The head of the venerable Il Cinema Ritrovato festival and new president of the Rome Film Fest, Gianluca Farinelli, has opened the 10th edition of the Lumière Festival’s Classic Film Market.
Kicking off the keynote, Farinelli was asked how he reconciles his love of classic cinema with his new role as head of the Rome Film Fest, which runs Oct. 13–23.
“Fundamentally, what touches me with heritage films, my passion and love for that cinema, is that sometimes it can speak to you as if the creator was contemporary,” Farinelli said. “I’ve never considered contemporary and classic cinema separately – I have always seen them as a whole. I love cinema of all eras,” added the man who co-founded Il Cinema Ritrovato in 1986, one of the world’s most prestigious film festivals dedicated to the history and preservation of cinema.
The Cineteca is a foundation made up of two entities: the world-renowned restoration lab, Immagine Ritrovata, and the company that runs the film library’s three – soon to be four – cinema theaters.
To further disseminate its restored classics nationwide, the Bologna film library undertook the rare move, a decade ago, to create its own service dedicated to film distribution, working with a select network of theaters around Italy.
While it doesn’t yield any profits, the distribution company breaks even, with stable ticket sales over the years – except during the pandemic, when cinemas were closed. “[The distribution side] is important because it’s an essential cultural activity to try and educate the public,” said Farinelli.
Asked whether the Cineteca will be developing its own online service, Farinelli declined: “During the pandemic we created a platform with a limited number of films, which did well. I seriously thought about developing it, but then I said: We all have our limits. Giving life to the theater screenings already requires a lot of energy. To [develop a platform] properly takes a lot of time and money, and that is not our trade.
“There is a battle being waged and we must not lose the fight for the movie theatres – if there are no more theaters, that will be the end of the cinema that we love,” he explained.
Another way for the Cineteca to disseminate heritage cinema is through the ongoing production of carefully curated DVD gift boxes and collector’s books.
“Developing these catalogues takes a lot of time so we choose not to edit too many,” said Farinelli, citing the example of a recently published book on Charlie Chaplin by Peter Von Bagh, which took eight years to translate from Finnish.
“We are not targeting the mainstream market, but, in the long run, they do find a readership: We publish around 3,000 copies, and we often print further editions.”
Asked whether he sees streaming platforms as a form of competition, Farinelli said: “We witnessed the disappearance of vinyls… and then, they reappeared! Platforms don’t offer an in-depth approach – except Criterion whose work is outstanding. But for people who want to have a beautiful object in hand and more in-depth content, [our catalogues and DVDs] will continue to exist.”
Looking to the future and the film library’s relations with Hollywood, Farinelli said there’s been a lot of change in recent years. “The major studios had understood how important classical films were and had clear restoration policies in place. But today, it seems we may be entering a grey period where we might have to speak out loud and insist on how important heritage films are for the future, and it’s important that directors help us and express this with force.”
“I’m not a businessman,” he concluded. “But I’m a cultural agitator. And I have no doubt that we are only at the beginning: I am sure that in 100 years’ time, what we’ve done and what others will do after us will have become the norm. The strength of cinema is that it is an art form that can exist both in the present and in the past. The audience will grow and the history of cinema will be completely re-written.”
The MIFC runs in Lyon until Oct. 23.
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