The rising clutch of women directors breaking the glass ceiling in Italy’s male dominated film industry is being celebrated by a curated screenings’ series titled The Wave playing this week in London and set to open with Chiara Bellosi’s Berlin Panorama coming-of-age drama “Swing Ride.”
Running June 15-19 at London’s Ciné Lumière, Kensington, after a previous run in Berlin, The Wave has been assembled by Cinecittà’s promotional arm to draw international notice to what chief Carla Cattani says is “a unique time” for female filmmakers in Italy where they are “no longer isolated cases.”
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Indeed, as Cattani notes in her introduction to The Wave’s program notes, prior to 2010 it was very rare to find more than two Italian films directed by females within the same year. In fact in 2010, out of 122 Italian films released theatrically only two titles were directed by women.
Cut to a decade later, however, and the percentage of Italian feature films directed by women that got a theatrical release reached 13% in 2019 and 2020, despite the pandemic.
So, as Cattani puts it, the idea behind The Wave is that these directors “become known before waiting for history to acknowledge their merits in opening up Italian cinema to women.”
London audiences will be able to sample a selection, also curated by Ciné Lumière programming chief Diane Gabrysiak, that will allow them to either revisit or discover early works from some of the most prolific female Italian filmmakers working today such as Alice Rohrwacher (“Happy as Lazzaro”) and Susanna Nicchiarelli (“Nico, 1988”) plus a smattering of classics from pioneers Elvira Notari, Lina Wertmüller, and Liliana Cavani, who for decades were the rare exceptions that broke through.
Wertmüller, who died last year, was the first woman to score a best director nomination at the Academy Awards.
“Swing Ride,” (pictured) which is Bellosi’s sophomore work, is about an overweight 15-year-old named Benedetta pining for attention in an Italian province where she falls in love with the skinny non-binary Amanda.
Other highlights of The Wave in London include Alice Rohrwacher’s directorial debut “Heavenly Body” (“Corpo Celeste”) (2011) which takes a swipe at the Catholic Church’s indoctrination in the country’s south by observing the 13-year-old Marta, who is struggling to adjust to life after relocating from Switzerland to Italy’s deep south; Laura Bispuri’s transgender-themed directorial debut “Sworn Virgin,” which was a 2015 Berlinale competition standout; and Maura Delpero’s “Maternal” (2019), a portrait of motherhood set in an Argentinian refuge for adolescent single mothers run by nuns.
Further standouts comprise Adele Tulli’s genre-bending documentary “Normal” (2019) on how female and male identities are reflected in everyday interactions by capturing some of the most intimate moments in people’s lives; Michela Occhipinti’s “Flesh Out” (2019) about a modern young woman challenging the Mauritanian tradition of arranged marriage; theatre director Emma Dante’s filmmaking debut “A Street in Palermo,” a dark-humored look at a battle of will between two women; and Susanna Nicchiarelli’s debut “Cosmonaut” (2009) set during the space race between the Soviet Union and the U.S..
Chiara Bellosi, Susanna Nicchiarelli, Michela Occhipinti, Maura Delpero are expected to be on hand to introduce their films and chat following the screenings.
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