DEEP in the hustle and bustle of the port of Bari in southern Italy beats a cosmopolitan heart and at its centre is the Bari international film festival BIFEST, now in its ninth year.
This time round, BIFEST featured the work of directors of the calibre of Gianni Amelio, Marco Bellocchio and Ferzan Ozpetek, alongside rising talents such as Vincenzo Marra, Paolo Sassanelli, Roberta Torre and Roberto De Paolis.
Special events included a concert paying homage to Alberto Trovajoli, one of the great Italian film composers, a restored version of Bernardo Bertolucci’s Last Tango in Paris and a retrospective on maverick director Marco Ferreri.
Among the output from new Italian directors was Pure Hearts (pictured), the extraordinary debut feature from Italian film-maker Roberto De Paolis.
With themes as diverse as the rise of evangelical fervour in economically depressed modern Italy and the country's relationship with its itinerant Gypsy population, this delicately handled romance eschews didacticism.
A piece of captivating social realism, it tackles little-explored subjects and, though the story is set in Rome, it could easily have taken place in any other modern European city.
Roberta Torre’s Riccardo Go to Hell was another film of note. It tells the story of Riccardo Mancini, who is discharged from the forensic psychiatric hospital where he has spent many years serving time for a crime veiled in mystery.
Determined to wreak revenge and win back power within his criminal family, he unscrupulously does away with his brothers, but he hadn’t bargained on the true black soul of the family, the all-powerful “Queen Mother.”
It's a dark and psychedelic musical channelling Shakespeare in an other-worldly pop version of Rome never seen before. A wild satire on Italian conservatism.
Another Italian film-maker making an impression was Paolo Sassanelli with Two Little Italians, a warm-hearted yet dark tale of two friends in their forties who escape from a mental institution in the south of Italy and end up in Rotterdam.
There, for the first time, they overcome their fears and discover love and freedom and their place in the world. Honest and more intelligent and unpredictable than you might expect, this marks out Sassanelli as a director to watch.
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