“I am most passionate about bringing my knowledge [of tasting] to consumers, “said an enthusiastic Orietta Gianjorio, a native Italian from Rome,...
On March 2 of this year, Paolo Sorrentino took home an Oscar for his masterpiece, La Grande Bellezza (The Great Beauty) won in the category of Best Foreign Language Film. This was the 10th Oscar awarded to an Italian film at the Academy Awards, dating back to 1956 when director Federico Fellini’s La Strada won Italy’s very first Oscar.
Before the category for Best Foreign Film was established as a regular category. Italian films also received three Special/Honorary Awards in 1947, ’49 and ’50.
American appreciation for Italian films has clearly been around for more than half a century. Film connoisseur Giuseppe Annino and his organization, Cinema Little Italy, is bringing that appreciation to San Diego while bringing the Italian-American community here closer together.
“Three of us – me, Rich LaRocca and Joey DeSimone – are personally committed to bringing the Italian community closer together,” Annino said, “and we jumped at the opportunity to do just that through Italy’s world famous cinema.”
For Annino, this was partially inspired by his own personal renewed interest in his Italian heritage. Raised the son of Italian immigrants who had come to New York to raise a family, Annino was “relatively disinterested and, in fact, a little embarrassed because usually Italians were associated with mafia and people would make wise-cracks about that.” It wouldn’t be until the early 2000s that “something ignited in [his] brain and [he] started studying Italian.”
Cinema Little Italy launched its inaugural season last year when Annino and his partners were approached by San Diego’s Little Italy Association to aid them in the “cultural renaissance” that was occurring in the neighborhood. “We had done several film screenings in Little Italy,” he explained. “There was interest in attracting more visitors to Little Italy by expanding these occasional screenings to a film festival.”
The festival is a 12-week event that runs from June 14 to Aug. 30 and allows guests to watch Italian films (with English subtitles) every Saturday night at 8 p.m. under the stars in Amici Park in Little Italy.
“Most people are not aware that there are hundreds of Italian films, many with English subtitles, which have never or seldom been shown in the U.S.,” Annino said.
Part of Annino’s responsibilities for the organization involve film distribution and selection. Each year, he travels to Venice, Italy to attend the Venice Film Festival in order to search out the next batch of films to be screened by Cinema Little Italy.
The films selected for screening are a combination of various genres. Annino explains that “there are different aspects of Italian society that we like to show people [with the films].” Genres vary from politics to romantic comedies to current events.
Annino goes on: “There’s a big thing in Italy right now with the immigration from Africa (…) There’s a beautiful movie called “Terraferma” that we’re showing this year that’s about that.”
As the festival prepares to launch its second season, it is reaching out to young people to help educate the younger generations about their Italian backgrounds and has therefore been contacting Italian culture and language teachers in San Diego to spread the word to their students about the festival.
“This is a labor of love for the three of us,” Annino said. “Entrance is free. We only ask for a $5 contribution to offset costs.”
The festival’s season will close with a festival party at the Convivio Center on Sept. 13 that will include dinner and a movie beginning at 6 p.m. Guests will be greeted at the door with a glass of Prosecco, enjoy a buffet dinner and at 8 p.m., a screening of Graziano Diana’s film “Eddia Ciano e il comunista,” following the real life love affair between the daughter of Benito Mussolini and Leonida Bongiorno, a red partisan.
Tickets for this are available at Convivio’s website (www.conviviosociety.org) and cost $35.
More information about the festival, film synopses and trailers and screening schedule can be found at Cinema Little Italy’s website: www.cinemalittleitaly. com.