Italian film festival starts in style – and with a bit of Flemish

photo (1)Italian is the language of the moment in Australia: the Italian Film Festival is upon us and for the next month or so some 34 films will be screened around the country.

The festival has just started in Sydney and Melbourne (where it runs till October 12); Canberra’s starts on September 23 and Perth’s a day later (both finish on October 15); Brisbane (October 1-22) and Adelaide (October 2-22) also get a good run; while there will be shorter festivals in Byron Bay (October 9-15) and Hobart (October 16-22).

I attended the opening night at the Palace Cinemas in Norton Street, Sydney, last night as a guest of one of the Silver sponsors, Rail Europe. The venue, in one of the most Italian of streets in Sydney, was packed, the Italian community were out in force (some of the mammas were heavily laden with bling) and good-looking Latino-looking male models with immaculately combed hair handed out bottles of Peroni beer to anyone willing to accept them (I am sipping a Peroni Leggera as I type).

We were treated to a great film, Marina, based on the life of singer Rocco Granata (the film’s title is also the title of the song that launched him to stardom. Funnily enough, though, it is set mostly in Limburg province in Flanders, Belgium. Here is the trailer.

The film is about many things, including the usual ones of finding your true love, following your passions and dreams, father and son love and tensions, and so on, but it also made what I thought were very pertinent points about immigration and the difficulties that migrants face on many levels, including gaining acceptance.

From a language point of view, it was fascinating. The excellent male lead, Matteo Simoni (the adult Rocco), has Italian ancestry but was born in Belgium and couldn’t speak Italian, so he had to learn it for the film (and learn how to play the accordion too). Thus he had to make his second language – Italian – look like his first, and his first language – Flemish – look like his second. His singing was excellent. But as he tells the Flanders Today website, he had to work really hard to convince the director to give him the part.

The next clip from YouTube is Italian TV coverage of the film’s launch in Italy, but it includes the director speaking in English about it.

So, let’s have a look at the real Rocco (who has a bit part in the film) singing the original version of Marina, which was actually the B-side of a single released in 1959… It made No.1 in Belgium and Germany and the top 40 on the US Billboard chart.

For those of you who like your music with a bit more techno force, here is the 1989 dance mix, which was also a hit in Europe.

The song has also been covered by the likes of the Gypsy Kings, André Rieu, Francesco Napoli and Dean Martin.

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