IFF and the College of Liberal Arts teamed up to bring the festival to Auburn from Monday through Wednesday at the Auburn Hotel and Conference Center.
“National Italian Heritage Month is nationally recognized in October every year,” said Giovanna Summerfield, CLA director of the arts and faculty initiatives and associate professor of Italian and French. “It’s to celebrate the contributions of Americans of Italian origin and Italians living in America.”
In past years the organization had events mixed with film, discussions and student performances, but this type of film festival is a first.
“We had an intercultural day last year where we joined with some of the music majors,” said William Harmon, senior in communication. “They sang excerpts from operas, and we read some poetry. It generated enough interest to convince the film company to have a film fest here.”
Italian Consul General Marco Rocca approached Summerfield about bringing the festival to Auburn. He will serve as the event’s opening speaker.
“The consul got involved because they co-sponsor this festival in the U.S. with IFF,” Giovanna said. “The Italy study abroad program has received financial support from the Italian embassy (for the last few years).”
Giovanna and Harmon emphasized the importance of a community like Auburn being chosen to host one of the festivals.
“Miami is huge. Atlanta is huge,” Harmon said. “They picked two really big cities, and then they picked Auburn as the third one.”
The festival will feature three films: “Happy Family,” “Dieci Inverni” (10 Winters) and “Il Figlio Piu Piccolo” (The Youngest Son).
“They’re all by famous directors in Italy,” Giovanna said. “They mostly are comedies or movies that even an international audience could understand and appreciate.”
There will also be a reading of classical Italian poetry and a brass quintet which will play Italian Renaissance music.
Alessio Summerfield, sophomore in radio, television and film and Giovanna’s son, read last year and will do so again at this year’s festival.
Alesso grew up speaking Italian.
“I’m Sicilian-American,” Alessio said. “Half my family can’t speak English.”
Those hosting the festival said they are hopeful it will spark a new interest in the event.
“I think film is a good universal medium for people who wouldn’t necessarily gravitate to intercultural events,” Harmon said.
And they aren’t just hoping for Italian participation.
“We’ve had a lot of non-Italian students come and have a really good time,” Giovanna said. “Open-minded students should come and learn about a different culture.”
Giovanna said she thinks it is a great opportunity for people to learn more about this demographic of America.
“It will focus on what the Italian people have done for the U.S.,” she said. “Italians are the fifth-largest group in the U.S. It’s kind of a celebration of their contributions, reminding Americans that might be of Italian origin and might not be that there is this Italian component in their community, and it needs to be acknowledged.”