Festival dei Popoli

By Meghan Sullivan (Stanford University in Florence)

This past week I attended the Festival dei Popoli, an international documentary film festival founded in Florence in 1959. Initially, I wasn’t sure what to expect at a Florentine international film festival. Many of the people visiting, travelling, or studying here in Florence put such an intense focus on the features unique to Florence, such as the art and history of the city – and rightfully so. Florence’s intricate history and beautiful art takes more than a few days to explore. However, this mentality makes it easy to forget that, at it’s heart, Florence also has elements of an international city. Florence witnesses the visit of millions of tourists and thousands of abroad students each year. The Festival dei Popoli reminds people of this fact; behind Florence’s distinct Tuscan culture lies a city that has many international connections and elements.

This year, the festival was held at the Teatro della Compagnia, a regal yet modern theatre located on Via Camillo Cavour. The theatre in itself is worth visiting, and hosts weekly events besides the Festival dei Popoli. There is a cafe bar in the theatre’s entrance that is less along the lines of a Century 16 popcorn stand and more along the lines of an enjoyable place to hang out and grab a coffee, regardless if you are there to see a movie or not. Proceed past this cafe area and you’ll reach a spacious theatre where the festival takes place.

I saw the winning films Duelo and Ala Hafet Alhayat. Immediately, it was apparent just how strong the international aspects of the festival were. The former film takes place in a Caribbean village and deals with themes of spirituality, grief, and exorcisms, while the latter film takes place in Lebanon and deals with themes of war and grief. Both of these films were miles away from Italy, both literally and figuratively. Throughout the viewings, the only reminders of Florence were the Italian and English subtitles located at the bottom of the film. Both of these films were intriguing, powerful, and quite different from most of the Florence art events that I have attended. I enjoyed the films, but they also led to an important realization: if one puts in some effort, they will find more than just the quintessential Florence art experience. Along with historical museums and world renowned Renaissance paintings, there is also an international art scene that addresses slightly edgier issues of global contemporary culture.

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