New Italian Cinema Completes its 16th year in San Francisco. To Andrea Segre’s “Shun Li and the Poet” the NICE City of Florence

Concluding eight days of the best emerging Italian Cinema production, the Closing Night of New Italian Cinema 2012 took place in style last Sunday, bringing an inspiring touch of Italy to the Embarcadero Center Landmark Theatre.

This year’s NICE City of Florence Award was assigned to director Andrea Segre for his film Shun Li and the Poet (In Italian Io sono Li), while the Susan Batson Award for acting went to Valeria Golino for her main role in Kryptonite! (by Ivan Cotroneo), and to Alessandro Roja in The Greatest of Them All (by Carlo Virzì).
  Grazia Santini and Viviana del Bianco announcing NICE winner

  Grazia Santini and Viviana del Bianco announcing NICE winner

The NICE City of Florence Award, which was established in 1991, was decided by audience ballots from San Francisco screenings of films in competition and announced at the Closing Night award ceremony Sunday, November 18th by Rod Armstrong of the San Francisco Film Society, and Viviana del Bianco of New Italian Cinema Events.
The ceremony was preceded by the screening of Laura Morante’s film The Cherry on the Cake, not in competition though marking the debut as director of the widely celebrated Italian actress.
Interviewed by L’Italo-Americano, Grazia Santini representative of NICE, spoke of the importance of the City of Florence Award, which is a prize coveted by filmmakers who have not yet an established name.
In fact, as often happened in the past, the Città di Firenze award helped distributors keep an eye on the public taste, and influenced their decision to select these lesser-known Italian films for foreign distribution.
Matteo Garrone for example, now an internationally established filmmaker, had participated in the NICE Festival with one of his first films, without even winning, which was then selected from a foreign distributor.
According to Mrs. Santini, “Despite the crisis, there is more attention now on Italian films—particularly abroad—even if in Italy many, historic cinemas are closing down.”
 Following the Award Ceremony in San Francisco, the wonderful Cinema Odeon in Florence will host next December 14th, a Gala, where the winner of New Italian Cinema 2012 will be presented to return from the U.S. and all directors will receive public tribute.
The event also represents the closing stage of the “50 days of cinema” for the city of Florence.
This year’s New Italian Cinema featured a competitive series of seven feature films by emerging directors, a four-film tribute to actress/director Valeria Golino, and a special documentary presentation featuring Duccio Chiarini’s Hit the Road, Nonna.
As mentioned above, the New Italian Cinema Events organization presented the Susan Batson Award for acting. Now in its fourth year, the award acknowledges superb acting talent and provides actors an opportunity to study their craft with acclaimed acting coach Susan Batson.
 For the fourth year as well, the Film Society’s Youth Education program teamed up with many of the filmmaker guests in town for the Festival to arrange school visits and cultural enrichment opportunities for local high school students. Ivan Cotroneo (director of Kryptonite!), Roan Johnson (director of The First on the List) and Raffaele Verzillo (director of 100 Meters to Heaven) made visits to Italian classes at San Francisco School of the Arts and Lowell High School to discuss their craft—mostly in Italian—with many students.
With regard to the film winner Shun Li and the Poet, it is a 2011 Italian drama written and directed by Andrea Segre, starring Chinese actress Zhao Tao, who won the 2012 David di Donatello award for Best Actress for her performance as Shun Li in this film.
The movie was presented for the first time at last year’s Venice Film Festival, then selected by the NICE commission in Florence to be part of the “fantastic seven” to compete for the Festival in the United States. It will also be in the program of next Cannes Film Festival in May 2013.
  A scene from Andrea Segre’s SHUN LI AND THE POET, playing at New Italian Cinema. Courtesy of: San Francisco Film Society

  A scene from Andrea Segre’s SHUN LI AND THE POET, playing at New Italian Cinema. Courtesy of: San Francisco Film Society

Io Sono Li relates the romantic and difficult friendship between a Chinese illegal immigrant (Shun Li) and an old Italian fisherman (Bepi) called “the Poet,” who lives in a small city-island in the Veneto lagoon facing economic changes.
The film tells of the encounter between two worlds in crisis: the world of Shun Li who has been forced to abandon her own roots, and the world of Bepi who sees his roots transforming deeply because of the social changes of the region.
 The fascination of this film captured the attention of enthusiastic audiences, that once again showed high attendance for all films proposed by the Festival.
New Italian Cinema 2012 was presented by the San Francisco Film Society; New Italian Cinema Events of Florence, Italy; the Consulate General of Italy in San Francisco, and the Italian Cultural Institute of San Francisco,  with additional support from Comune di Firenze; Fondazione Sistema Toscana; Ministero dei Beni Culturali; Regiona Toscana; John and Romana Bracco and Guerrino De Luca; media sponsors San Francisco Examiner and San Francisco Bay Guardian; event sponsor Osha Restaurant and Lounge; and venue sponsor Landmark Theatres.
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