Our reviewer in…Maysa Moncao on why Italian cinema is her ‘grande passione’

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Our reviewer in…Maysa Moncao looks at the programme ahead for the forthcoming Toronto Film Festival in September.

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I have a deep emotional connection with Italian cinema.

I chose to study Film Studies and lived in Rome for three years. And I still consider the best movie of all times Death in Venice by Visconti. For personal reasons, of course: it is a rare case of a good adaptation from a classic novel, as well as reflecting somehow the story of my ancestors in Veneto. Suffice to say I cry every time I watch the opening scene with Mahler invading my ears and the sad sea inviting me to enter the city.

After one year at the university in Rome, even though I enjoyed every single screening and comments on Neo-Realism, I felt that something was missing. I still haven’t had any contact with filmmakers neither knew where they used to hide in 2008. Bars close to Piazza del Popolo or at Pigneto, where Fellini and Pasolini, respectively, used to go, could only show me pictures. Everything was somewhat dead, sealed under ruins.

A friend of mine visited me and didn’t recognise me. “What the hell is going on with you? Every day you are sleeping your siesta! Is that why you moved to Rome?”

And I said: “No, of course not. I came here to study the movies, and if possible, to work in the movies.”

“Ah! Work doing what? There are loads of things related to the movies.”

“Writing.”

“So which is the best prize of scriptwriting in Italy?” she asked, to give me focus.

“I guess it is the Solinas Award.”

“Well, Maysa, you have to meet the winner of that award.”

Three days later (this is what I call Fate + Focus + A Little Help from My Friends), I would receive an invitation to a talk in a library. At the talk, I met Vittorio Moroni, the future winner of Solinas Award, and the filmmaker who gave me my first job opportunity in the movies. I was his PR for 10 months.

I watched his movie Eva e Adamo 8 times, fascinated, mesmerised, by the way Moroni tells a story. I went to small little towns by train just to know his audience and help selling DVDs. One day I thought it would be good to try to show Eva e Adamo abroad. Vittorio had, of course, some happy moments at the Hot Docs festival in Canada, but those were more occasional. So I discovered Cinema Italia UK for him (at that time it was Cinema Italia London).

I wrote Clara Green, the organiser of that Italian festival, an email, and the answer was, “please contact me in 10 months. We are not selecting anything at the moment”. I patiently pencilled the date into my diary. And the outcome was that they picked the movie for 2011, the year I moved to London.

Cinema Italia London is a small festival, currently throughout the year, which brings the very best of contemporary Italian cinema to London. On August 30th, at 6:30pm at Cinema Genesis in the East End, they will be screening Vittorio’s new movie, Se chiudo gli occhi non sono piu qui (If I Close My Eyes I Seize Existing, on my free translation). And this time I had nothing to do with the event. Fate was already in the past.

If you are interested in what this Dickensian story is about, have a look at the trailer and the facebook page.

PS: I must say I had a very good appetizer of the festival last Sunday, watching Le Cose Belle (The Good Things), by Agostino Ferrente and Giovanni Piperno. If you have the chance to catch it, I do recommend it. It is a documentary of how much the environment can determinate your future since childhood. The filmmakers followed some unpriviledged teens in Naples and asked what were their dreams, as if they could dream of a better life. A decade after, they met the same boys and girls again to shoot facts of their ordinary undreamt lives.

Maysa Moncao

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