A Long Festival History
Created and founded in Rome by Lino Miccichè and Bruno Torri at the end of 1964, but held in Pesaro since its very first edition (May 29 – June 6, 1965), the festival is promoted, financed and run by the Nuovo Cinema Pesaro Association, with contributions by local institutions, the Marches Region and the state. Over the years, the Pesaro Film Festival has also created numerous collateral initiatives: parallel to the festival, the Special Event, dedicated to Italian cinema; in the autumn, initially in Ancona, and then in Pesaro, the international retrospectives; also in the autumn, the International Conference on Cinema Studies, initially in Urbino and later also moved to Pesaro; and various film exhibits, in many cities in the Marches as well as in Rome, New York, Berlin and Paris.
From its inception, the goal was to create a non-competitive festival of “first works,” not in the personal sense, but in the sense of new choices and new paths able to generate renewal processes, of growth, maturation and the evolution of cinema. The goal from the onset was thus not only to present new works that young directors were creating, but also to contribute to rendering recognizable and more comprehensible, to all those who shared idealistic patrimonies, the cultural demands and tensions towards breaking equilibriums crystallized by conformist habit and diverse interests. A festival, therefore, more ‘for’ new cinema than ‘of’ it. An explicit and/or implicit model for many Italian (Bergamo, Salsomaggiore, Turin, etc.) as well as foreign film festivals (Edinburgh, Rotterdam, Berlin, etc.), the Pesaro Film Festival in its early stages drew upon the Italian experiences of the S. Margherita Ligure Festival of Latin American Cinema, Sestri, Genoa and the Porretta Terme International Festival of Free Cinema, as well as the model of the Sémaine internationale de la critique, institutions with which the Festival shared special relationships and unified objectives, in the defense and promotion of ‘another’ cinema.
This cultural-political approach meant giving space to filmmakers seek to move cinema in the ‘liberalistic’ West away from the conditioning and obstacles presented by the market, and in the world of Real Socialism from the censorship and controls of state ideologies. But, above all, it meant supporting the Third World, where the battle for a new kind of cinema contributed to the formation of a national conscience and was therefore an essential tool in the liberation of old and new colonialisms. Thus, every year the festival opened up a debate on the diffusion and circulation of the ‘new’ in the global market (that for various reasons was almost always impregnable), out of the need to foster a new kind of critique along with this new kind cinema, equipped with a different conscience of the cinematic language, as well as the hermeneutical tools offered by the new socio-anthropological and semiological sciences.
The fusion of these goals characterized the first four editions of the festival, which became a kind of international reference point for cinematic renewal, with the participation of, among others, Joris Ivens, Roberto Rossellini, Cesare Zavattini, Jean-Marie Straub, Bernardo Bertolucci, Jonas Mekas, Jerzy Skolimowski, Jean-Luc Godard, Pier Paolo Pasolini and Glauber Rocha. From among the more than hundred films presented between 1965-1968, there figured almost all of the major works of the Czechoslovakian Nová Vlna; many titles of the new cinema of Budapest; of Soviet, Polish and Rumanian cinema; of the less conformist Democratic German cinema; of the already freer Yugoslavian cinema; as well as the more innovative works from the Western world (with films from Canada and the United States, Great Britain, as well as Greece, Belgium, Scandinavia, and a few “opposition” titles from dictatorial Spain). Particular attention was paid to French cinema of the Nouvelle vague and its surroundings; to films from the East (especially Japanese, although Iranian films as well) and to a substantial group of Latin American films. All of this, naturally, alongside Italian films; not many however, and even fewer memorable titles, given the stalemate in the renewal dynamics of Italian cinema in those years.
Evidence of the ‘Golden Age’ of the Pesaro Film Festival’s first quadrennial were the international meetings that took place every year. There were those on the concrete problems of the production, circulation and diffusion of ‘new cinema,’ held in 1965, 1966 (in collaboration with UNESCO) and 1967 as the first congress of the International Center for the Distribution of New Cinema, promoted by the Festival itself; those dedicated to filmmakers and/or national cinemas, generally organized in small, specific showcases, such as An Introduction to New Czechoslovakian Cinema (1965), An Encounter With the New German Cinema (1966), New American Cinema (1967), Latin American Cinema: Culture As Action (1968, on the occasion of the world premiere of The Hour of the Furnaces, by Fernando E. Solanas and Octavio Getino) and Films From the Lodz School (1968). Lastly, there were the more famous meetings held on ‘A New Critical Approach’ or, rather, Criticism and New Cinema (1965), For a New Critical Conscience of Cinematic Language (1966), Language and Ideology in Film (1967). The aim of these initiatives was to promote an international debate on the ‘new’ that was making headway in cinema, in order to verify its range and elaborate its analytical tools. And, in fact, from the beginning, the key to all of the debates, film discussions and the academic conferences themselves was that the specificity of the cinematic discourse never suffocate the discussions (not even when discussing ‘poetics,’ ‘form’ or their – explicit or implicit – connection) with their historical, social and political realities, which in turn conditioned cinema and were reflected in it. Thus were educated two or three generations of academics, capable of paying greater attention to the text as context, to the cultural as well as political framework, to the cinematic and ruling (be they economic bureaucratic or political) actualities that conditioned cinema. A way, then, to better understand the cinema of those who were for years living symbols of filmmakers (such as Glauber Rocha, Jean-Marie Straub, Marco Bellocchio, Miklós Jancsó, Jan Nemec, Oshima Nagisa, Andrei A. Tarkovsky, Jorge Sanjìnés, to mention but a few names), who offered films whose often radical polemics began on the screen but sought to go well beyond the screen: a ‘new cinema’ that contained not only an aesthetic, but an ethical and political spirit as well. The first golden age ended in 1968, the year in which – after the Cannes Film Festival was disputed, interrupted, and subsequently shut down by filmmakers – the Pesaro Film Festival was the first Italian cultural institution to be contested. But the direction threw open its doors to students and convened an assembly, stepping down to accept a technical coordination that guaranteed the protection of all the programmed films but not the execution of the collateral initiatives, including public ‘readings,’ the Filmmaker, Work, Society conference with young Italian directors and the two referendums – one by the public and one by the critics – through which the Festival had presented two films per edition in the preceding years.
The fifth edition of the festival, in 1969, was postponed to September due to the frenetic activity of institutional patching up rendered necessary by the events of 1968 and, on paper, was entrusted to a Governing Committee, made up of representatives of associations based in Pesaro. It was an ‘edition of passage,’ still very similar to the earlier ones, but without awards or inaugural and closing ceremonies. 32 films were programmed (nine of which were Latin American), and 16 short films (twelve of which were Latin American). Besides the Latin Americans, the Italians (Pagine chiuse, 1968, by Gianni Da Campo; Il rapporto, 1969, by Lionello Massobrio; Tabula rasa, 1969, by Giampaolo Capovilla; Vieni, dolce morte, 1969, by Paolo Brunatto and the short films Nelda by Piero Bargellini and Lo spirito delle macchine by Franco Angeli), and other European and US productions, other significant works that managed to squeeze through the constraints of Eastern European bureaucracy, tightened after the Prague repression, included: Soviet films (by Sergei P. Urusevsky, Tolomush Okeev, Gleb A. Panfilov); Hungarian filmmakers (Imre Gyöngyössy); Rumanians (Mircea Saucan); Bulgarians (Georgi Stojanov); and even a desperate group of Czechoslovakian films (A Day Like Any Other, 1969, by Otakar Krivanek; Sibenica, 1969, by Dusan Trancík; 322, 1969, by Dusan Hanák) that arrived semi-clandestinely after a peremptory order not to screen them (which the festival ignored). Furthermore, two short conventions were held: the first was The Necessity and Possibility of an Alternative Circuit, which brought about the decision, implemented in the subsequent years, to subtitle and circulate certain foreign films; the other, almost obligatory after 1968, was on Cinema and Politics.
A turning point took place during the sixth edition, in 1970, when the festival reaffirmed and renewed its programming objectives: to offer academic and critical material on new cinema; to present itself as an active center for the promotion and socialization of new cinema. Consequently, the Festival began publishing for every film, homologous group of films, or retrospectives, as many Quaderni di documentazione (21 in 1970, 9 in 1971, 13 in 1972, 12 in 1973), with interviews, critiques, bibliographic documents and Moviola découpages, progressively transforming itself into a publishing company (only in the late 1980s were the publications entrusted to an outside company). In the following years, an average of 1,000 copies of the Quaderni – which were highly requested by academics, critics and cinephiles alike – were printed, becoming actual volumes, like the four on Neo-Realism, the volumes on the 1930s and those on the 1950s.
From the 1970s on, if the programs of the various editions of ‘New Cinema’ films had confirmed the Festival’s original proclivity, the large retrospectives (dedicated, for example, to the history of Italian cinema, to filmmakers or national industries, and to movements) attested to a new academic inclination, nevertheless always responding to political-cultural demands: the retrospective dedicated to Spain in 1977 was the first such retrospective after Franco; the one held in 1978 on China was the first in the world after the end of the Cultural Revolution. In the following years, particular attention was paid to the currents of various countries: the 1979 edition of the Festival was dedicated to U.S. cinema; the 1980 edition, to the Soviet Union; in 1981, to Latin American cinema; in 1982, to Hungarian and Yugoslavian cinema; in 1983, to Asian cinema, not only Chinese and Japanese but, above all, to South Korean, Filipino, Hong Kong, Indonesian, Malaysian, Thai and Vietnamese films.
Alongside the Pesaro conventions, after several sporadic but significant initiatives scattered throughout the Marches region, also of note in the 1980s are the cinematic events in Ancona (International Retrospective, first edition, 1982) and the conferences in Urbino (International Seminar on Theoretical Studies, 1982), which were held throughout the decade to be then followed – from the 1990s on – in Pesaro, as an autumn retrospective. In 1987, a Special Event was added, parallel to the Festival: a permanent retrospective on Italian cinema dedicated at times to eras [from Risate di regime (The Regime’s Laughter) to the 1930s comedies, to Italian Cinema, 1990s]; to filmmakers (e.g., Mario Monicelli, Dino Risi, Marco Ferreri, Vittorio De Sica, and so forth); to actors (including Vittorio Gassman); or to genres (e.g., The Italian Comedy).
In 1989, Lino Miccichè left the festival administration, which he had founded and directed for five illustrious years, remaining as its president until the mid 1990s. He was succeeded for one year (1989) by Marco Muller, who had collaborated on all of the editions of the 1980s; for nine years (1990-1998) by Adriano Aprà, who had collaborated (Documentation Office, Governing Committee) on all of the editions from 1966 to 1982 (under his direction, of note is the broad retrospective on independent American cinema in 1991 and the two retrospectives dedicated respectively to experimental film forms and documentary typologies: Cinema and Its Other in 1996 and The Adventures of Non-Fiction in 1997); for one edition (1999) by Andrea Martini; and, since 2000, by Giovanni Spagnoletti (under his direction, of note is the retrospective on The European Cinema of Métissage in 2000, and the creation of new sections dedicated respectively to video and medium-length films, Video Proposal and More or Less 60). Miccichè is still part of the Governing Committee, presided over after his resignation by Bruno Torri, who was officially the festival’s General Secretary until the 1970s, and even its co-director. Numerous international festivals (Berlin, Edinburgh, etc.), many cinematheques (Barcelona, Paris, etc.) and more than a few film magazines (“Cahiers du cinema,” “Jeune cinema” and so forth) have over the years all paid tribute to the Pesaro Film Festival.
BIBL.: Il nuovo cinema: venti anni dopo, Pesaro 1984; Per una nuova critica: i convegni pesaresi 1965-1967, Venezia 1989.