There are those who were lucky to be born Italian, those of us “Italian by choice,” and those who simply appreciate the art and culture of Italy.
Regardless of which category you fall into, there’s an opportunity to enjoy a slice of Italian culture at La Paloma Theater during the North County Film Series presented by the SDIFF (San Diego Italian Film Festival).
The nonprofit SDIFF was founded in 2006 by a group passionate about Italian culture — especially cinema — and dedicated to bringing not only Italian films, but also “an Italian perspective” to San Diego.
Executive Director Victor Laruccia says, “We were blithe and supremely confident that there would always be a good pasta on the table and great stories to tell. Little did we know what we were letting ourselves in for.
“The San Diego Italian Film Festival is about more than just movies. It is about identity, history and a shared appreciation of Italian culture and great cinema — in a word, it is about community. In Italy communities come together in the piazza or town square and the San Diego Italian Film Festival is such a place for a diverse audience of film lovers and those who appreciate Italian culture.”
Now in it’s seventh year, SDIFF has made its mark on the local cultural landscape. For five years the viewings have been held at Balboa Park’s Museum of Photographic Arts. However, in 2012 SDIFF board member Anthea Beletsis suggested that the festival bring some of the films to North County.
Since that time there have been 11 screenings at La Paloma Theater, each drawing enthusiastic crowds of approximately 250 “Italophiles.”
A resident of Cardiff, Beletsis states, “As someone who lives in the North County, I am aware of how few movie theaters we have in the area and how few foreign or independent films get shown in all of San Diego. We have found such a big and appreciative audience for the Italian films we have screened at La Paloma, it is obvious that there is an appetite for them in North County.”
The La Paloma, an Encinitas landmark that opened in 1928, is the perfect venue with its old world character acquired through the passage of time.
Kathi McCord, Encinitas resident and professor of art and film, says that as a neighborhood theater, the La Paloma is the soul of the community. She states, “People talk to each other at the La Paloma Theater both before and after the film. They question (the film), discuss it and engage in conversation with one another.”
She continues, “Hosting foreign films makes a community more cosmopolitan, no matter how small the community is. To be able to see a foreign film that you couldn’t see just anywhere in town and, more importantly, to share that experience with a theater filled with other people — and two dogs — is just amazing.”
The first of the 2013 summer series, which played on July 11 to an enthusiastic audience of more than 230, was “Rosso Come il Cielo” (Red Like the Sky), a dramatic film by Cristiano Bortone about overcoming prejudice and a uniquely gifted child who led the way.
Upcoming films include “Mine Vaganti” (Loose Cannons), a dramatic comedy exploring the complex relationships of large Italian families, and “Terrafirma,” the story of a family on a small island transitioning from fishing village to tourist destination, interwoven with the issue of immigration. All SDIFF films are in Italian with English subtitles.
Major SDIFF events planned for this fall include a reception for Maria Grazia Cucinotta, the unforgettable female lead in the internationally acclaimed film “Il Postino.” The November fundraiser gala is the high point of SDIFF’s celebration of Italian life at its finest, with fabulous Italian food, drink and entertainment.
Be sure not to miss the upcoming films “Mine Vaganti” July 20 and “Terrafirma” July 25, both which begin at 7 p.m. at La Paloma Theater. Cash only general admission is $10, $5 for students and military.
With several Italian restaurants within walking distance of the theater, enduring the long flight isn’t necessary to experience an enchanting Italian evening. The San Diego Italian Film Festival brings the perfect bella notte to Encinitas.
For detailed information about the San Diego Italian Film Festival, upcoming events, and how to become a member, visit sandiegoitalianfilmfestival.com.
Kay Colvin is director of the L Street Fine Art Gallery in San Diego’s Gaslamp Quarter, serves as an arts commissioner for the City of Encinitas, and specializes in promoting emerging and mid-career artists. Contact her at email@example.com.