The Italian Film Festival: 23 years in the making

Twenty-two years ago, Elysia Zeccola gave us the gift of what is, by far, one of the most successful film festivals in Australia: the Italian Film Festival, set to delight audiences once again from September 2022.

Elysia's passion for Italian film craft is undoubtedly the secret ingredient of the festival, making it such a unique experience for both Italians and not.

Her wonderful taste in movies makes me think we are very lucky to have her as director of the festival; and having had the opportunity to interview her, I consider it a privilege, which allows me to at least attempt to try to convey the spirit of a festival that embodies the soul of a cinema that made Italy famous worldwide.

Lord of the Ants  by Gianni Amelio

What makes the Italian Film Festival different - special, if you will - from others?

This festival is special because it is the biggest Italian film festival in the world outside Italy, and Italians in Italy are often surprised when they see the selection and realize the number of new films we present down here even before many of them have seen a release in Italy. So, this is a special opportunity for local audiences to experience the freshest contemporary Italian cinema direct from the world's most prestigious festivals.

The festival is unique because it brings together Italian glamour, style, and a long tradition of filmmaking, with events that are a celebration of everything Italian. It's my personal mission to promote and share Italian culture, language, and cinema.   

Breaking up in Rome by Edoardo Leo

You have been the festival director for quite a long time, allowing you to witness its evolution. Do you think the festival has changed over the years? If so, how did it change? In what sense, in what regard? Are you planning any major change for future editions, considering the times we live in, where almost everything tends to be online-based?

I have been organizing the festival for 23 years and have seen it grow from a small event that attracted the Italian community to a much larger event that attracts a growing audience of Italophiles, Italian-Australians, and anyone and everyone who dreams of learning Italian or going to Italy.

We create events and an atmosphere at the cinemas with a touch of Italian hospitality -  take your ST.ALi coffee or your Santa Margherita prosecco in with you! The cinema provides a chance to indulge and escape from daily life, an opportunity to turn the phone off and allow yourself not to be distracted by the outside world.

How do you select the films? Are there any criteria for the selection?

The films have already been through a selection process to make it to the prestigious festivals where we see them: Cannes, Venice, Berlin, Toronto. We identify films that will  attract an audience, and the lineup is a mix of emerging talent and debut directors, as well as award-winning films and star-studded box office hits. 

This year, the festival proudly presents a retrospective of Pier Paolo Pasolini, who is one of the most influential film directors of all time. Was it hard to match such a prominent retrospective with new Italian films?

Pasolini was an incredibly influential director, and so, looking back at films from a different time and exploring how they shaped films that followed them sits perfectly with looking forward to new films from today. To understand the future, we need to understand the past.

Pier Paolo Pasolini, on the left (1922-1975)

I've heard that you love the work of the Tuscan director Alice Rohrwacher. I consider her one of the most promising directors we have in Italy at the moment. After along wait, she is finally on the verge of finishing her new movie La Chimera. Do you think you would be able to have her as a guest at the festival next year?

We have screened every feature film from Alice Rohrwacher, and I am looking forward to seeing her new film. Now that borders have opened and international travel is back, we will start bringing Italian stars to our shores again - but you will need to sign upon our website to receive updates, to be the first to find out who is coming!