What To Expect from the 18th Lavazza Italian Film Festival
National Festival Director Elysia Zeccola tells us about her top festival picks and the story behind Palace Cinemas.
What: 18th Lavazza Italian Film Festival presented by Luna Palace Cinemas
When: Thursday 21 September - Wednesday 11 October
Where: Cinema Paradiso and Luna On SX
Your chance to live la dolce vita (if only for a few hours) is back with the return of the Lavazza Italian Film Festival. Returning to Luna Palace Cinemas for the 18th year running, the festival kicks off tonight until 11 October, basically giving you the perfect excuse to have pizza and wine for dinner every night for the next three weeks.
For those who need help choosing which film to see...
This festival’s program boasts 28 films, lovingly curated by National Festival Director Elysia Zeccola. “I’m just looking for good stories told really well,” she says when I ask what she looks for in films.
“In terms of criteria, we don’t look for a certain number of dramas or comedies - we’re just looking for the best films that have come out of Italy in the last twelve months.”
Let Yourself Go!
The festivities begin tonight with the Opening Night Gala, which will feature a screening of Let Yourself Go! (Lasciati Andare!). This award-winning comedy tells the story of uptight psychoanalyst Elia, whose monotonous life is turned upside down with the arrival of the effervescent Claudia. “It’s a bit of fun for the opening and it’s got Toni Servillo, who I think a lot of people know and love,” says Elysia on why she chose Let Yourself Go! for the Opening Night Gala. “The film won the Best Comedy at the Italian Golden Globe Awards, so we hope everyone likes it as much as they did.”
Life is Beautiful
Closing the festival will be a 20th anniversary screening of Italy’s most beloved film, Roberto Benigni’s Life Is Beautiful (La Vita E’ Bella), which won both Best Foreign Film and Best Actor at the 1998 Academy Awards. This hilarious yet poignant masterpiece follows Guido, a young Jewish man protecting his five-year-old son from the horrors of a concentration camp during World War II. “The way that Roberto Benigni treats such a subject matter with comedy and slapstick, I remember when it came out, that was quite contentious,” says Elysia on why Life Is Beautiful remains such a beloved film 20 years later. “But in fact, I think it’s a really special film and it resonated with a lot of people and it’s got a special place in many people’s hearts, so I think it’s important to see it on the big screen again.”
Amongst the remaining 26 films, moviegoers are bound to find something for them, whether it be a lighthearted comedy or a thought-provoking drama. In fact, Elysia’s personal recommendation is Indivisible (Indivisibili), which tells the story of Daisy and Viola, twin sisters who are conjoined at the hip. Gifted with beautiful voices, the sisters regularly perform at local functions, simultaneously being exploited by their father who uses their talent to fill his own pockets. Trouble arises when a doctor reveals that it’s possible for the twins to be safely separated.
The story behind Palace Cinemas
With another diverse program in place, it’s no surprise that over the past 18 years, the Lavazza Italian Film Festival has grown into the largest public celebration of Italian cinema outside Italy. “It’s a celebration of not just Italian cinema, but Italian culture: the food, the wine, the music,” says Elysia. “We like to bring together all of those elements of la dolce vita and celebrate them together at the festival.”
A family business since its conception, we have Elysia’s father Antonio to thank for Australia’s only national network of boutique cinemas. Antonio migrated from Southern Italy to Australia in the 1960s and founded Palace Cinemas as a way to support the foreign films he loved as a child. Thus, while Elysia currently sits at the helm of Palace Cinemas as National Festival Director, her journey with Palace Cinemas began with her ripping tickets and making choc-tops as a 12-year-old. Thus, you can rest assured that your favourite foreign film festival is in capable hands.
If that charming origin story doesn’t convince you to grab a ticket or two to one of the 28 films on offer, we don’t know what will.
The 18th Lavazza Italian Film Festival begins tonight and ends on 11 October. Get your tickets here.