Summer film festivals are a cinephile’s dream, so when I found out that as part of being named the SFTV Scholar of the Year, I was chosen by the faculty to attend a summer film festival in Italy, of all places, I was thrilled.
Each summer, the Cineteca di Bologna organizes one of the most unique film festivals in Italy: Il Cinema Ritrovato, an eight-day festival that brings film lovers together for a celebration of restored classics and never-before-seen films. The festival includes open-air screenings, film lectures and conversations with historians, critics and restoration experts.
It was a week of celebrating movies, culture, and of course, delicious food. Below are my top five highlights from my week with Bologna.
The People. Il Cinema Ritrovato attracts a wide array of people ranging from students to veteran festival-goers who have attended the festival for nearly 30 years. Local Bolognese, Americans and Swedes gave the cinematic sweep truly an international flair. I greatly enjoyed interacting with fellow cinephiles, and appreciated the opportunity to learn from film critics, distributors and professors. Isabella Rossellini even introduced a documentary by Stig Björkman about her mother, Ingrid Bergman, Ingrid Bergman – In Her Own Words which was wonderful.
The Food. I tried all kinds of Italian food in Bologna: spaghetti, tagliatelle, seafood and the like. Although I thought there could be nothing comparable to a finely made Bolognese pizza, I cannot get the desserts out of my head. One particular scoop of gelato left me dreaming, and some fresh fruit I tried at a countryside restaurant was so juicy it was almost surreal.
Film Discoveries. I saw a grand total of 33 films throughout the week, but one of my favorite discoveries was Apur Sansar (The World of Apu), an Indian series about a boy’s life that was beautifully shot in black and white with the most calming music and breathtaking views of Calcutta. My other favorite was the 1965 film Bunny Lake is Missing. It was enveloping to watch the crisp composition on the theater’s widescreen. The entire audience was engrossed in this film and simultaneously gasped and giggled at one part at the end. It truly was an engaging experience in the theater.
The Outdoor Screenings. The festival used a historic nitrate projector for two special outdoor screenings. It felt as if we were transported back in time with the clicking of the slides and the steam rising in the air as we watched silent films on the projector. Each night, they screened a film in the giant outdoor piazza. Perhaps my favorite screening was the first, Elevator to the Gallows. As the film was being introduced, I noticed thunder crackling in the sky behind the giant screen. As the excitement mounted onscreen, and the man is first caught in the elevator, a spattering of rain came down. First a few drops, then buckets. Some brave souls tried to persevere and whipped out umbrellas, but as the strength of the rain increased, some of us sissies ran for cover. I was already soaking wet when I made it to a covered walkway, where most people were waiting the rain out, but I kept on walking. There must have been a huge grin on my face because I love the rain, and it actually felt more cinematic to run for cover with soppy hair and soaked feet than it was to finish the film (although I am disappointed I never got to finish it).
I was in Italy, watching an old black and white film, and had to run home in the rain. What’s more cinematic than that?
Climbing Adventure. On my last day in Bologna, after watching a Leo McCarey film, Good Sam, I had a few hours to kill. I decided to climb to the top of Asinelli, a magnificent 12th century structure. The top was higher than I had anticipated, and I stopped at every platform, catching my breath and debating if I should continue on. Each time I told myself the top was just a tad bit farther. The stairs were rickety and the air was stuffy, as I climbed and climbed and climbed. When I finally thought I was done climbing, I climbed a bit more and I made it to the top. The journey was certainly worth the view. I looked out at Bologna- the beautiful tiled houses, the glorious churches, the hills in the distance. This was the perfect end to both my time at the Bologna film festival and my college career. How perfectly this tower climb correlated to my studies: there were times when college was taxing, but I look back now and realize how much I have learned and how far I have come. And boy, was it worth the view.