This year MEDIA Salles again continues their survey on the presence of Italian films in cinemas abroad.
We publish the main results available up to now, pointing out that the large amount of added content, especially of a cultural nature, is partly due to the digitization of projection that has taken place over the past few years.
The great beauty of the truffle
by Elisabetta Brunella
There can be no doubt that 2021 was a very special year for international cinema: theatres and spectators still had to face up to closures and restrictions, as well as to the release of titles on the big screen that had been announced but then postponed. With the result in Europe that if, on the territory as a whole, we might speak of a recovery in admissions, the results were more or less encouraging according to the markets involved. If we look at the circulation of Italian cinema in Europe, another feature catches the eye: 2021 was marked by a significant number of documentaries, produced or co-produced by this country. Detailed figures on the titles most widely viewed in individual European countries are still being finalised, but from the data already available the success of “The Truffle Hunters” emerges.
This US, Greek and Italian co-production narrates the extraordinary daily life of truffle hunters in the Langhe and their relationship with their dogs, the true wizards that discover these luxury items, the objects of desire all over the world. This is how, after having won over critics and audiences alike in prestigious US festivals such as Sundance and Telluride, “The Truffle Hunters”, distributed by Sony Int’l, took its place at the top of the charts of Italian films in the United Kingdom, a decidedly demanding market for so-called “specialty movies”. The documentary, which counts Luca Guadagnino amongst its co-producers, takes first place in the Italian top ten in Ireland, Denmark, Norway, Finland, Sweden and in the Netherlands, too, whilst coming in fifth position in Estonia and eighth in Austria.
We find another documentary at the top of the charts: “Frida. Viva la vida”. This biopic dedicated to Frida Kahlo by Giovanni Troilo is also a winner in the Baltic countries, coming in first place in Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, whilst in second place in France, third in the United Kingdom, fourth in the Netherlands and twelfth in Hungary. The Hungarian market once again confirms its interest in productions by the Bel Paese.
Whilst works of fiction take their place on the podium - “Sul più bello”/“Out of my league”, “Volevo nascondermi”/”Hidden away” (first in France) and “La dea fortuna”/”The Goddess of Fortune” - they alternate with art films, such as “Botticelli e Firenze - la nascita della bellezza”, joined by “Pompei. Eros e Mito”, “Raffaello - il giovane prodigio”, “Fellini degli Spiriti”, “Maledetto Modigliani”, “Frida. Viva la vida” and “Klimt & Schiele - Eros e Psyche”. All of these are distributed by Pannonia Entertainment, which goes to show that a tenacious distributor can nurture an audience of Italy’s fans, its cinema and its arts, and make it grow.
A similar case regards the Czech Republic, where Aerofilms, the main distributor of Italian productions, places “Botticelli e Firenze. La nascita della bellezza” in first place. In second place “Raffaello - il giovane prodigio”, in fifth “Pompei - Eros e Mito”, to mention only the most successful titles.
And passing from the figurative arts to music, Austrian spectators bring “Paolo Conte, via con me” to second place in the Italian classifications, a film with the participation of one of Italy’s best-known international legends, Roberto Benigni. The documentary directed by Giorgio Verdelli comes in eighth place in the Netherlands and fifteenth in Luxembourg.
And where a documentary doesn’t come top of the charts, it’s probable that this position is held by Sorrentino’s latest film: “È stata la mano di Dio”/”The hand of God” is in first place in Switzerland, second in Spain, the Netherlands and Luxembourg and fourth in Denmark. But also by “Gli anni più belli”/”The best years”: first in Austria and Romania, second in Bulgaria, Estonia and Lithuania, third in Denmark, fourth in Serbia.
Or by films which, already in the top ten in 2020, reach other markets in 2021, as happened for “Made in Italy”, in top place in Serbia, second in Croatia, fifth in Latvia, sixth in Romania, seventh in Estonia, and “Martin Eden”, which comes second in the United Kingdom, third in Spain, fourth in Russia and spreads in the Baltic area, coming fourth in Latvia, as well as fourth in Romania and fifth in Austria and Bulgaria.
Amongst the new entries in top positions, comes “Lacci”/”The ties”, second in Serbia, third in Bulgaria, fourth in Switzerland, fifth in Spain, seventh in Portugal, and “Nowhere special”, second in Romania, third in Latvia and Serbia, eighth in Hungary.
Except “Made in Italy”, these are all films by Italian directors and Italian producers, which fall into the category and statistics defined as Italian works. But it may happen - as it did this year - that a story perceived as “mostly Italian”, or at least “very Italian” by audiences and spectators answers to “exotic” names such as those of Michael Dweck and Gregory Kershaw, directors of “The Truffle Hunters”. Mixing the cards once again, in the difficult issue of what really determines the nationality of a film …
This is an updated version of the article published in the Venice special issue of Cinema & Video Int'l, the MEDIA Salles media partner.