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Bonus features: Italian Film Series presents 'In War With Love' 

This month the Italian Film Series will complete its first full year of monthly screenings, bringing contemporary movies from Italy to eager audiences at the Little Theatre. The series will celebrate this major milestone on Wednesday, April 25, with the Rochester premiere screening of the wartime romantic-comedy "In War With Love," from director Pierfrancesco Diliberto.

The Italian Film Series founder Tony Mangione says he was spurred to create the series out of a personal passion for film, but also a frustration at the decrease in foreign films making their way into American movie theaters.

With the rise of streaming services and shifting distribution methods, the way to see foreign and independent films is increasingly at home in your living room. Which means there are a huge number of films made outside the Hollywood system that are becoming harder and harder to view in a theatrical setting. Magione says he's determined to help rectify that imbalance, as difficult a task as that can sometimes be. He admits losing out on at least one film he'd planned to screen because an American studio snatched up the rights, denying access in order to clear the way to release an English-language remake down the line.

Foreign films are a necessity, he says, allowing American audiences to gain different perspectives. Movies made in other countries can provide a crucial alternative to the "America first" way of thinking. "Movies allow you to step into an experience that normally you don't go through," Mangione says. "Because the beauty of a movie is after you leave, you take it with you. It stays with you, and can alter your way of thinking."

As a one-man team, Mangione has the freedom to pick and choose the films he feels will most connect with audiences, regardless of their scale. But as the series continues to gain in popularity, Mangione does eventually hope to secure sponsorships and turn the series into a full-blown film festival.

The latest is the genre-bending "In War With Love," which melds the World War II epic with romantic comedy. The film follows the romance between Arturo (played by director PierfrancescoDiliberto, aka Pif) and Flora, who's been promised to the son of a prominent mobster. In a desperate attempt to get overseas to win the approval of Flora's Sicilian father for himself, Arturo enlists in the U.S. army as it embarks on its massive invasion of Italy.

The film was a massive box office success in its home country, and it's indicative of the high-profile films Mangione has gained access to by working directly with Italian distributors, who are often eager for a chance to get their films in front of an American audience.

"When I first started, I had to go scrounge to find movies," he says. "I brought in some good films, but they weren't too well-known. Now, within a year I'm getting lists of all the movies that are going to the best film festivals in the world, and I'm getting them in advance. To me that is massive. It's a massive change when I can write to the major distributors in Italy, and I get a response. Before, nobody would answer me."

While he's excited to bring Rochester audiences some of the biggest films and directors that are making waves in Italy, Mangione says that first and foremost, he's showing the kind of films that he himself enjoys watching. "Because when you've got something that you like, doesn't it feel better when you share it?"


Coming Attractions:

Throughout the month of April, the 13th Annual Rochester International Children's Festival continues its free tour of venues all around the greater Rochester area. Featuring a selection of animated short films from around the world -- including France, Germany and Switzerland to Estonia, Croatia, and Georgia, as well as one locally-produced film made by the children enrolled in the School #8 YMCA Afterschool Program -- the festival seeks to bring non-violent and creatively inspiring films to young audiences. For more information, visit kidsfestroc.org or call 295-1000.

Jason Voorhees rises again this Friday the 13th as Fright Rags and the Little Theatre's "Saturday Night Rewind" shifts nights to screen "Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives" at 9:30 p.m. Drug-taking, promiscuous teenagers beware. thelittle.org.

Visual Studies Workshop will host "Last Light of a Dying Star: 16mm Projection Performances by Roger Beebe" on Thursday, April 19, from 7-9 p.m. The artist will present a program of experimental films performed on multiple 16mm projectors. Admission is $5, and free to VSW members. vsw.org

Wakanda forever! On Friday, April 27, at 7 p.m. the Black Cinema Series screens the worldwide Marvel Studios phenomenon "Black Panther" at The Little, with a panel discussion to follow.

Have information about an upcoming film event or screening? Send details to adam.lubitow@gmail.com.

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