The 19th IFF returns to the Filmhouse this April with its customary mix of classic and contemporary cinema. Yet glancing over this year’s selection, it quickly becomes apparent that these films have far more in common than just their language. Last October saw the bankruptcy of derivatives giant, MF Global, which was also found to be illegally mixing customer money with their trading accounts. Then just last week, it was revealed that Peter Cruddas (whose company also deals in derivatives) could allegedly secure you dinner with the PM for a certain sum of money. With this in mind, the IFF’s attention on big-business seems unquestionably topical.
Opening the festival is Andrea Molaioli’s 2011 film The Jewel. The internationally acclaimed director of The Girl by the Lake (2007) once again teams up with the ever impressive Toni Servillo to retell the true story of the Parmalat, a multi-national Italian food and dairy corporation which collapsed in 2003 with a debt of €14.3bn – the largest bankruptcy in Europe’s history. Remo Girone plays Amanzia Rastelli, a man who built his small family deli into the multi-billion Euro corporation, Leda. Servillo takes the role of Ernesto Botta, Leda’s Chief Financial Officer, who, having worked all his life for the company, is willing to do anything to save it. With greed, corruption, and banks prepared to turn a blind eye, this film is abounding with parallels not restricted to Parmalat alone.
Another festival selection dealing with gross corruption within the higher echelons of authority is Elio Petri’s 1970 Oscar winning classic, Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion. Gian Maria Volonté, in one of his most iconic roles, plays a chief detective who murders his mistress and then proceeds to leave clues proving his guilt. But the question is: just how long can he stay above suspicion? With the ongoing Leveson Inquiry and banks “too big to fail”, a film addressing the self-regulation of organisations in positions of trust certainly deserves a good look.
One more classic making an appearance is Michelangelo Antonioni’s 1964 classic Red Desert also makes an appearance. From the director who also gave us Blow-Up (1966) and The Passenger (1975), Antonioni here provides us with an aesthetic treat starring the multi-award winning actress Monica Vitti and legendary Irish actor, Richard Harris. Giuliana (Vitti) is the young wife of a petrochemical plant owner, who, after being in a car accident, begins to suffer from neurosis. Failing to readjust to her surroundings and growing increasingly isolated, Giuliana tries desperately to make sense of her environment. One of the more personal films in the festival, Red Desert explores the alienation of the organic self in a heavily industrialised world.
This is certainly not the extent of the festival’s merits, with many other films more than worthy of attention. The highly-acclaimed 2010 epic We Believed explores the Risorgimento (the revolutionary wars which united Italy), while Il Boom is Vittorio De Sica’s dark comedy from 1963 about the lengths people will go to for money in a society where ‘greed is good’. In fact, whether on a corporate, national, personal or social scale, many of the examples from this selection demonstrate that the invisible hand of the market has a long reach indeed. This is as well as having the pick of this year’s most highly acclaimed films from the Apennine Peninsular. So, with all that being said, perhaps the best way to approach this festival is not as films about Italy, but as films about our world – in Italian.