A World of Documentaries at ‘Festival dei Popoli’


‘The Kid with a Bike’ (2011) by Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne

The 63rd annual Festival dei Popoli, Italy’s leading International Documentary Film Festival, is returning to Florence in presence from November 5-13 at the La Compagnia Cinema (via Cavour 50/r). The oldest film festival in Europe, the Festival dei Popoli will highlight the work of a number of talented filmmakers, including tributes to Sinead O’Connor, and brothers Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne  Movies will be screened in their original language with English and Italian subtitles.

The festival will honor the work of film-making duo Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne from Belgium, who have won the Palme d’Or, the highest award at the Cannes Festival, twice. The Dardenne brothers will attend the festival as guests of honor, providing a retrospective into their films and careers, in addition to the Grand Prix.. The festival will culminate with a masterclass, as well as the national premiere of their most recent work, Tori and Lokita.

Presenting contemporary documentary films from around the world, Festival dei Popoli is chaired by Vittorio Iervese, under the artistic direction of Alessandro Stellino, and organized by Claudia Maci. The International Competition will present 18 Italian and international premier films, which will be judged by Jordan Cronk, Heidi Fleischer, and Peolo Moretti. Winners of an €8,000 prize for Best Feature Film, a €4,000 prize for Best Medium-Length Film, and a €2,500 prize for Best Short Film will be announced. Finally, festival organizers will award the “Gian Paolo Paoli” Plaque for Best Anthropological Film. 

“Diamonds are Forever” is a specific subsection focusing on documentaries on women’s issues, frequently by women directors, many of which were not available up to now to the general public.

The festival kicks off on Saturday, November 5 at 9 pm with the national premier of Everything Will Change by Marten Persiel. The film takes place in a dystopian society in the year 2054, where three nonconformists embark on a journey to discover what led their planet to reach a state of disaster. They find that the answer lies in the year 2020, a year in which a fruitful future for the world is still possible, and yet everything changes. This science fiction movie explores the extinction of wildlife and emphasizes the importance of environmental preservation.

Sunday, November 6 brings the story of a young boy abandoned by his father, The Kid with a Bike by the Dardennes brothers.  For music lovers out there, there will also be a selection of music-themed documentaries. On the same day will be the free screening of La Chiavi di una Storia, La Comunità dell’Isolotto, which details how abandoned tract of land across the Arno from the Cascine Park in the 1950s became a housing development and a social experiment which changed the cityscape of Florence in more ways than one.

On November 11, the festival will highlight the work of Kathryn Ferguson with her film, Nothing Compares. This movie explores the life of Irish singer-songwriter Sinead O’Connor. Credited as an “artistic parable,” this work explores the ins and outs of O’Connor’s rise to fame and the downfall of her pop stardom.

The festival includes a “Habitat” section, highlighting films that explore the ecosystem, climate crisis, and the technological evolution taking place today. On November 6, the film Just Animals by Saila Kivelä and Vesa Kuosmanen will be featured. This documentary follows the life of a young Finnish activist’s personal evolution, as she realizes that her dreams of utopia may never come true. On November 12, “Habitat” will also feature Into the Weeds by Jennifer Baichwal, which follows the life of Lee Johnson and his fight against agrochemical pollutant companies.

A festival chat will be held at the 25th Hours Hotel in Florence (Piazza di San Paolino, 1) on November 19 from 7 -10 pm. With a different theme each evening, open chats will be held with the public looking to learn more about the program’s films. Some topics which will be explored include Imagining Possible Worlds, Female Imaginaries, Imaginaries at Work, and Sustainable Imaginaries. (Karen Dotan)

For more information and the complete schedule, visit the website.