Country Focus: Italy
Italian cinema looking for new paths (part 1)
by Gabriele Barcaro
16/06/2010 - It’s hard to imagine a more opportune moment for a convention on “The Economy of Italian Cinema”. The conference held June 14 at Rome’s Tor Vergata University (in collaboration with ANICA and the Roma Lazio Film Commission) comes at a time of “bitter controversy over the budget cuts to culture” (according to Giovanni Spagnoletti, a professor at Tor Vergata and director of the Pesaro Film Festival). Cuts that are threatening cinema as well – the FUS (Entertainment Industry Fund) is slated to lose €370m in 2011 – and call for a debate on the state (and future) of the entire industry.
Discussions centred more on the knots within the “Italian system” rather than a comparison with other country’s industries (such as usual suspect, France). Some of the issues are aesthetic (the advancement of digital, which “democratises” the access to cinema for young filmmakers, but is still generally excluded from the theatrical market). Most are economic, such as the twilight of art house exhibitors, the majority of whom run single-screen cinemas in the city’s historical centres. Or the fact screens are being shut down with increasing frequency due to the impossibility of paying high rental and management costs, which is leading to cultural and “emotional” impoverishment (as revealed by Barbara Corsi’s extensively empirical analyses).
Make way for multiplexes then, both urban and rural, with the consequent triumph of US blockbusters. But before anyone jumps to any quick, generalised conclusions: there where exhibitors have gotten audiences used to the co-habitation of box office hits and arthouse films, the latter don’t seem to suffer much. On the contrary, they achieve remarkable market shares, and worthy of the much lamented “city theatres”.
Another debated issue was the role of independent producers. It was discussed by three leading indie figures in Italy, including Francesca Cima (who with Nicola Giuliano heads Indigo Film). She said: “The psychological profile of the independent producer, today, is schizophrenic, divided between reports of a structural crisis and optimism over other important elements, such as the renaissance of the kinds of films that communicate with audiences, and the increase of Italian art house tiles, with product that induces envy among foreigners.”
“For several years now [independent Italian films] have enjoyed renewed interest from foreign markets,” added Andrea Occhipinti, president of Lucky Red, which has stepped up its role in art house production, Italian (most recently, the Front Line [trailer, film focus]) and European (The White Ribbon [trailer, film focus], Abdel Kechiche’s Venus Noire).