The 11th edition of the NM Italian Film & Culture Festival preparing to launch

Feb 27, 2018 766

BY: Maria Berry

With two Top 5 Best of the City awards and scores of rave reviews under their belts, the folks at Italian Festivals of New Mexico (IFNM) are gearing up for another first-class NM Italian Film & Culture Festival.  In fulfillment of the nonprofit’s mission to promote Italian culture while giving back to the community, the much-anticipated annual festival is IFNM’s flagship event and fundraising centerpiece. 

Since its inception, the festival has championed the state’s underserved and disadvantaged children with donations totaling close to $300,000 to child-focused institutions and organizations.  As in 2017, 2018’s festival proceeds will benefit NDI New Mexico.

What makes the NM Italian Film & Culture Festival such a stand-out?  IFNM VP for Film Selection, Michelle Michelotti Martinez, responds.  “The festival is produced with pride and passion. It’s a gem - a real treasure in the Albuquerque community. There’s a lot of attention to detail and an abundance of enthusiasm on the part of every member of the festival team.  I think it all shines through to our patrons.    Our enthusiasm is contagious!” 

The films have been selected. The entertainers are warming up their vocal chords and instruments. The young NDI dancers are rehearsing two sensational performances. Three mouthwatering event menus are in the works.  “This is sure to be the best festival yet,” said festival director, Maria Arancio Berry.  “It reaches a crescendo in its three main facets - film, music and food.”

Highlights follow:

The NM Italian Film & Culture Festival is an annual showcase for some of the best of contemporary Italian cinema. It’s a slice of life in the Old Country today, as seen through the eyes of the best screenwriters and directors Italy has to offer. The festival’s film selection committee works year-round screening dozens of films to put together an appealing lineup of 7 films that represent a variety of genres, from comedy, to drama, to romance.

Festival 2018 FILM Highlights

Friday nights are always special at the annual NM Italian Film & Culture Festival.  Festival-goers get together before the film to share a glass of wine and some light snacks, with a little live music and song on the side.  The young NDI dancers treat the audience to a dazzling, toe-tapping performance.  And Friday night marks the screening of the festival’s showcase film:

La pazza gioia (Like Crazy) is a multi-award winner of last year’s David di Donatello Awards (the Italian Oscars), including best picture, best actress, and best director.  Directed by renowned filmmaker Paolo Virzi` (Human Capital; The Leisure Seeker), La pazza gioia is an emotionally powerful film that tells the story of two women of diverse backgrounds and personalities who meet in a mental institution and become friends.  They escape the institution and embark on a Thelma and Louise-style adventure that changes their lives.  A comedy/drama, the film blends Virzi`’s signature socio-political commentary with his customary detailed attention to the characters and their development.

Another multi-award winner screens on the last day of the festival, Sunday March 18 - an automobile sports-action drama based on the true story of rally racing driver, Carlo Capone.  Directed by the acclaimed young filmmaker, Matteo Rovere, Veloce come il vento (Italian Race) focuses on seventeen-year-old rally racer, Giulia DeMartino, who, after her father’s death, takes on his debt-plagued auto-racing business.  When her life falls apart, her only hope for help is her brother, a drug addict and former rally champion.  Veloce come il vento is possibly the first auto-racing Italian movie ever.  It’s an engaging film in all aspects, not the least of which is its foray into the action genre - rare in Italian filmmaking.

Festival 2018 MUSIC Highlights

The NM Italian Film & Culture Festival has long emphasized local Italian music talent.  The 2018 opening  event, L’inaugurazione, features a trio from Chamber Music Campania – an upbeat, audience-engaging organization new to Albuquerque and on a mission to dispel the rumor that opera and classical music are stuffy or elite.  The high-powered trio consists of acclaimed soprano Katie Dukes, her French Horn-professor husband Michael Walker, and distinguished pianist Dr. Tzu-feng Lui.  In addition to opera arias and an audience-involved “Name That Film” presentation of Italian film music, they will perform a memorable spoof of the opera, Don Giovanni.

Festival 2018 features a bitter-sweet musical note when New Mexico’s Italian song legend, John Zito, takes the stage for his last public appearance.  Once part of The Valentino’s – a late 60’s/early 70’s sensation in the New York City area – Zito has performed for the Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon, and has appeared on the same program with stars like Sammy Davis Jr., Connie Francis, Jerry Vale, and Sergio Franchi.  No one can put over a Neapolitan love song like John Zito.  After his move to Albuquerque, he continued to perform at Summerfests, on UNM Radio, and for numerous Italian-themed celebrations in New Mexico.  At the festival’s Friday night event (Michela’s Café) Zito, now in his late 70’s, will be joined by his old music partner, Valentino Lo Sauro, on accordion, coming in from Florida to commemorate Zito’s retirement.

Festival 2018 FOOD Highlights

Food is always a big part of the festival.  Since 2018 was declared the worldwide Year of Italian Food by Italy’s cultural and agricultural ministries, this year holds a special emphasis on Italian cuisine. Opening night will be catered by celebrated festival title sponsor, Scalo Northern Italian Grill, who will also do the honors for the closing dinner at the restaurant on Central Avenue.  This year, Torinos’ @ Home and Frost Gelato will also join in with traditional dessert offerings during the festival.

The most anticipated food moment of the festival, however, takes place at the Friday evening event entitled Michela’s Café and features small bites by IFNM’s own virtuoso boutique caterer, Michelle Michelotti Martinez.  When Michelotti Martinez, is not selecting and acquiring festival films, she’s food blogger, owner and chef of Eatentions, a boutique catering, cooking class, and personal chef enterprise.  Michela’s Café, will feature a sampling of her kitchen creativity with scratch-made spuntini (little snacks), to be enjoyed with a glass of wine before the showcase film. 

Full Schedule and Tickets at

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