My role in the Festival
I’m one of the programme advisors working for Festival Director Clare Stewart and her team, selecting and recommending particular films from Italy for inclusion in the Festival programme.
I also advise, as and when asked, on other individual films and programmes, eg this year’s Rolling Stones documentary Crossfire Hurricane.
In addition, the organisation I run, Film London, has a close working partnership with the LFF. We are the conduit for Mayoral funding for the Festival, for the Mayor’s Office and the Mayor’s Gala. In addition, Film London curates the London Calling shorts programme in the Festival. We stage industry events, such as Market Place Live and we run the Production Finance Market that takes place under the umbrella of the LFF.
How I first got involved
I started my career programming and running various arts cinemas. This brought me into contact with the BFI Southbank (then the National Film Theatre) programming team and the LFF and I started contributing to their programmes in the late 1980s. Then in 1993 I became the Head of BFI Southbank, with overall responsibility for all the BFI’s public exhibition activities. I took direct responsibility for the LFF in 1998.
Since leaving the BFI and setting up Film London, I was asked to continue contributing to the programming of the Southbank and act as advisor to the LFF.
This year my search took me…
I have visited a number of international film festivals, looking at material on behalf of the LFF, including Sundance, Berlin and the Cannes Film Festival. Then in July, I was in Rome for a week, viewing a large amount of new Italian films.
How I chose the films
As I have been selecting the Italian films for the LFF for 14 years now, I have built up an extensive knowledge of contemporary Italian cinema and an extensive network of contacts with Italian filmmakers, distributors, sales companies and public agencies that promote Italian cinema, such as FilmItalia.
Through all of this, I manage to get a pretty good idea of what is being produced annually and view as much of it as I possibly can. I try to programme the best possible films from Italy. My criteria are to have films which are hopefully diverse in subject matter; that represent contemporary trends in Italian cinema; that reflect the work of the established great maestros of Italian filmmaking but also give opportunities every year for emerging young filmmakers to present their work to international audiences.
I also, of course, base the selection on what I think LFF audiences would be intrigued to see and how best the films fit in to the different strands of the LFF programme.
This year’s trends
I think there is a particular emphasis in Italian cinema this year on Italian culture and society and the particular problems that beset ordinary people, whether it be lowly families in the Mafia-infested south (as reflected in It Was the Son); modern schoolrooms (in The Red & the Blue) or people’s obsession with pop culture (in the film Reality).
This year’s highlights
I think that all the seven films that are spread out across the strands have their individual strengths, but for new and young filmmaking, The Interval is a particularly striking film that is worth seeking out.
Interview: Sam Wigley