Bologna in north Italy is an inspiration for the type of retrospective event that CIFF is developing.
For over 30 years, the city of Bologna has hosted a retrospective film festival called Il Cinema Ritrovato, which these days attracts many thousands of film enthusiasts from around the globe, including a solid contingent from Australia.
Il Cinema Ritrovato is one of the very few fully retrospective film festivals in the world – that is a festival dedicated to the past of cinema, to restorations and re-discoveries. Archives around the world (including our own Australian film archive) regularly launch newly restored work at Bologna.
These days, the Bologna Festival screens from 9am until midnight over 8 days in six or more venues across the city. The cinemas are always packed and one has to strategise carefully to ensure seats. Standing in the foyer, the language one rarely hears is Italian: there are so many visitors.
Of course Canberra doesn’t have the centuries of history as a cultural centre that Bologna has, but we can aspire to emulate the spirit of their extraordinary success story. Across Australia, there are a few welcome retro events, but none in Canberra and none working closely with our National Film and Sound Archive.
And significantly we can offer better weather in October when CIFF is held than Bologna in June. The heat in Bologna in June is oppressive and the air-conditioning in the ageing cinemas can’t cope: audiences struggle with the heat and yet they still come in their thousands.
We can also offer state-of-the art cinemas (with excellent air-conditioning) at the National Film and Sound Archive: the 240 seat Arc Cinema, and the 80-seat Theatrette.
CIFF’s program picks up ideas from Bologna but it has its own distinctive identity. Our Festival will be shaped by programs that are uniquely Australian and original on a world-wide scale.
In a global field dominated by Bologna, our aspiration is that CIFF can stand tall with its facilities and programs (and our climate). We hope our that, in time, we can build a following that bring enthusiasts to Canberra from around the nation, from further afield.
Our strategy began strongly in 2017. Our official guests last year included film historians and archivists from New Zealand, a consultant to several European Festivals and a former director of the Edinburgh Film Festival. But spontaneously, we are getting attention too: in 2017, Kiki Fung, the Program Director of the Hong Kong International Film Festival came at her own expense to spend a week here to see films that we were offering and wrote an enthusiastic article about CIFF for an online journal, concluding her remarks with these words:
CIFF “has the vision of preserving that precious cinema experience that is to slow down and to savour. The Festival is one that embraces an intelligent audience and one that encourages that audience to continue being so. May we all continue to search for the understated, the forgotten, the unknown and the extraordinary.”