Wednesday, 9 March 2011
Andrei Kravchuk: The Italian - Итальянец (2005)
Directed by Andrei Kravchuk
Starring Yuri Itskov, Maria Kuznetsova, Kolya Spiridonov
Awards and film festivals:
* Ale Kino! International Young Audience Film Festival 2005: Won: Golden Poznan Goat (Andrei Kravchuk)
* Berlin International Film Festival 2005: Won: Deutsches Kinderhilfswerk Grand Prix - Best Feature Film (Andrei Kravchuk), Glass Bear - Special Mention - Best Feature Film (Andrei Kravchuk)
* Carrousel International du Film 2005: Won: CIFEJ Award (Andrei Kravchuk)
* Cinekid 2005: Won: Cinekid Film Award (Andrei Kravchuk)
* Honfleur Festival of Russian Cinema 2005: Won: Grand Prix (Andrei Kravchuk)
The Italian is a debut feature by Andrei Kravchuk, an experienced documentary and television filmmaker from Petersburg who had previously co-directed a feature film with Iurii Fetig, A Christmas Mystery (Rozhdestvenskaia misteriia, 2000). Kravchuk graduated from the St. Petersburg Institute of Film and Television, where he studied under Semen Aranovich. A veteran documentary filmmaker renowned for his ability to uncover the psychological drama within the document, Aranovich also infused his feature films with authentic detail, skillfully integrating newsreel footage into fictional plots and imbuing them with documentary-like credibility. The Italian may be seen as Kravchuk’s fictional tribute to the teacher he had earlier honored in documentary form—Semen Aranovich: The Last Shot (Semen Aranovich: Poslednii kadr, 2002). The uncompromising realism of this feature film, shot in a state-run provincial orphanage whose residents were chosen for featured roles, recalls Aranovich’s own Summer Trip to the Seaside (Letniaia poezdka k moriu, 1978). In order to render more accurately his characters’ harsh childhood experiences for a film set in 1942, Aranovich had employed children actors from a socially less-privileged background, recruiting them from juvenile correctional and foster-care facilities.
Scriptwriter Andrei Romanov claims that the idea for The Italian came from a newspaper article about an orphan who learned how to read in order to find his biological mother.  The film’s fusion of stark realism, the melodramatic child character, and a fictional adventure plot produced a genre combination variously defined in the press as lyrical drama, social drama, social melodrama, and even children’s adventure. The film moved cinema audiences worldwide, receiving the Grand Prix for the best children’s film at the Berlin International Film Festival’s Kinderfilmfest. It garnered a plethora of official and audience awards at home, playing to full houses at a number of national and regional film festivals. The film’s young lead, Kolia Spiridonov, who, unlike the other children actors in the film, does have a mother and a home, collected the Best Actor award at the Blagoveshchensk Film Forum. In an era of special effects and entertainment-oriented action-adventures, this low-budget production about the spiritual quest of a naive character articulates a moral code for Russia’s rampant capitalism that resonates strongly with viewers longing for a society based on a set of universal ethical values. ...
Official movie site.