Two FAVORITES at the 9th River to River Film Festival

My beloved birthplace Florence has a definite connection with Indian culture. Back when he released his latest novel, I asked Sir Salman Rushdie why he had called it ‘The Enchantress of Florence’ and not titled it ‘The Enchantress of Granada’ for example. His answer was a witty, yet stern “Because it’s not!” But he did continue to explain that his connection to the Italian Renaissance was inspired by his college travels to Florence and that the wheelings and dealings of Machiavelli and his gang had always reminded him of the ancient Mughal emperors. For more than this, you’ll have to read the book, which finds a great – albeit fictional – connection between Emperor Akbar the Great and the boys from the Florentine Renaissance.

Fast forward to contemporary times and Selvaggia Velo has created another great connection between the countries. Her film festival River to River – I call it “hers” because it truly has been a labor of love for Ms. Velo – is now in its ninth year, which is an amazing achievement considering the hurdles faced in showing Indian cinema to a nearly all Italian audience. First and foremost, there is the issue of subtitles, as most Italians speak some English but not enough to get them through those most intelligent Hindi films that are currently coming out of Bombay. Then, there is attendance and money. Italian bureaucracy is famous for promising lots and then coming through with nothing. But Ms. Velo has managed a stellar line-up year after year and her films are subtitled in Italian. KUDOS to her! And if you were wondering about the title of the festival, it builds a bridge between the Arno – the river of Florence – and the famous Ganges of India.

This year, two personal favorites are in the line-up. The first is one of my all-time favorite films ever with a beautiful story, a great message and a masterful screenplay. ‘Little Zizou’ is indeed on my top ten list of most beloved films of all times, and it won’t come off anytime soon. It’s a beautiful coming of age story that points to the kindness of some human beings, the defeatable power of extremism and in the process shows us a slice of life portrayal of the Parsi community in Bombay. Please read more on ‘Little Zizou’ by clicking here as well as this interview with writer and director Sooni Taraporevala. 

Also showing this year is Raja Menon’s ‘Barah Aana’ starring Naseeruddin Shah and Vijay Raaz, a portrait of those with whom we may often come in contact but seldom notice. It is also an ode to what desperation will lead a man to do, but it’s a positive film all in all, if you can believe it. Superbly acted and well written, it’s a must-see film. Check out my interview with Raja Menon on AVS’s blog.

Both those films will have the filmmakers in attendance, which is a great opportunity to meet two great artists.

There are also other must-see including a retrospective on Guru Dutt and the closing film ‘Sita Sings the Blues’, which I’ve written extensively about on this blog.

So, if you are in Florence this December, starting on the 4th and running through the 10th, do find your own Indian/Italian connection. It’s definitely there and you won’t be able to resist it.

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2 Responses to “Two FAVORITES at the 9th River to River Film Festival”

  1. Joanna D'Angelo:

    Nina! Once again you have shared your love of cinema with us and once again I am in love with these films! You know I remember “Little Zizou” but I have not seen it yet. Terrible of me! But I know I will LOVE IT because it is exactly the kind of movie that grabs at my heart. Also – this festival sounds AMAZING! What a labour of love for Ms. Velo. It seems that Italian bureaucrats do get things done – but only when given a little incentive – usually involving the greasing of a few palms!
    Thank you for sharing your love of movies with us!

  2. FilmKaravan:

    Bring Sita home with a DVD of

    Buy on Amazon:
    Rent on Netflix:

    Sita is a goddess separated from her beloved Lord and husband Rama. Nina is an animator whose husband moves to India, then dumps her by email. Three hilarious shadow puppets narrate both ancient tragedy and modern comedy in this beautifully animated interpretation of the Indian epic Ramayana. Set to the 1920′s jazz vocals of Annette Hanshaw, Sita Sings the Blues earns its tagline as “the Greatest Break-Up Story Ever Told.”

    Need another reason why? Check out Roger Eberts Review!

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