Despite Pandemic Italians Filmmakers Are on a Roll

In spite of a disastrous box office situation, the Italian film industry is staying buoyant thanks to increased exports, a friendly rapport with streaming giants and support from the government of Prime Minister Mario Draghi that is pumping money into a revamp of Rome’s Cinecittà Studios.

“Production never stopped and ailing movie theaters have been able to get subsidies,” says Francesco Rutelli, the former Rome mayor who heads Italy’s motion picture association, Anica. The org recently broadened its member base to include executives from Amazon Prime Video, Disney and ViacomCBS, after Netflix had joined.

This move — which is unique in Europe — indicates the level of friendly dialogue between film producers and streaming platforms in Italy, best encapsulated by Paolo Sorrentino’s “The Hand of God,” Italy’s international Oscar nominee. Sorrentino’s Netflix original film was released theatrically in November across the country before dropping on the platform in mid-December; it continues to play in Italy’s movie theaters.

While “Hand of God” has performed well in Italian cinemas — though exactly how well is not known, since Netflix does not reveal box office figures — Italy’s overall 2021 box office picture is bleak. Receipts totaled €170 million ($192 million) in grosses for the year while admissions were at 25 million, way below the 41 million movie tickets sold in 2021 in Spain, where the pandemic has not been as much of a deterrent to cinemagoing.

Still, the country’s exhibitors and distributors have not lost hope that Italians will flock back to movie theaters in decent numbers, once the health crisis subsides. And film producers are managing to keep busy.

Below is a compendium of standout Italian titles in various stages, some of which likely to surface on the 2022 festival circuit.

Bones and All
Luca Guadagnino’s first film shot in the U.S. reunites the “Call Me by Your Name” director with that film’s star Timothée Chalamet, who plays Lee, a disenfranchised drifter who falls in love with a young woman named Maren during a road trip through Ronald Reagan’s America in which they both learn how to survive on the margins of society. Pic is completed.

Chiara
Susanna Nichiarelli’s portrait of Saint Clare of Assisi, the 13th century woman born into a wealthy family became a nun after hearing St. Francis preach, completes her trilogy of female biopics, after “Nico, 1988” and “Miss Marx.” “My Brilliant Friend” star Margherita Mazzucco plays Saint Clare. Andrea Carpenzano, who will be seen in Berlin in “Calcinculo,” also stars.

Il Sol Dell’Avvenire
Nanni Moretti is shifting gears following his ensemble drama “Three Floors,” which screened last year in Cannes, with this lighthearted comedy that will star French actor-director Mathieu Amalric and is set to start soon shooting in Rome. The title translates as “The Sun of the Future.” The veteran auteur is keeping mum on other details besides that he’s written the screenplay with regular collaborators Valia Santella and Federica Pontremoli (“Three Floors”) and Francesca Marciano (“Miele”).

Il Signore Delle Formiche
Gianni Amelio has completed this biopic of Italian poet, playwright and director Aldo Braibanti, who was jailed in 1968 due to a Fascist-era anti-gay law. The latest film by Amelio (“Open Doors,” “Hammamet”) stars Luigi Lo Cascio (“The Ties”), Sara Serraiocco (“Counterpart”) and Elio Germano (“Hidden Away,” “America Latina”). Pic is expected to surface in Venice.

Il Colibrì
Francesca Archibugi (“A Question of the Heart”) is in post on this romantic drama based on the novel by Sandro Veronesi, winner of Italy’s top literary prize, the Premio Strega, in 2020. The high-profile cast comprises Oscar-nominated Bérénice Bejo (“The Artist”), Pierfrancesco Favino (“The Traitor”) and Nanni Moretti.

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