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Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Milwaukee Festival Showcases Italian Cinema

UWM Union Theatre to host film screenings

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In the earliest years of film, before Hollywood even existed, Italy was at the top of the movie business. It's been nearly a century since Italian films dominated the world market, but in the intervening years Italy has never ceased to be a player. The relatively small nation was home to the first international film festival in the 1930s, spurred the move toward realism in the 1940s, rebooted the Western genre in the '60s and shaped the ugly face of horror in the '70s.

For the sixth year, Milwaukee will have its own Italian Film Festival showcasing a variety of contemporary work from that nation's cinema. A trio of local organizers, Bobby Tanzilo, Paul Salsini and Jean Grow, culled the lineup from a roster of movies chosen by Barbara Klein, who has kick-started similar festivals in other American cities. "She's in Italy at least once a year and gets screeners together and oversees the whole thing," Tanzilo says. "But then the four of us talk about which would be good fits for Milwaukee. And then Barbara sorts out the rights [with distributors], which sometimes overrides our decisions."

This year's three-day festival opens 9 p.m. May 4 with director Ivan Cotroneo's Kryptonite!, a comedy about an eccentric family in the '70s and the boy who thinks he's Superman—and dresses the part. "We always try to have a good variety: a comedy, a drama, a documentary, a historical sort of film," Tanzilo explains. "We want to offer a broad swath to show the richness of the film industry in a relatively small country."

Although Antonioni, Visconti, Fellini and Leone are long gone, Tanzilo feels that the current generation of Italian directors appreciates the legacy they have received. "I think someone like Pupi Avati is especially appreciated for his work and will endure across the decades," Tanzilo says. "A lot of the films that make it here and are successful there are comedies, like Welcome to the South, which we're showing [5 p.m. May 5]. It was so big in Italy that there is already a sequel, Welcome to the North. Maybe we'll get that next year."

The Italian Film Festival runs May 4-6 at the UW-Milwaukee Union Theatre. For more information, go to www.italianfilmfests.org.
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