In the cultural frame of New York, Italy stands in a good place. Italians take credit for contributing to the development of NYC and one of the reasons of their success has been the dedication to their culture and identity. Which is why when you have the honor of a strong cultural background it is essential to preserve it.
Preserving and adding to the Italian culture in New York is just what Antonio Monda, NYU – Tisch School of Arts professor, writer, cultural events promoter and Art Director for the Rome Film Festival, has been doing. A real culture institute in New York City, a point of reference for the new generations longing to make their way into the Big Apple.
Antonio Monda started from scratch, making his way up high, facing his adoptive mother, as he nicknamed America: strict and rigorous from the beginning, but fair in giving you what you deserve.
An intellectual and a lover of cinema, founder and Art Director, along with his associate Davide Azzolini, of Le Conversazioni (the Conversations), debates and on culture, literature and cinema with eminent intellectuals and exponent of literature as well as cinema: from Paolo Sorrentino to Meryl Streep, from Paul Auster to David Remnick and Don Delillo… (www.leconversazioni.com). Le Conversazioni are present in Capri, Rome, New York and recently in Bogotà.
How did your career begin in the field of literature and cinema?
I started off as first assistant for Paolo and Vittorio Taviani in July 1981. Literature came later on: my first book, La magnifica Illusione, I wrote in 2003, while the first novel, Assoluzione, in 2008: Gianni Ferrari convinced me to write novels.
What’s the biggest hurdle you faced when you moved to NYC?
We started with nothing, not a dime. For five years i was working as a super in a building in Upper East Side.
You brought to the Rome Film Festival some very innovative pictures, including “Lo chiamavano Jeeg Robot” by Gabriele Mainetti, with a very American storytelling style, inserted in a typically Roman background. Do you thing adopting an American storytelling style against an Italian background is the way to promote Italian cinema abroad?
I think Mainetti’s film is good beyond the scheme you just portrayed, though italian cinema needs to open up to new horizons of narration and expression.
A big difference between Hollywood and Italy is the approach to the new generations. America invests a lot on education, in fact cinema schools in the US are amongst the best in the world: USC, Tisch School of Arts, UCLA, Yale School of Drama, etc. Many of these schools are financed by Hollywood Studios. Just think of Jeffrey Katzenberg and USC. There are a great deal of schools of cinema in our country, but none is probably at the same level as the American schools. How come it seems like in Italy there isn’t the same approach and trust for the future?
The Centro Sperimenale in Rome is a great school of cinema. To answer your question, I would say in Italy there is less private effort.
One of your favorite films is Elia Kazan’s “The last Tycoon”, with Robert De Niro’s extraordinary interpretation as Monroe Stahr, an ambitious Hollywood producer. A true workaholic. Many people in the cinema industry in Italy complain about the lack of such pruducers, who are instead very numerous in Hollywood (Charles Roven, John Davis, Lorenzo Di Bonaventura, etc.). Do you think that’s a problem connected with Italy’s culture, system or skills?
We’ve had excellent producers, namely Dino De laurentiis, Carlo ponti and Franco Cristaldi, and still today we have a top notch generation, starting from Nicola Giuliano.
There is a general cultural issue, too close is the relationship with public or tv funds, but I don’t think the problem is talent. Italians are talented and very creative people.
On a personal note, the role of screenplay writer is a very important one in America, one of crucial leadership, just think of TV shows, where the screenplay writer turns into a sort of show-runner. In Italy, and in Europe in general, the film industry seems to turn around the director’s figure, so the screen writers are deemed less important sometimes. So speaking of Italy, how can this tendency be turned to motivate young writers to be screen-players?
One of the woes of our cinema has been the idolization of the author, hence what you just said about the director’s central role. Hopefully the rebirth of genres will bring about a new balance.
Through the Rome Film Festival you were able to wake up from its slumber cinema in Rome. Do you have any advice for the young generations of Italian filmmakers, screen writers, directors and actors?
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