato and Film-Thinking are two initiatives that are rare and vital spaces for thinking about film.”
“The festival is as much about the future of cinema as it is about the past,” he added.
“We are now at a time when … extraordinary work is being restored and rediscovered,” Bewes said. “Cinema Ritrovato and Film-Thinking are ways in which we at Brown are part of that project of attention, reflection and retrospection on this really most extraordinary period of filmmaking.”