“I am most passionate about bringing my knowledge [of tasting] to consumers, “said an enthusiastic Orietta Gianjorio, a native Italian from Rome,...
For some, films offer a perfect escape: A way to forget their worries for a couple hours and believe in a world where the guy always gets the girl, the bad guys always fall and the hero always conquer. For others, it is a means of expression: A way to express their feelings, thoughts and values that they may not be able to do with simple words alone.
For others, like San Diego Italian Film Festival Executive Director Victor Laruccia, it is a passion passed down through genetics.
His love of film was inherited from his father, Vitantonio Policarpo Laruccia, who, as a young Italian living in South America, longed to fulfill his dream of becoming an actor like the beloved Rodolfo Valentino in the late 1920s.
"When Valentino died, they did a big thing all over the world - they created all these contests all over the world that were really big to see who would replace Valentino and my dad actually won in Buenos Aires," Laruccia said. "It was a really big deal for him - he won it before he was 17 - and that completely set his psychology in terms of seeing himself as an actor."
As it turned out, Laruccia explained, there was actually no prize in store for his father - he was later told he was too young to claim it. Nonetheless, it cemented in him the passion for being in the film industry and led to him making two films of his own in South America.
Ultimately, though, life led Vitantonio down a different path, which included meeting Laruccia's mother, a hard-working Italian businesswoman who had different views of a career as an actor. "For her, the idea of pursuing an acting career was not very useful; it didn't have enough 'umph' to it from a business point of view," Laruccia said.
Laruccia did not grow up in the film industry, but his father's love of all things film-related was instilled in him and it led to a career teaching film history at both University of California, San Diego and Brown University. Then, two decades after he had hung up his hat as a teacher, fate would place films in his path yet again.
Laruccia had decided to take an Italian course hosted by San Diego's House of Italy when "a guy I had never seen before sits down beside me and asks me if the House of Italy shows Italian movies. And it's like, out of all the people he could have asked the question to, it's sort of like, why did he ask me because it touched my heart."
And so began what would become the San Diego Italian Film Festival. Laruccia spear-headed the project and has watched it grow from small viewings at the House of Italy to what it is today.
"If we had known how difficult it was going to be [at the beginning], we probably would never have started," Laruccia. "It was all very casual. We did not have a particular expertise in any of the areas that you would think about if you wanted to put a festival together."
The San Diego Italian Film Festival has evolved from its humble beginnings to what it is today and, as Laruccia states in his address on SDIFF's "About Us" page online, "...the San Diego Italian Film Festival is about more than just movies. It is about identity, history and a shared appreciation of Italian culture and great cinema– in a word, it is about community.
In Italy communities come together in the piazza or town square and the San Diego Italian Film Festival is such a place for a diverse audience of film lovers and those who appreciate Italian culture."