The 2022 Italian Film Festival got off to wonderful start with the rip-roaring comedy Belli ciao, preceded by a lively party at the Palace Cinema in Norton Street Sydney on September 13. A couple of nights later, the Astor Theatre in Melbourne was the place to be for the southern city’s Opening Night Gala.
In the packed foyer of Palace Norton St, the Santa Margherita Prosecco was flowing, as was the Pinot Grigio and Chianti. It was good to see the place buzzing, because Norton St, once the vibrant heart of Sydney’s Italian scene, has been in the doldrums for a while. Just down the road from the cinema, the Italian Forum is now a ghost town.
Festival Director Elysia Zeccola described Belli ciao as “a bit of fun” (an understatement, there were laughs galore). She particularly wanted a comedy “so we can all share a laugh together after a few years of serious drama. We’ve had enough dramas in our lives these past two years, we didn’t think we needed another drama on the opening night of the festival this year.” And how right she was.
Search for a saviour
If you want a feel-good laugh, then, put Belli ciao at the top of your list of films to see at IFF2022. It stars comedy duo Pio e Amedeo (Pio D’Antini, at top, right, and Amedeo Grieco), and some gorgeous Italian scenery – the little town of Sant’Agata di Puglia, in the Foggia region of southern Italy.
Pretty as Sant’Agata di Puglia is, it’s not the place for young people to build a career in the modern world. The story centres on two best friends at school, who separate upon graduation. Pio leaves to strike it rich in the financial world in Milan, Amedeo stays behind. But, like the Italian Forum, Sant’Agata di Puglia is in danger of becoming a ghost town. To stop this happening, Amedeo has to go to Milan on a fund-raising mission, and to enlist the services of his old school friend. And so the fun begins.
City v country
There are lots of laughs at the expense of naive country bumpkin Amedeo making a fool of himself in the big city, but the chic social set and Instagram influencers of Milan are pilloried too. The bright lights of the city, it seems, are not as enticing as they are made out to be. Time for some rehab.
Energetic, entertaining and enlightening without being too earnest, Belli ciao is a wonderful exploration of what really matters in life.
For more on the 2022 Italian Film Festival, including dates and venues in each participating city, go here. M5R
Photos: Palace Cinemas, Bernard O’Shea