Culture and art come together at Hawaii’s own Italian film festival

Cinema Italiano in Hawaii along with the Friends of Italy Society of Hawaii ushers in its sixth year of presenting films and festivities this fall, once again bringing its touch of Italian culture and tradition to the Islands. From Nov. 5 to 8, 16 screenings of six Italian films will take place at Consolidated’s Kahala Theater.

“Once a year we get to showcase the best of Hawaii and the best of Italy, says Margherita Balbo Parrent, founding director of Cinema Italiano in Hawaii. “We really want to create a cultural bridge between Italy and Hawaii by bringing the best of authentic Italian film, fashion and cuisine.”

The idea for a Honolulu-based Italian film festival came to Balbo Parrent after she encountered an ad for another Italian film festival several years ago. A listing for the film Santa Maradona had sparked her interest – in a time when cancer therapy had left her “bone weary,” the film’s comedic plot line gave her new-found energy.

Balbo Parrent contacted the Director of the Italian Cultural Institute of San Francisco, who sent her the films for personal viewing. Balbo Parrent continued to maintain a good film-swapping rapport with the San Francisco Italian Cultural Institute Director, who eventually urged her to start her own festival in Hawaii. It turns out, Balbo Parrent says, that the Italian government actually paid the shipping costs of the films sent to the U.S. for the first festival. Now the idea has grown to an event that has hosted stars such as Daniel Dae Kim, Barbara Carrera, Richard Chamberlain and Jason Scott Lee, and notable Italian film directors Franco Amurri and Marco Ponti, who created Santa Maradona.

Balbo Parrent says Italian films offer a different form of enjoyment for movie buffs in comparison to America’s typical cinema.

“American films have huge budgets. Italian films must rely on storylines. The actors are incredibly charming and they draw you in,” she says.

In addition to the film screenings, Cinema Italiano in Hawaii opens with a sponsor’s reception and an exclusive party for film jurors, who select the winner for the Princess Dialta Alliata di Montereale prize.

Cinema Italiano in Hawaii along with the Friends of Italy Society of Hawaii gives back to the community by allowing film directors to visit public schools on Oahu and share their art. A scholarship for University of Hawaii’s Academy of Creative Media also is offered each year to inspire students’ filmmaking pursuits.

“Many school kids who get into film do relatively well and get into college,” Balbo Parrent says. “(Cinema Italiano in Hawaii) encourages cultural diversity and encourages kids to think outside the box.”

Cinema Italiano in Hawaii’s film rosters have been wonderful displays of genre diversity, with thought-provoking movies from comedy to film noir. This year, one film of note is Ex by director Fausto Brizzi, a romantic comedy that centers around the various ex-lovers one has in his or her life and the many situations that arise from those former relationships.

The 2009 Cinema Italiano in Hawaii festival is gearing up for another stellar year, with honorary board president Marchese Duccio Kawananakoa Marignoli and chairwoman Princess Dialta Alliata di Montereale at the helm. More details on the festival can be found at www.cinemaitalianoinhawaii.org.

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