Francois Truffaut called it, ‘The most important of festivals’, and experiencing Giffoni validated his statement. I arrived 2 days before our premiere, straight from the Durban Film Mart, which is a sister event to the Durban International Film Festival (the largest film market in Africa). Arriving in beautiful southern Italy was treat enough, but arriving at the small mountainous town that for 10 days every year gets transformed into youth paradise, was quite exceptional.
It’s the largest festival I’ve ever experienced, in terms of numbers, budget, hollywood A-list guests, etc. As I watched swarms of free, excited youths running riot through the warm summery streets of Giffoni, feasting on cinema and pizza, I couldn’t help but yearn to once again be 17 years old, on the cusp of adulthood, enjoying my indulgent summer vacation in the best way imaginable.
An interesting observation is that the youth jury members are very much the central focus of the festival. Most often at festivals, filmmakers and directors are the ones treated like royalty, but not so at Giffoni. It’s the other way around. A This is a good thing. It’s humbling and serves to remind us why we do what we do, to reach and connect an audience.
Nonethelss, Saturday morning came, and with it, the session that would screen Super Sounds. I’d read up on the other 8 or so films screening in the 10+ year old category, effectively ‘the competition’, and wondered what to expect. The other films were all mostly from Europe. A few from Italy, an animation from Spain, another from Russia. There is only one prize in each short film category, an effective ‘best film’ prize, and we were all at the mercy of the 1000 10 and 11 year olds who would be viewing and then judging our work.
I was introduced to my translator ahead of time who promised to look after me during the obligatory Q&A session that would follow the screening. I still hadn’t heard the final mix of the film, nor ever had the chance to properly test the DCP (Digital Cinema Package) that I had hastily created while travelling through South Africa. So beyond the obvious nerves, I just wanted to know that it all worked!
To finish up, the film screened alongside some stunning films. Truly, just being selected for the festival was a wonderful accolade. From memory they receive something like 1600 submissions each year and only select about 60. The italian kids who predominantly made up the audience were fantastic. They clapped, they cheered, they booed, they gasped (for all of our films). They were respectful – you could hear a pin drop in the tense and silent parts – and when all films were over they brought us onto the stage and we fielded some wonderful questions from a very astute audience. One girl stands out in my memory for making some sophisticated comments and complimenting me on making a film that felt like it was genuinely told at her level. I interpreted this to mean that she didn’t feel talked down to, ie, by an adult talking to kids, but rather it felt natural and authentic. This was lovely to hear.
In the end we didn’t win the award for our category. That honour went to an animation from Spain that was simply beautiful and deserved the award. But Giffoni was an experience I won’t soon forget. One that was made ever more wonderful because I got to share it with my partner Chloe (who also produced the film) and our 3 year old son, Davey, who was there as an official Jury member – the youngest international jury member in Giffoni’s 42 odd years of existence. See you next time Giffoni