The 19th edition of the European Film Festival, set to unspool in Lecce from 9-14 April 2018, will open with a journey that weaves between reality and fantasy, hot on the trail of Rodolfo Valentino. Rudy Valentino by Nico Cirasola tells the story of the famous actor’s return to Castellaneta, his hometown in Apulia, in summer 1923, at the height of his international success. Two other out-of-competition premieres are on the line-up of the Salento-based gathering this year: the Italian-Albanian-Macedonian co-production Broken by Edmond Budina and Respiri by Alfredo Fiorillo, starring Alessio Boni.

As for the European feature competition, ten films will be locking horns: they range from the Croatian title Agape by Branko Schmidt to the Netherlands’ Beyond Words by Urszula Antoniak (co-produced with Poland), Cobain by Nanouk Leopold (co-produced with Belgium and Germany) and Disappearance by Boudewijn Koole (Norway/Netherlands), via the French movie The Party Is Over by Marie Garel-Weiss, Pororoca by Constantin Popescu (Romania/France) and Denmark’s Darling by Birgitte Stærmose, plus Scary Mother by Ana Urushadze (Georgia/Estonia), the Bulgarian-German film ¾ by Ilian Metev and, from Turkey, Yellow Heat by Fikret Reyhan. All of these movies will be duking it out for the Cristina Soldano Golden Olive Tree Award, the FIPRESCI Award, the Cineuropa Prize, the SNGCI Prize and the Agiscuola Prize.

Also back for the third year is the section dedicated to comedy, with a selection of five titles that will be having their Italian premieres: from France comes The Teacher by Olivier Ayache-Vidal; from Spain, Abracadabra by Pablo Berger; from Switzerland, Flitzer by Peter Luisi; from Estonia, The End of the Chain by Priit Pääsuke; and from Turkey, Taksim Hold’em by Michael Önde. 

This year, the Lecce European Film Festival is dedicating a tribute to 1968 in order to mark the 50th anniversary of the student protests of that year, with the screening of five films chosen by Luciana Castellina and Carlo Verdone: Fists in the Pocket by Marco Bellocchio, Sympathy for the Devil by Jean-Luc Godard, The Dreamers by Bernardo Bertolucci, Something in the Air by Olivier Assayas and The Strawberry Statement by Stuart Hagmann. And it was again Carlo Verdone who was in Rome to announce the three finalists for the ninth Mario Verdone Award (see the news): they are Roberto De Paolis for Pure Hearts, Simone Godano for Husband & Wife and Antonio Padovan for The Last Prosecco; this edition’s special accolade goes to Andrea De Sica for Children of the Night

The 2018 Champions of European Cinema are British director Michael Winterbottom and his Hungarian counterpart Ildikó Enyedi, to whom two retrospectives are being dedicated and who will pick up the Golden Olive Tree for Lifetime Achievement. They will respectively introduce audiences to the films In This World, which won the Golden Bear at the Berlinale in 2003, and On Body and Soul, the recipient of the same prize in 2017. On the other hand, the Champions of Italian Cinema are actor-director Kim Rossi Stuart and Jasmine Trinca, crowned Best Actress in Cannes’ Un Certain Regard last year. 

Other highlights include the short-film competition for the Emidio Greco Award, and the customary Cinema and Reality section, which shines the spotlight on important social and cultural topics, and which includes Mena by Maria Cristina Fraddosio, about the protests currently taking place in Salento against the TAP gas pipeline, and Immagine dal vero by Luciano Accomando, which outlines the success stories of five women and seven men who have immigrated to Sicily. Lastly, in Lecce, audiences will be able to rediscover the three finalists for the 2017 LUX Prize: the winner, Sami Blood by Amanda Kernell, BPM (Beats Per Minute) by Robin Campillo and Western by Valeska Grisebach.