The Turin Film Festival Overtakes Rome

in 30th Torino Film Festival

by Bruno Torri

In 2012, the Turin Film Fest (TFF) celebrated its 30th anniversary, once again displaying all of its best traits, those which have given it its unique identity and well-earned prestige at home and internationally. For years considered the third biggest Italian film festival, behind Venice and Rome, after the disappointing outcome of the latter event, the TFF has this year improved its standing, passing to second place, at least in terms of quality and cultural significance. This regardless of the fact that the Rome International Film Festival boasts a €12 million budget, and the TFF has only €2 million. Moreover, despite this large financial gap, both festivals last 9 days, Turin had more screens than Rome (11 versus 9, respectively), and both events offered numerous films (perhaps too many). And unlike Rome (where the number of festival-goers dropped significantly and critics’ reactions were for the most part negative), the TFF registered an increase of over 17% in attendance and critical consensus was nearly unanimously positive.

The strengths of the TFF, headed effectively for the fourth and last time by Gianni Amelio, were a wide, expert offering of films spread out among various sections; a (on average) strong selection of 16 first or second movies in competition; a complete retrospective on Joseph Losey with a voluminous accompanying catalogue edited by Emanuela Martini; and further its deep-rooted connection with the city, which encouraged the active participation of broad (predominantly young) audiences.

The competition featured three Italian titles that although distinct from one another all displayed striking originality and experimentation. Giovanni Columbu’s The King (Su Re) is a sacred depiction of the Passion of Christ, set among the arid mountains of Sardinia, in which the characters of the four Gospels speak only the local dialect. Beyond its religious sentiment, the film strives to capture the places, bodies and voices of an atavistic reality frozen in time. The other two Italian films – Quitting Smoking by Smoking (Smettere di fumare fumando) by Gipi and Mario Balsamo’s We’re Nothing Like James Bond (Noi non siamo come James Bond) – clearly share an autobiographical element (the directors both star in their films) and are in fact presented as “docu-diaries.” But while the former is comical, surreal and over the top, the latter is primarily a reflection on friendship and illness, and gives cinema a cognitive and therapeutic role as well.

Like the official jury’s award for the Best Film in Competition, the Fipresci Prize also went to Scottish title Shell by first-timer Scott Graham. The Fipresci jury’s motivation was as follows: “With great sensitivity, a calibrated narrative structure, and a style that is both essential and rigorous, Scott Graham depicts a human and social condition marked by solitude, pain and an unsatisfied need for love. He renders believable the idea that the young protagonist can escape her isolation and suffering if she opens herself up to a different future, albeit an uncertain and risky one, as the personal search for freedom always is.”

Edited by Alison Frank