A Week of Documentaries at ‘Festival dei Popoli’ 2018

A scene from the documentary “La Regina di Casetta”

Until Nov. 10:  FESTIVAL DEI POPOLI documentary film festival held at Cinema La Compagnia (via Cavour 50/r), Spazio Alfieri (via dell’Ulivo 6) and the French Institute of Florence (piazza Ognissanti 2/r).

The event will host 88 documentary films along with special events and a retrospective dedicated to Italian director and screenwriter Roberto Minervini and French director Dominique Marchais. The festival is chaired by Vittorio Iervese and directed by Alberto Lastrucci and will bring the best of international cinema to Florence for residents and visitors to enjoy.

Beginning in 2014, the institution embarked on a multi-year project aimed at highlighting the essential elements involved in filmmaking. Festival themes often address topics related to social justice, urban evolution, and immigration with the goal of demonstrating the link between images and power. In the eyes of organizers and attendees, documentary cinema is an important artistic language of the contemporary world.

A noteworthy premiere is the Italian debut of the first episode of the four-part The Fourth Estate at Cinema La Compagnia on November 8 at 9:30 pm. Oscar nominated director Liz Garbus is the creative mind behind this thought-provoking docuseries about the work of New York Times journalists during the first 100 days of Donald Trump’s tempestuous presidency.

The Fourth Estate closely follows the individual journalists and media professionals tasked with reporting on the events that unfolded in the wake of the most recent U.S. presidential election. The piece is a poignant reflection on ethics and honesty, revealing the struggles of reporters in a political climate in which they are vilified by the president as “the enemies of the people.” In a world of social media, mass global communication and “fake news,” these writers battle to uncover the truth, inform the public and defend democracy.

The film is included in the Special Events category of the festival, along with a series of others focusing on as star tennis star John McEnroe, activists fighting for free elections in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Syrian refugees, modern banking and more.  The documentary on the three-time Wimbledon champ, “John McEnroe: In the Realm of Perfection,” spotlights the impetuous three-time Wimbledon champion on the court, recording his controversial reactions (November 5, Cinema La Compagnia, 9 pm).

This year’s program will include an International Competition of 21 short, medium and feature films never before shown in Italy and an Italian Competition of six feature films representing modern Italian production. Popoli will also host seminars called Doc at Work and Doc at Work Campus, which are regarded as spaces for shaping new ideas and film projects, spotlighting student work and financing the future of cinema. Doc at Work facilitates meetings with directors to discuss themes and perspectives regarding documentaries today, while Campus focuses on work done by Italian film schools.

A retrospective program called The World in Flames – The Cinema of Roberto Minervini will provide insight into the mind of the contemporary filmmaker via a free masterclass held at the Sant’Apollonia Auditorium on Tuesday, November 6 at 10 am. Three of his other films will also be screened: The Passage (Monday, November 4, Spazio Alfieri 7 pm), Low Tide (Tuesday, November 6, Spazio Alfieri, 8:45 pm) and The Other Side (Wednesday, November 7, Spazio Alfieri, 8:30 pm).

One of the most popular sections is dedicated to music; this year, the program called “Hit Me With Music!” will present five documentaries about various musical figures from a variety of genres, countries and generations. The offerings will include Betty – They Say I’m Different (Wednesday, November 7, Spazio Alfieri, 10 pm), a film from director Philip Cox about the controversial queen of funk who became a music and fashion icon in the 1970s before mysteriously disappearing from the spotlight for 35 years. Blue Note Records: Beyond the Notes (Thursday, November 8, Spazio Alfieri, 9:30 pm) follows the historic Blue Notes Records label and the evolution of music from jazz to hip hop along with rare archival materials.

Two more documentaries are dedicated the great rock band Queen: Queen + Bejart: Ballet for Life (Tuesday, November 6, Cinema La Compagnia, 10:15 pm) focuses on the collaboration between Queen and choreographer Maurice Bejart;  and Queen: Rock the World (Tuesday, November 6, Cinema La Compagnia, 9:15 pm) portrays the group’s revolutionary 1977 tour in the U.S. Finally, Studio 54 (Friday, November 9, Cinema La Compagnia, 9:30 pm) will portray the famous New York nightclub and epicenter of hedonism in the 1970s.

This year the Festival dei Popoli will also collaborate with KinderDocs, a Greek festival dedicated to young people. The selection of documentaries to be presented cover a wide range of topics including friendship, family, education, social media, creativity, psychology and more. These themes will be explored in thought-provoking films such as More Human Than Human by Tommy Pallotta and Femke Wolting, which addresses the current and future role of artificial intelligence in our daily lives.

The Festival dei Popoli will also honor French director Dominique Marchais with an exhibition titled “The Living Landscape” comprised of a masterclass and meetings with the public. The retrospective will include screenings of four of her films and is organized in collaboration with the Embassy of France, as the filmmaker’s works often journey through the French countryside in conjunction with themes of dreams, utopias and disillusions.

There will be a final party for the Festival held at BUH! Circolo Culturale Urbano (Via Panciatichi 16) on Friday, November 9 at 10:30 pm in collaboration with La Scena Muta and the music of the Makossa Brothers.

The festival will close on November 10 (8:30 pm) at Cinema La Compagnia with a viewing of the 2018 film Genesis 2.0 directed and produced by Christian Fei. The documentary has won numerous awards for its observation of “mammoth hunters” and their dangerous lives spent hunting for the extinct mammals’ tusks on remote islands in the far north of Siberia. Russian and South Korean clone researchers search for mammoth cells with the greatest possible degree or intact DNA in attempts to resurrect the species. These efforts are the manifestations of a global technological revolution of biologists working to re-invent life, which may turn the world as we know it upside down. The movie is part of the thematic focus “Habitat,”  along with 11 other films measuring the state of environmental health in various areas of the planet.

The award ceremony for the sixth edition of the Sabrina Sganga Journalist Prize will be take place at Spazio Alfieri on Saturday, November 10 at 5 pm.

Guests can purchase a full series ticket for €60 (reduced price of €40), which will be valid for any and all events throughout the duration of the festival. Daily passes are available for €10 (reduced €7) and include 1-day entrance to the venue at which they are purchased. Single tickets for admission from 3-8:30pm cost €5 (reduced €4), while single tickets for admission after 8:30 pm cost €7 (reduced €5). The afternoon screenings of KinderDocs are will offer free admission to those under 18.

The festival was founded in 1959 by a group of scholars and the Festival dei Popoli Institute been active as a non-for-profit organization for almost 60 years. The main task of the association is to organize Italy’s leading International Documentary Film Festival in Florence. It also established an installment called the New York Documentary film Festival in New York from 2008-2010. It holds courses and workshops, maintains a vast network of collaborations in the world of Italian and international documentary film, and its curates an archive of over 25,000 titles.  (leigh van ryn)

Those seeking more information can call 055/244778, email info@festivaldeipopoli.org or follow the Festival dei Popoli accounts on Facebook, Twitter and Youtube. For press info, visit www.festivaldeipopoli.org or contact Antonio Pirozzi at 339/5238132 and press@festivaldeipopoli.org or Valentina Messina at 327/4419370 and press.festivaldeipopoli@gmail.com