INDIA. New Delhi: The Embassy of Italy in New Delhi recently organized “Notti Stellate – Italian Cinema Under The Sky” as part of the year long celebrations with 2021 serving as the Year of Italian Culture in India and of Indian Culture in Italy. Working in collaboration with the Embassy of India in Rome, the Embassy of Italy in New Delhi has crafted a rich lineup of cultural events pertaining to cinema, music, literature, visual arts, fashion, and design. This year Italy also celebrates the 700 anniversary of the death of the most important figure of Italian culture: the father of Italian language and its most famous poet, Dante Aligheri.
Notti Stellate was a three-day event which screened films such as the master Italian filmmaker Pier Paolo Pasolini’s 1968 short documentary film “Notes for a Film on India”, Marco Bellocchio’s 2019 critically acclaimed crime drama film “The Traitor”, Matteo Garrone’s 2015 fantasy film “Tale of Tales”, and a segment of the legendary Italian filmmaker Roberto Rossellini’s 10-part documentary mini-series on India titled “India Through Rossellini’s Eyes” made back in 1959.
The opening night of Notti Stellate, during which the visitors were served with pizza and gelato, featured an introduction to the aforementioned documentaries, made by Pasolini and Rossellini, by the Italian Ambassador to India Vincenzo de Luca. Shortly after that the noted Indian Film & TV Critic Murtaza Ali Khan delivered a talk on the influence of Italian cinema on Indian cinema and filmmakers such as Satyajit Ray, Raj Kapoor, Bimal Roy, and Anurag Kashyap.
Now, this was the first time the documentaries by Rossellini and Pasolini were getting publicly screened in India. They were subtitled by Dr. Andrea Baldi, the Director of the Italian Embassy Cultural Centre, and his team. As rare as these documentaries are, surprisingly, they are yet to be restored. But when they were screened in their original form as part of “Notti Stellate”, the black & white visuals strongly evoked a strong sense of the ‘50s and ‘60s—the decades in which the Rossellini and Pasolini documentaries were filmed, respectively.
The documentaries by Rossellini and Pasolini demonstrate how leading Italian intellectuals over the years have taken keen interest in India right from its early years as a young country trying to find a new independent identity in a world engulfed in the gaping maw of the Cold War while simultaneously trying to keep its culture and values intact. Separated by a about a decade, both these humanistic documentaries had succeeded in reintroducing India to the world with rare honesty and empathy.
The Traitor, which was screened on the second night of “Notti Stellate”, narrates the real life of Tommaso Buscetta, the first mafia informant in Sicily. During the early ‘80s as a war breaks out between the Sicilian mafia bosses. Buscetta flees to Brazil even as his allies are killed off one after another back home in Italy. Subsequently, Buscetta is arrested and then extradited by the Brazilian police. Cornered by the law as well as by his own, he makes a decision that would change the entire story of the mafia. Buscetta’s testimony as well as his detailed explanation of the inner workings of the organization is said to have brought down the Italian Mafia.
Tale of Tales, which was screened on the third and final night of “Notti Stellate”, is inspired by the fairy tales of medieval Naples and brings an epic vision of cinema to the fore. From the bitter quest of a jealous queen (Salma Hayek) who forfeits the life of her husband, to two mysterious sisters who provoke the passion of a king (Vincent Cassel), to a king obsessed with a giant flea leading to heartbreak for his young daughter, these stories weave the beautiful with the grotesque, creating a stunning and unique work of gothic imagination. Here is a film on obsession and egoism that needs to be watched.