Successes from the other side of the Alps
by Elisabetta Brunella
Which title might be considered Italian cinema’s ambassador to the world in 2022?
There’s more than one answer to this question: it depends - as has been said so many times - on the criteria used to define a film’s nationality.
Do we base it on the director? On the setting for the story? Or on the investment in the production? Which is of more interest: to look into the spectator´s perception or into objective factors, such as where the capital for financing the film comes from?
In 2021 the story of a notoriously Italian phenomenon - searching for truffles in Piedmont - emerged as having made the documentary “The Truffle Hunters”, of which Italy was only one of the three co-producing countries whilst the two directors were from the USA, into a full expression of the Bel Paese. In 2022 the film´s success continued further: it is one of the leading contenders for the title of the Italian film most viewed in the whole of Scandinavia, as had happened before in 2021.
In the year that has just ended, Italy’s cinematographic fame certainly benefited from the contribution by Luca Guadagnino, a director who by his own admission feels eminently Italian and brings with him the image of someone who has lived, grown up and matured in Italy. His “Bones and All”, an award-winning presentation at Venice 2022, is technically a mainly USA production, based on a novel by a New Jersey author, shot - unlike his previous films - entirely in the USA and distributed internationally by Warner Bros.
Nevertheless, “Bones and All” can be considered the answer to our original question in several European countries. According to audience numbers it is the leading Italian film in the United Kingdom, the Slovak Republic, Ireland and Luxembourg, second in Portugal, Greece, Finland, Norway, Poland, Spain and Germany and third in the Netherlands, Denmark and Austria.
Giuseppe Tornatore, too, has again played an important role in bringing prestige to Italy on the big screen. Inextricably bound to “Nuovo Cinema Paradiso”, which continues to be placed on offer again and again and which appears in the 2022 top ten Italian films in Finland, Norway, Romania and Ireland, returns to meet his public, thanks to “Ennio”.
The Morricone documentary has done the rounds of Europe, from Benelux to the Slovak Republic, winning top place in the Czech Republic, second in the United Kingdom and Ireland, third in Hungary, Romania, France and Spain, fourth in Sweden, Switzerland, Denmark, Norway and Finland and sixth in Austria. In terms of ticket sales, it sold over ninety thousand in France and almost fifty thousand in Poland, bettering the results of Bones and All”.
Sergio Castellitto´s “Il materiale emotivo”, coproduced with France and the United States, is the most widely viewed film in Greece and Bulgaria, coming in fourth place in Estonia, fifth in Portugal and sixth in Denmark and Latvia.
But as well as the “great names” of Italian cinema, there is no lack of nice surprises, starting with “Le otto montagne”. This adaptation of Cognetti´s book - a coproduction with Belgium and France - began its conquest of European markets in 2022, continuing in 2023. After winning the Jury Prize at Cannes, as well as totalling over eighty thousand tickets in Belgium, the home country of the two directors Felix Van Groeningen and Charlotte Vandermeersch, and over forty thousand in France, “Le otto montagne”, filmed in Valle d’Aosta and in Nepal, reached top place in the classification of Italian films in the Netherlands and Montenegro, second place in the Slovak Republic, third in the Czech Republic, fourth in Slovenia, fifth in Austria, seventh in France, eighth in Hungary and Estonia.
More mountains and once again Nepal for “Il ragazzo e la tigre”, internationally known under the title “The Tiger’s Nest”. Brando Quilici´s film was released mainly in German-speaking countries and in the Baltic and Scandinavian areas, but also in Russia, where it is in top place in the Italian film charts. In top place in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, too, it comes third in Switzerland and fourth in Germany and Austria.
In the three German-speaking countries “Rheingold”, Fatih Akin´s latest film, is top of the charts, a coproduction to which Italy also contributed.
The fact that the path of coproduction is a winner is demonstrated by other successful cases, such as “Alcarràs” or “Eo”. The drama set in Catalonia has gained almost four hundred thousand admissions in Spain and appears in the top ten in Austria, Germany, Finland, Greece and Portugal. “Eo”, a prize-winner at Cannes ex aequo with “Le otto montagne”, sold over thirty thousand tickets in Poland, the home country of director Skolimowski, and almost a hundred and forty thousand in France.
To sum up, for the different varieties of Italian cinema to travel across borders, what is essential is an international approach right from the planning phases of the project´s development.
This article was published in the Venice special issue of Cinema & Video Int'l, the MEDIA Salles media partner.