The Sacramento Italian Film Festival is back for its 35th consecutive year, featuring five Italian-language films and one English-language film meant to enhance attendees’ understanding of the country’s culture and people.
The festival, an annual event that tends to be the biggest outreach for the Sacramento Italian Cultural Society, starts Friday and will screen six films between now and May. Its organizers say they look forward to audiences having an opportunity to see rarely-screened films and learn about a rich culture.
Bob Masullo, a founding member of the ICS and director of the film festival for the last five years, picks the films shown each year based on personal readings and what is available with English subtitles, along with ICS executive director Bill Cerruti.
“It’s one of the integral components of the activities of the (ICS),” Masullo said. “Film is a powerful medium for spreading culture, and that’s why we’ve included it.”
Cerruti, also a founding member, said the viewing of Italian films was a core facet of the beginnings of the ICS.
“We started the society in 1981, and I was among the original founders,” Cerruti said. “We’ve been showing Italian films ever since we opened our doors.”
Friday’s film, “Cinema Paradiso,” is a 1988 drama centered around filmmaking, childhood escapes and adulthood dreams. It has a 90 percent critic rating on Rotten Tomatoes and 97 percent audience rating. It also won the 1989 Academy Award for Best Foreign Film.
The next film on the slate is “I Bambini Ci Guardano,” or “The Children Are Watching Us,” a 1944 film about a divorce through the eyes of the couple’s child, which is being featured Friday, October 26. The film is directed by legendary Italian neorealist Vittorio De Sica.
“Occasionally, as with this year, we include a classic Italian film from the noir period, right before or after World War 2,” Masullo said. “De Sica and (Federico) Fellini and people like that, they’re considered in a special class, and even if their films are old, they’re timeless in their impact.”
After that, all films are more recent, including 2001’s “The Whole Shebang,” the only English-language film on the block, and several Italian films that were released between 2010 and 2016.
“They’re entertaining, they’re well-acted with great stars and great directors,” Masullo said. “They deal with subjects that are of interest to anybody.”
Masullo said each year features an English-language film that is meant to convey experiences of Italian-Americans. Sacramento has a large Italian presence, both men said, dating back to the Gold Rush.
The ICS teaches accredited Italian language classes for adults and children, organizes tours of Italy, sponsors lectures on Italian subjects and offers more ways to interact and learn.
“It’s part of a continuation of Italian culture here in Sacramento,” Cerutti said. “I was born in Italian East Sacramento in a time when it had become a Little Italy area. There’s a continuity to our history. (The ICS) was carrying on culture and tradition from older groups, groups that did a lot of things we still do today.”
If you go
Sacramento Italian Film Festival
What: Six presentations of Italian cinema through May
Where: Italian Center, 6821 Fair Oaks Blvd., Carmichael
When: Fridays at 8 p.m.
Cost: $15 suggested donation to the Italian Cultural Society; refreshments, including wine and dessert, provided.
More information: italiancenter.net or 916-482-9500.