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You don’t have to cross an ocean to meet some unforgettable Italians, appearing in a delectable assortment of movies in the New Italian Cinema festival, presented in partnership with the Italian Cultural Institute and scheduled for the first weekend in December in San Francisco.

Among the featured films:

AS-NEEDED-_-2.-Luigi-Fedele-as-Guido-380x254*AS NEEDED (Quanto Basta), a charming narrative about a hot-tempered chef performing community service at a school for adolescents with Asperger’s and his intense relationship with a teenage protégé with a perfect palate. Overcoming all odds, the young man cooks his way to the final round of a culinary competition for young chefs. Exceptional performances set against classic Tuscan settings.

*BOYS CRY (La terra dell’abbastanza), a raw, wrenching story of two young, happy-go-lucky friends training to work as baristas or waiters. A tragic accident thrusts them into the dark underworld of their rough Roman neighborhood as they turn to crime and violence as their only hope.

*EASY (Un viaggio facile) follows an overweight former go-kart champion known as Easy as he transports a coffin with a worker’s body back to his home village in the Ukraine. Along the way, the unlikely but lovable hero encounters unexpected perils and predicaments.

*HERE AND NOW (L'assoluto presente). In this searing portrait of modern malaise, three young men, restless for adventure, prowl the streets of Milan. Their violent attack of a random stranger sets off repercussions that change the course of their futures. 

*HOTEL GAGARIN, a fantastical feast of a movie about an unlikely crew of Italian film-makers and wannabes, duped into travelling to Armenia on a sham project. When war breaks out, they HOTEL-GAGARIN-_-2.-Luca-Argentero-as-Sergio-380x254find themselves marooned in a grand hotel but, through the magic of movie-making, end up bringing the locals’ dreams to life. An absolute delight!

*THE LAST PROSECCO (Finché c’è prosecco c’è Speranza), a wry and witty mystery that takes us into the vineyards and behind-the-scenes dealings in the lush Veneto as an unflappable detective investigates the mysterious death of a local count. As sparkling as the bubbles in a glass of Prosecco.

*MANUEL, a debut film as compelling as Italy’s neorealistic classics, captures the turmoil of an eighteen-year-old. As he comes of age, Manuel struggles to do what he hopes is the right thing and desperately tries to win the relative freedom of house arrest for his long-incarcerated mother.

The Festival also presents several documentaries, including The Last Italian Cowboys (Gli ultimi butteri) on the legendary horsemen of western Tuscany; The Call (La Convocazione) on jurors serving in a Milan criminal court; and Open to the Public (Aperti al Pubblico) on the Neapolitan agency that manages—often chaotically–some 40,000 public housing units. Several directors and cinematographers will make personal appearances at the screenings.

Click here for the complete schedule, venues and tickets, including group tickets and discounted passes.

Andiamo al cinema! Let’s go to the movies!

LaPassioneDianne Hales is the author of LA BELLA LINGUA: My Love Affair with Italian, the World's Most Enchanting Language and  MONA LISA: A Life Discovered. Click here to preorder her upcoming book, LA PASSIONE: How Italy Seduced the World.