I live the Festival as one process that started 20 years ago

Interview with Gaetano Capizzi – Founder and director of CinemAmbiente Film Festival (Turin, Italy) – Founder of Green Film Network.

There is its own geography in environmental cinema world, and Italian Turin is sure to be its Capital. This October 18th edition of CinemAmbiente will take place there and as usual will attract hundreds of guests. For many of them CinemAmbiente once was a life changing experience, it inspires, connects and makes you meet – people, films and stories.

GFN launches seria of interviews with environmental film festival directors and without any doubts we start with Gaetano Capizzi, soul and drive of CinemAmbiente and GFN. What was the very first CinemAmbiente like, what are main difficulties and what is his advice to all other festivals – read in our newsletter.

When and how CinemAmbiente Festival was born?

CinemAmbiente was born in 1996 for 10th anniversary of Chernobyl disaster. All around the world there were manifestations to remember about this tragedy. Me with a group of friends organized screening of several movies under a name “10 D.C.” (Dopo Cernobyl – After Chernobyl). There were rare documentaries about nuclear topic. Like shootings with 16mm camera by Russian reporters during the tragedy or American films about nuclear experiments that remain State secret up to this day.


Landscape of Turin

Those screenings were unexpected success. We realized that movies were real efficient way to talk about environmental topics because of their influence and enthusiasm of the audience. Much more efficient than traditional conferences. I believe that none of environmental communication campaign, even organised really well and exhaustive, cannot really touch the emotional level and impress like a good film on a big screen can.

In 1998, remembering great results of our screenings, City of Turin offered to expand the radius of the film research to environmental topics.

So as cinema and environment met in this process, Festival CinemAmbiente was born.

In the very beginning we didn’t really have the whole panorama of environmental movies, we were pioneers in a way.

Back then festivals specially dedicated to environmental topics didn’t really exist, or better let me put it this way – we didn’t really know about them. There were, of course, film screenings of documentaries about nature with strictly ecological reports about forests, animals or nature world.

We also tried to reread the history of such a cinema and presented really good retrospectives. I especially remember one of Robert J. Flaherty in collaboration with MOMA, and one of Jorin Ivens with Ivens Foundation, and one of CineFiat as well.

And then in just a few years whole phenomenon of environmental cinema exploded all around the world. Not only the number of such a films grew but the quality of it. And CinemAmbiente became a home for them. So I can say that CinemAmbiente grew up together with environmental cinema itself.

Meanwhile around the world many many environmental festivals were born. And such a growth gave me an idea to launch the association to unite these festivals. Today Green Film Network is a reality on international level.


CinemAmbiente 2014 | @repubblica.it

Do you remember your very first Festival?

I have already worked in cinema field for more or less 10 years at that moment. I specialized on independent Italian movies and short films. I have been one of founders of Italian Short Films Center. We cooperated with festivals across Italy and around the world. It is difficult for me to remember the very first CinemAmbiente because for me it is not the one course of events. I don’t live through The Festival or its editions, but I live it as unicum, whole process which started 20 years ago. I remember people like Russian Oscar director Nikita Michalkov, Michael Cimino, Daryl Hannah, Bill Pullman, also Oscar director Peter O’Brain, o lot of Italian filmmakers, and so many friends from environment field like Wolfgang Sachs, Luca Mercalli, Devra Davis and many more. I remember many films that would be way too long to cite, but that left in me indelible traces.

What is the most difficult thing you face at the Festival?

The most difficult thing is to find resources. In Italy it is always more and more complicated to find a budget for any culture initiative. Public authorities, and not only because of the economic crisis, invest less and less into culture. New politicians refrain is that culture initiatives have to sustain by themselves, have to earn money by themselves. That’s very superficial consideration, as to organize a concert of some rock star with all those expensive tickets is one thing, but whole process of forming citizens with the help of environmental films is another thing.

I would say that we don’t have other particular problems about making the Festival.


CinemAmbiente 2014 | @repubblica.it

What do you like about your work?

The possibility to meet. I am talking about stories and people, but also places and environmental, social and human problems. These are areas so closly connected to each other I find it hard to separate.

Can you share some story from the Festival that you especially remember?

At emotional level I remember the meeting between little girl from the photograph – symbol of Seveso disaster – and the photographer who captured her. With CinemAmbiente we organised the exhibition dedicated to 30th anniversary of this tragedy, where photographer and his subject finally met. Mauro Galligani, who made a photo of the girl and her disfigured face after dioxin explosion on the “Factory of perfumes” had a chance to see her again.  

And what about the funniest story during these years?

“Lunch against food waste” with 3000 participants. The huge banquet, with seated attendants, whole made of food waste! We have intercepted and saved tons of food which otherwise would go to landfill. It ‘was a nice moment of conviviality and celebration, as also in the same moment in cinema we showed film on this theme.  


 Is there any film festival that you remembered more than others?

I remember many more than just one festival. I will never be able to forget 2007 edition of Ecofilms in Rodi (Greece). It is one of 4 festivals that founded GFN, together with Spanish one from Barcelona and Portugese one from Seia, and naturally, CinemAmbiente. Back than GFN was still called EFFN (Environmental Film Festival Network).

That festival was directed by Lucia Rikaki. Big friend of mine who is immensely missed. Together with one of the most important historians of Italian cinema she organised film festival LUCE. Films were screened at the island when it was still an Italian colony. And those films were never screened in Greece.

In the evening of the screening, old Italian building from that film epoch, got filled with a crowd, much greater then maximum place capacity.  All the people who didn’t have visual memory of their past. I felt that I’d contributed to reconstruct a piece of history and lot memories. For me that has been beautiful experience.

What can you recommend to other festivals, some advice?

I advice to take care and to keep the organisation of the festival and of its each detail  environmentally sustainable. More than ever now is important to pay attention to these aspects because the event gives the message not only with films but also with its “behavior” and conduct.

What GFN represents for you?

Green Film Network is the most important experience of international cooperation and collaboration. But it is also point  of reference and inspiration for new festivals that are just entering international scene. I am very satisfied as I can see that between members of network very positive climate is being born with all the mutual help. I do believe that it is the best way to raise awareness in people about an environmental topic.  

by Anastasia Laukkanen