Il Cinema Ritrovato ON TOUR premieres in the Old Greenbelt Theater
By: Taneen Momeni
Il Cinema Ritrovato ON TOUR, the touring branch of an annual Italian film festival, opened at the Old Greenbelt Theater on March 18. The touring festival was co-sponsored by the theater and the University of Maryland’s (UMD) Italian Studies Program as well as the university’s program in cinema and media studies. The 5-hour program consisted of two screenings and a roundtable discussion with questions from the audience.
“It is an event about past cinema intrinsically connected to current cinema, and we believe that is a great tool to speak to a broad audience about a variety of themes, cultures, and languages within and outside of cinema itself,” Valeria Federici wrote in an email. Federici, who is a lecturer in the university’s Italian program, helped plan the event.
Il Cinema Ritrovato ON TOUR was inspired by and modeled after an annual film festival in Bologna, Italy. The festival in Italy showcases restored films, and particularly the latest restorations by Cineteca di Bologna, an Italian film archive. The UMD tour was co-curated by Guy Borlée, who is one of the Bologna festival’s coordinators.
“The festival happens under the ‘label’ of Il Cinema Ritrovato ON TOUR and it is [bound] to the festival in Bologna as movies come from their archives and restoration laboratories, or are secured through them,” Federici wrote. “They work with a vast network of institutions worldwide and they help local organizers of Il Cinema Ritrovato ON TOUR to access those organizations.”
The first film was “Ma l’Amore Mio Non Muore!” (“Love Everlasting,” 1931) starring Lyda Borelli. According to the event website, this film “started a new phenomenon: the Italian diva-film.” The second film was “La Notte” (“The Night,” 1962), a sound film with Marcello Mastroianni, Jeanne Moreau and Monica Vitti. Both films were restored from their originals to match the high definition quality that we see in movies filmed today.
According to Federici, planners considered many factors as they selected these movies, including, as Federici said, “travel[ing] back in time to the era of silent film.” The planners also sought films that represent traditional Italian cinema.
“We picked ‘Ma L’Amore Mio Non Muore’ with Lyda Borelli who was one of the first cinema divas; and ‘La Notte’ by Michelangelo Antonioni with Monica Vitti, who passed away recently … The first one for historic reasons, the second one for an aesthetic choice. The role of women in both movies is crucial, and we wanted to discuss that within the context of the Women’s History Month,” Federici wrote.
The roundtable discussion between the screenings included four speakers: Luka Arsenjuk, UMD associate professor of cinema and media studies; Joanna Raczynska, a film programmer with the National Gallery of Art; Mauro Resmini, UMD assistant professor of Italian and of cinema and media studies; and Caitlin McGrath, executive director of the Old Greenbelt Theater. The panelists discussed the history of films and film restoration, and more. Arsenjuk, Resmini and McGrath assisted in the organization of the event, as well.
“We wanted to make sure we could be flexible about the roundtable, due to COVID[-19] regulations and restrictions,” Federici wrote. “At the same time, we wanted to make sure to have a panel of experts who could offer insights on the process of restoration, presentation and contextualization of historic films from all eras.”
During the discussion, McGrath talked about how events like this festival offer broad community enrichment.
“What we try to do is expand people’s horizons as much as possible, and that happens in a number of ways. That can be through challenging audiences with something that’s a little bit more difficult, but bringing in an expert to talk about it, to not just show something thought provoking but to actually then have a discussion about it afterwards,” she said.
The team is already focused on similar events in the future, including a one-day event in fall 2022 and a longer festival in September 2023.
Federici summed up the group’s goals, going forward. “Through this project, in particular, we would like to bring together as many departments, institutions, from within the university and from the larger community outside of our campus, to offer a festival for all, representative of the breadth of world cinema, representative of diversity — a festival that speaks many languages, and it about many cultures,” she said.