Castiglion Fiorentino’s fifth annual free summer outdoor food, film, and interview series Sagra del Cinema (you get the sagra joke, right? If not, see the festival T-shirt that depicts a slice of sausage as a film reel) kicks off Thursday, July 27, in the shadow of the medieval Tower of Cassero. Official promo doesn’t go that far beyond the cheeky T-shirt and more earnest website, which describes the Sagra’s mission in no uncertain terms: getting back to the shared, convivial aspects of cinematic culture.
First on the program is a visit from actor Fortunato Cerlino from the TV series Gomorrah, set to be interviewed at 7.30pm, followed by a 9.30pm screening of Cerlino’s 2017 action-crime drama Falchi. Cerlino is expected to discuss his roles in the 2008 movie Gomorrah and the 2014 Italian TV series of the same name, aptly termed by Sight and Sound Magazine “Italy’s Answer to Breaking Bad.” Both the movie and the TV series arose from journalist Roberto Saviano’s hair-raising 2006 book Gommorah (as a consequence of which Saviano now lives under constant armed protection).
Veteran Italian actor Renato Scarpa sits down for a 7.30pm interview the following evening. Scarpa has appeared in 85 films since 1969, including the 1973 thriller Don’t Look Now with Julie Christie and Donald Sutherland, the hilarious spoof of Italian neorealism The Icicle Thief (which, incidentally screened at last year’s Sagra del Cinema, along with an interview with its director Maurizio Nichetti), 2010’s The Tourist, and the wonderful 1999 psychological thriller The Talented Mr. Ripley.
Shortly after the Friday Scarpa interview comes, at 9.30pm, Habemus Papam (We Have a Pope) starring Michel Piccoli and Nanni Moretti, who also directed. An Italian-French comedy-drama about a cardinal who against his wishes is elected pope—prompting the Vatican to call in a psychoanalyst—it screens in Italian with English subtitles. (Scarpa plays Cardinal Gregori in this film.)
Saturday, July 29, at 7.30pm actor Francesco Montanari, star of the 2012 comedy romance Tell No One directed by Ivan Silvestrini, sits for an interview, followed by a screening at 21.30pm of Sole cuore amore (Sun, Heart, Love), a story of two young Roman women whose stark differences bind them in friendship. (No English subtitles for this one; solo in italiano.)
Sunday, July 30 at 7.30pm, well-known stage, screen and TV actor Lino Guanciale is interviewed alongside I peggiori actor, director and writer Vincenzo Alfieri. At 9.30pm is a screening of I peggiori, in which Guanciale stars, along with Alfieri, and actress Antonella Antonelli. (This film does not yet have subtitles and will screen in Italian only.)
Piazza dello Stillo
The festival moves from the shadow of the Tower of Cassero to Castiglion Fiorentino’s piazza dello Stillo on August 18. Not so long ago, this was the site of the town’s much loved movie house. In a special charity benefit to raise money for victims of the October 2016 Norcia earthquake, the 1966 comedy L’armata Brancaleone screens, in Italian with English subtitles. Directed by prolific, long-lived writer/director Mario Monicelli, who between 1934 and 2010 was credited as a director on 69 films and a writer on 111, L’armata Brancaleone tells the tale of a bunch of medieval misfits led by an incompetent knight called Brancaleone. It stars Vittorio Gassman, Catherine Spaak and Folco Lulli and features, among others, English actress Barbara Steele, star of the 1960 Italian horror masterpiece Black Sunday (The Mask of Satan). Incidentally, Gassman’s long career includes a part in the 1980 Mel Brooks/Maxwell Smart (Don Adams) comedy The Nude Bomb, in which Maxwell Smart is called out of retirement to battle a villain who threatens to detonate a weapon that destroys clothing!
A hip hop dance performance will take place on August 19 at 7.30pm, followed by the movie Martha and Niki at 9.30pm, screened in English with Italian subtitles. The film tells the story of Martha Nabwire and Niki Tsappos, two Swedish friends who in 2010 went to Paris to compete in, and won, Juste Debout, the world’s biggest hip hop competition.
The festival wraps up with a light touch: A Night With Buster Keaton on Sunday, August 20 at 9.30pm features three hilarious silent classics: The Boat, The Electric House, and One Week. In a special treat, noted Perugian percussionist Gianni Maestrucci, of Tetraktis Percussioni and Open City Orchestra, accompanies each film with his own live soundtrack, played on vibraphone, marimba, glockenspiel, wood blocks, cymbal, and drums in a score partly composed and partly improvised. At press time Maestrucci, whose work draws on jazz, classical and popular idioms, was experimenting with “prepared vibraphone” to derive unique textures to complement the films. Very avant-garde for the venue, no?
So, I don’t know about other film buffs, but for this one, watching movies outdoors is an exquisite pleasure unequaled by any other; sitting under the stars on a warm summer night seeing magical light on a silver screen is nothing short of absolute bliss. The movies are free, the food delicious, and the spirit of a Tuscan sagra, priceless.