Italian film – that’s amore!

3 minutes read
Posted 18 September, 2023
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Cinema Italiano Festival will come to Queenstown and Wānaka this week. Dorothy Browns in Arrowtown and Ruby’s Cinema & Bar in Wānaka will be taken over by a fantastic selection of Italian films until 30 September. The curated programme combines the best in contemporary Italian cinema with masterpieces from Italy’s rich cinematic traditions, which also provide meaningful insights into society.

Paolo Rotondo is one of the festival organisers. Originally from Italy, he’s been in New Zealand since he was 11 and is now an award-winning director, writer and actor who has been working in the film industry for more than 20 years. He started the festival with his wife, which is now in its eighth year and is screening across 21 centres around Aotearoa. While he can’t make it down to Otago this year, he says we’re fortunate to have two beautiful boutique cinemas that are full of character to enjoy this year’s films.

“We take the festival to some pretty beautiful places, like Arrowtown and Wānaka,” Rotondo says. “To be honest, the first time we did it in Arrowtown was because we really wanted to go. Then we fell in love with it and it’s been really popular down there, so we’ve been coming down ever since.

“We have 22 films showing in Arrowtown and Wānaka – the ones that are really popular with audiences are our comedies, of course, but I’ve also got some amazing arthouse dramas, documentaries, and classics as well.”

The opening night film, Belli Ciao, stars two well-known funny comics from Italy. While on surface level the film appears to be quite slapstick and offers a lot of gags, the meaning of the story is deeper than that – a little more clever and interesting with an intellectual element. Rotondo explains that a hybrid in genres is common when it comes to Italian film, and you never know what to expect when watching.

“I think compared to the English-speaking world, Italian cinema doesn’t subscribe to the same genres. You know how American and British films tend to have comedies, dramas, thrillers, etcetera, Italian films often have all of that mixed up together. I find when I’m curating, my wife and I can spend hours discussing whether something’s a drama or a comedy. For us Italians, it makes it very satisfying because it gives a little more meat to the comedies and a little lightness to the dramas. What I really love is that sometimes you go to a film and you will be laughing and crying in the same film.”

If you’re unsure about heading to a foreign film, Rotondo explains that that’s all part of the fun. It’s not often these days that you’re able to walk into a cinema having not read any reviews and not knowing what you’re going to get – you’ll have the ability to be fully transported to a different reality.

The 2023 edition of the Italian Film Festival will run 20 – 30 September at Dorothy Browns in Arrowtown and 21 – 30 September at Ruby’s Cinema & Bar in Wānaka. To download the full programme and find out more information you can head to


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