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During its upcoming 71st edition, the Locarno Festival will pay tribute to the remarkable career of the Taviani brothers and also honor the memory of Vittorio Taviani, who died last April. Director and screenwriter Paolo Taviani will be a guest in Piazza Grande and the tribute will be accompanied by the screening their film Good morning Babilonia (1987) in a new print restored by Italy’s National Film Archive (CSC) and Istituto Luce-Cinecittà.
Hallmarked by an expressive language in which both poetry and politics run deep, the Tavianis made a number of outstanding films in the history of Italian cinema. From the 1960s the two master directors produced work that was socially committed but also highly poetic, telling real stories that were often fraught with contradictions and bringing vital issues of political and civic engagement to the attention of a wider public. The Taviani’s talents were first shown to a Locarno audience in 1974 (San Michele aveva un gallo) and then later 1982 (La notte di San Lorenzo), a milestone screening in the Festival’s long history.
Paolo and Vittorio Taviani began directing films in 1954 with a series of documentaries on social subjects. The short feature San Miniato, luglio '44, made in collaboration with Cesare Zavattini, belongs to this period. They went on to work with Joris Ivens on L’Italia non è un paese povero (1960). Their full-length feature film debut came in 1962 when, together with Valentino Orsini, they made Un uomo da bruciare, starring Gian Maria Volonté in a portrait of political activism that was inspired by Salvatore Carnevale, a Sicilian trade unionist murdered by the mafia. It was the first title in what was to become an impressively long filmography, as I sovversivi (1967) and Sotto il segno dello scorpione (1969) renewed the intense creative partnership to which they devoted their entire careers. As the years went by the Tavianis explored new styles and also began to achieve international recognition. San Michele aveva un gallo (1972) and Allonsanfàn (1974), with Marcello Mastroianni and Lea Massari, were selected for the Directors’ Fortnight, but it was in 1977, with Padre Padrone, based on an autobiographical novel by Gavino Ledda, that they won the Golden Palm and Critics’ Prize at Cannes. They received their awards from jury president Roberto Rossellini, and in Italy were also awarded a special David di Donatello and a Nastro d’Argento.
After Il prato (1979) the Tavianis made another remarkable film, La notte di San Lorenzo (1982), a choral portrait of life in rural Tuscany during the Second World War. Screened at Locarno in Piazza Grande, this was the Tuscan brothers’ first film with music by Nicola Piovani and it won them the Grand Prix at Cannes, plus David di Donatello and Nastro d’Argento awards for direction and screenwriting. The Tavianis then moved on to another literary adaptation, Kaos (1984). Based on Pirandello’s Novelle per un anno, it won a David di Donatello for best screenplay. Two years later they received a Golden Lion for career achievement at the Venice International Film Festival and in 1987 they embarked on a major international production with Good morning Babilonia, the story of two Tuscan brothers who emigrate to the USA to seek their fortune. They were to return to historical settings for Il sole anche di notte (1990), Fiorile (1993), Le affinità elettive (1996) and Tu ridi (1998). During the following decade the Tavianis made several features for television, including Resurrezione (2001) and Luisa Sanfelice (2004). They also continued to produce literary adaptations such as La masseria delle allodole (2007) and Maraviglioso Boccaccio (2015).
In 2012 the Tavianis returned to Berlin with Cesare deve morire and won the Golden Bear, as well as two David di Donatello awards for best direction and best film. The last feature on which they worked together was Una questione privata in 2017, eventually credited only to Paolo as director because of his brother’s failing health. Their last work in partnership, after a lifelong career together in filmmaking, rounded off a cycle whose closure leaves a strong sense of loss on the international cinema scene.
Carlo Chatrian, Artistic Director of the Locarno Festival: “Among the many pictures which could rightfully be screened to mark the extraordinary career of the Tavianis, Good morning Babilonia is a period drama that combines the beauty of Italian cathedrals with the nascent movie industry in California. Today – in an epoch in which the film art seems to be becoming somehow immaterial – it has a special resonance. It is not just a homage to the great Italian tradition of art and craft workshops, but also an insightful interpretation of what cinema is about, which includes craft skills in its collective artistic vision. In my view this, together with a consistently maintained ethical position, is one dimension of the Taviani brothers’ approach to filmmaking that deserves to be remembered. I am therefore especially happy and honored to be able to welcome Paolo Taviani to recall the splendid contribution that he, together with his brother Vittorio, made towards the ageless cinema we celebrate every year in Locarno.”
The Locarno Festival will pay tribute to Paolo Taviani in Piazza Grande and the tribute will be accompanied by a world premiere screening of the restored print of Good morning Babilonia (1987) by the Italian National Film Archive (CSC) and Istituto Luce-Cinecittà.
The 71st Locarno Festival will take place from 1 to 11 August 2018.