KARACHI: As a country, we seem to be influenced greatly by Italian culture — whether it is in the mushrooming of Italian restaurants or pizzerias or in our love for The Godfather as was made evident by the fact that the recently-delivered Panama case verdict opened with quotes from Mario Puzo’s famous book.
The Italian consulate in Karachi on Thursday held an event in which they sought to bring together members of Pakistan’s film and culture community at a seminar titled Destination Italy.
The speakers were Roberto Stabile, the head of the International Affairs Department of Italian Association of Cinematography and Audiovisual Industry (ANICA) in Rome and Italian Trade Agency (ICE) Audiovisual Desk and Bruno Guerri, an Italian writer, journalist and the president of the association Il Vittoriale degli Italiani.
Introducing the guests, media personality Imran Aslam said: “The possibilities of a collaboration between Italy and Pakistan are numerous. In Karachi, we intend to do as the Romans do.”
The Consul General of Italy in Karachi, Gianluca Rubagotti, said there were similarities between Italy and Pakistan as “we [both] sometimes suffer from an image portrayed in the international media which is not exactly a reality.”
He said the film and fashion industries were growing in Pakistan. “There are great opportunities for collaboration,” he said. “The attention [of the local film community] is towards other countries, so why not Italy?”
Stabile informed the audience that a piece of legislation for which the Italians had been waiting for around 40 years was likely to be presented by the Italian minister for culture during the Venice Film Festival towards the month’s end. Subsequently, the ministry would be required to make an annual investment of 400m Euros into film projects, he explained. The legislation would set a system of criteria through which films would be selected for funding, he added.
He also mentioned that in order to encourage collaborations between Italian and foreign film productions and companies, the government would introduce up to a 30 per cent tax credit. This would go up to 40pc for individuals or companies willing to financially invest in co-productions with Italian companies. “This is in our view the gateway to open up co-productions with countries like Pakistan with whom we have never worked before,” said Stabile.
Referring to the screening of a montage of Hollywood films that have been shot in Italy, Rubagotti said: “You’ve seen what they have been able to do in Italy. If others have done it, why can’t Pakistan enjoy a slice of this delicious cake? The Americans understood, why can’t Pakistanis understand?”
The incentives to film-makers or production companies don’t just come from the federal level, “as a foreign producer, you may also have access to regional financing,” disclosed Rubagotti.
Bruno Guerri who was representing the hillside estate of Il Vittoriale degli Italiani in the town of Gardone Riviera, overlooking Lake Garda, in Brescia spoke about the history of the estate. It belonged to Italian writer Gabriele d’Annunzio. Every year the estate is visited by around 260,000 people. According to Rubagotti, that’s more than the number of people that go to visit the houses that belonged to Kafka or Shakespeare.
This estate was listed as available for productions but there’s a catch: “I will give you this house only on one condition: that you preserve everything exactly as it is,” said Guerri. As a museum dedicated to the Italian writer, everything in the house is preserved to perfection — down to the glasses left behind on the table. “The house, especially the interior, is really a masterpiece, we don’t have a word for it,” said Rubagotti, “but we invented it — D’Annunziano.”
“Not many people are aware of it but after Rome and Venice, the third most popular place visited — by 25 million people a year mostly from northern Europe — is this,” said Rubagotti. “Close to here we have [the] beautiful cities of Verona and Brescia — [the latter] which is stunning,” he added. “Brescia is the region inside Italy that has the highest number of Pakistanis. The third point is that I am from there.”
Later, an audience member commented that language barrier could be a major problem in working with Italy. Rubagotti responded by emphasising the need to find a reliable partner. “There are professionals in Turkey who speak English with you and there are professionals in Italy who will speak English with you.”
Published in Dawn, August 19th, 2017