The 24th Italian Film Festival — founded in Melbourne and Sydney by Antonio Zeccola in 2000 — includes several films based on or ‘inspired by’ (terminology often used these days)  novels or faction as well as two famous writers. Another feature of this year’s selection is the imagery of wonderful Italian cities and breath-taking landscapes, particularly the Italian Alps, as settings for stories of great passion. Perfecto!

Burning Hearts

The promontory of Gargano in Puglia, for example, is the backdrop for Pippo Mezzapesa’s heated crime drama TI MANGIO IL CUORE (Burning Hearts), an intense story of love and revenge inspired by a novel by investigative journalists Carlo Bonini and Giuliano Foschini. A forbidden love — cue a modern-day Romeo and Juliet — between Andrea (Francesco Patanè), the reluctant heir of the Malatesta family, and Marilena (singer Elodie making her acting debut), the beautiful wife of the Camporeale boss rekindles an old feud between two rival families. The media release sets it ‘In an ancient land . . . where according to the ruthless codes of the local mafia, only blood can wash out blood.’

Toni Servillo as Luigi Pirandello in Roberto Andò’s La stranezza (2022)


Actor and theatre director Toni Servillo is quite familiar to us. In the 2022 IFF we saw him play comic theatre legend Eduardo Scarpetta in The King of Laughter (2021) and a major role in Casanova’s Return (2022). This year we see him looking comfortable as dramatist and poet Luigi Pirandello (1867–1936) in Roberto Andò’s imaginative LA STRANEZZA (Strangeness). It is 1921 and future Nobel Prize Winner for Literature, Pirandello, has returned to his beloved Sicily for the 80th birthday of his mentor, famous novelist and playwright Giovanni Verga (1840–1922). Pirandello’s works include novels, hundreds of short stories, and 40 plays, some in Sicilian, while Verga is best known for his realist representations of life in Sicily, especially the short story and later play, Cavalleria Rusticana. Strangeness, a complex and irreverent depiction of an interaction between two of Italy’s renowned early 20th century writers, was top Italian film at Italy’s box office in 2022.

Alessandro Borghi and Luca Marinelli in Le otto montagne (2022)

The Eight Mountains

LE OTTO MONTAGNE (The Eight Mountains), the third IFF film I previewed was my favorite and even with a measured pace over two and a half hours it kept my attention. (As my regular movie buddies Ella and Rick have noted, I often do nod away when the lights are dimmed, an affliction I believe with a long-ago genesis in art school slide lectures.) The Eight Mountains, winner of the Jury Prize at the 2022 Cannes Film Festival, is the epic and ultimately sad journey of self-discovery of two men, filmed in the glorious Italian Alpine valley of Aosta and with Daniel Norgren’s haunting music. Belgian film-makers Felix van Groeningen and Charlotte Vandermeersch have adapted Paolo Cognetti’s award-winning 2016 novel creating an intelligent story of childhood, friendship and longing.

Pietro, a boy from the city and Bruno, the last child of a forgotten mountain village, meet one summer in a small town in north-western Italy and, over time, share extensive adventures. Through the years Bruno remains faithful to nature and his rugged mountains while Pietro seeks far-away places and cultures — in Nepal, its people, and the eight highest peaks of the film’s title. As time passes, fate reunites the two as young men (played so well by Alessandro Borghi and Luca Marinelli) and despite attempts to erase their fathers’ footsteps, they always look homewards. Together they encounter love and loss, are reminded of their origins, and experience what it means to be true friends until the end. 

There are 23 other films to consider across most genres, including new Italian cinema and a three-film Massimo Troisi retrospective.


On at Palace Barracks and James, Brisbane, Wed 27 September to Wed 25 October 2023.

Cover Image, : Marilena (singer Elodie making her acting debut) in Pippo Mezzapesa’s Ti mangio il cuore (2022)