• Festivals

Allora International Festival of Cinema Art and Music: A New Festival in Italy

The first edition of the Allora Fest in Ostuni, Puglia, got off to a triumphant start last night. Which is especially noteworthy considering the scandal that rocked the international film industry Sunday night when one of its former contributors, director Paul Haggis, was arrested and detained by Italian police on charges of rape. The festival organizers immediately distanced themselves from Haggis, but it was the HFPA’s Silvia Bizio, co-director of the fest, who turned a difficult situation around and managed a hugely successful opening.

Hollywood stars Jeremy Irons, Alfre Woodard, Matt Dillon, Edward Norton, Oliver Stone and Marisa Tomei rallied around her in support. They walked the red carpet for the opening night film, Questlove’s multiple award-winning documentary Summer of Soul (…Or When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised) about the legendary 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival which celebrated African American music and promoted Black pride and unity. The screening took place at the Cinema Roma in Ostuni, Puglia’s Città Bianca, or White City, so-called for its lime-washed walls which were once considered a disinfectant in this town that dates back to 600 years BC.

After the film, attendees and stars gathered in the park of the Villa Communale for a short speech and introduction by co-directors Bizio and Sol Costales Doulton, who teased some of the amazing masterclasses that will take place in the coming days. Among them are panels with the aforementioned actors and directors as well as a writing class by Amanda Moresco, a talk with Matt Dillon about his directing debut with City of Ghosts, which is also being screened at the festival, and a discussion about the difficulties that European actors face when they decide to pack up and move to Hollywood, featuring journalist Luciana Capretti and veteran actors Al Sapienza (The Sopranos) and Brynn Horrocks (Hacks) and Hollywood newcomer Alessandro Marino. There is also a masterclass with Martin Campbell, who directed the Bond movie Casino Royale, and panel talks with composer Carlo Siliotto (Miracles From Heaven) and designer and costumer Domenico Vacca, who dresses, among many others, Forest Whitaker and Daniel Craig for films and personal appearances.

Historically interesting events like a walk with various actors and internationally renowned artist Paolo Canevari who presents “Innocenti, Monumenti della Memoria 2022”, a site-specific installation at the abandoned Tobacco Manufacture in Ostuni with Cardi Gallery, round out the program.

The films shown at the fest range from Italian productions to features and documentaries from the UK, the Philippines and of course, the US. And in Qazaq: History of the Golden Man, Oliver Stone interviews Nursultan Nazarbayev, the controversial first president of the Republic of Kazakhstan.

After the announcement, we drove to Puglia’s most desirable 5-star hotel and event location, the Masseria Torre Coccaro, a 16th-century farmhouse voted one of the Top 20 Hotels by Condé Nast Traveler. It is a truly magical place set in the hills above the sea in the middle of olive orchards, lit up by thousands of tiny lights, with bougainvillea cascading from its walls.

There, the guests suffered a parting shot from Haggis, who had unilaterally decreed that only vegetarian food would be available at official festival dinners. It was too late to change the menu for opening night but, suffice it to say, that from now on we will all enjoy the wide variety of pesce  (fish) for which Puglia is famous.