Starting November 17th, San Francisco will be home to a series of events about Italian music, food, cinema, and opera. There will be an opportunity...
The proud son of Italian immigrants from the Friuli region, Lido Cantarutti was born in Santa Cruz, California, where he and his brother grew up helping their father harvest Brussels sprouts along the central coast of California. Lido relocated to the San Francisco Bay Area and eventually attended the University of California at Berkeley. It was there that he received both his undergraduate and graduate degrees in Romance Languages.
Besides a long and successful career in the field of human resources, Lido has also been teaching college-level Italian language classes for more than a quarter of a century, and has twice been honored with a knighthood by the President of the Republic of Italy. As if that weren’t enough, Cavaliere Ufficiale Lido Cantarutti is also the founder and director of the Italian Film Festival in Marin County, which is now in its thirty-seventh year.
Founded as a one-time screening for college students, this celebration of Italian cinema has become a favorite of hundreds of people from the whole San Francisco Bay Area. After the Festival opening couple of days ago, we asked Lido what are the secrets behind this successful event.
Could you explain how the Italian Festival has changed over the past 37 years?
“That’s a very good question, because the festival now is very different from its original format.
A friend and I organized the first edition as a very modest presentation in a college lecture hall in Marin County, with an attendance of about sixty people. We were doing a black and white screening of Italian Neorealism, with movies like Rome, Open City and The Bicycle Thief. They were 16mm films at that time, a modest technique but great movies. If it were up to me, I would always show that era of Italian cinematography.
“After that, I continued organizing the festival all by myself, and the audience grew incredibly over the years, always filling auditoriums. My idea was not only to show movies, but also to provide a presentation of other things like folk music and food, with informative and entertaining introductions.
“In 1989 I decided we needed to change the location, so we moved to the Showcase Theatre at Marin Center in San Rafael, where we are now. That change allowed the projection of films in better quality, with 35mm equipment like any other commercial theater. The festival has become even more popular and almost every night since, we’ve been sold out.”
What are the expectations for this thirty-seventh year?
“Currently, we are doing not just one but two shows every night, and I am very happy to report that ticket sales are going extremely well.
“Most screenings are already “sold out,” but some tickets are still available for the late screening at 7:45 PM, so we should end up the season with a little over 4,000 people in attendance for all the season.
“This is the biggest festival we’ve ever had, as it never happened to sell almost all the tickets so early!”
What do you think is the aspect of this film festival that makes people love it so much?
“The other big change that we made during the years, is that we progressed to show the public, not only classic Italian film, but newer movies as well, showcasing new, award-winning Italian films.
“This year, out of the total of seven films, we have only two old classics for the special retrospective of the great Genovese actor Paolo Villaggio.
“It was very hard to get copies of his movies because of copyrights issues, but I was able to find these two jewels, Azzurro (Denis Rabaglia, 2000) and Io no speak English (Carlo Vanzina, 1995). The second one is a funny comedy where Villaggio portrays a Genovese manager who has to relocate to Great Britain in order to keep his job.
“Other films in program are Posti in piedi in Paradiso (2012) by Carlo Verdone, which has received many nominations and awards in Italy, Ex-amici come prima (2011) for an opening night of laughter, the drama Il rosso e il blu with my favorite Margherita Buy and Riccardo Scamarcio, and we will conclude the festival with Un giorno in più, the last film by writer and actor Fabio Volo.”
How are the Italian films selected, and how difficult is to get them here?
“It all depends entirely on the good relations that I keep with the Italian distributors. After so many years, they know me very well and they trust me as a responsible person.
“Every year I go to Rome for a preview of the best films of the year, and after that I make the selection. If they didn’t know me personally, it would be very difficult because I’m nobody, I don’t represent any government.
“They know me and allow me to have the films; they are wonderful people and I love them all.”
Lido Cantarutti will also have two surprises for the public this year: a little gift to all the attendees of the sold-out opening night, plus a brand new Fiat 500 four-door, that will be on display every weekend of the festival, running from September 28 to November 9.
For detailed information of the Italian festival, and to purchase the last tickets available, visit www.ItalianFilm.com