Friday, December 2, 2011

41st Parallel with Antonio Monda

Monda: What would be the scientific purpose of killing it? 

Zissou: Revenge.

Antonio Monda, Wes Anderson and Noah Baumbach

An article I did with journalist, author, filmmaker, critic, socialite, host, actor -Mr. Antonio Monda for L'Italo-Americano.

Anthony Mastroianni 11/27/11 Antonio Monda Interview

The 41st parallel is the imaginary line that connects New York City to Naples, Italy. The 41esimo Parallelo also happens to be the name of the Napoli Film Festival’s American counterpart. The mission is to cross the paths of Naples and New York through film. Italian journalist, professor, author, director, critic, you name it, renaissance man Antonio Monda curates the 41st Parallelo along with fellow countryman Davide Azzolini. Monda has been referred to in the New York Times as “arguably the most well-connected New York cultural figure you’ve never heard of,” and its no surprise that he has his hand in bringing together the tales of Neapolitan culture to it’s seemingly unlikely twin city. With the 41st Parallelo opening this week, we got the chance to catch up with Mr. Monda and talk about this year’s upcoming film festival. 

L’Italo-Americano: This week marks the 8th edition of the 41st Parallelo Film Festival if I am correct. How did the 41st Parallelo begin?

Antonio Monda: It started as an idea by Davide Azzolini, however it was an idea to tie together two cites: New York and Napoli. New York and Naples as you know are on the same parallel. They are similar cities in that they are melting pots. They are harbors, both great cities with a long histories. Naples, of course has a much longer history. New York is the city of today, while Naples is one of the eternal cities. The idea is to bring Neapolitan culture or something related to the Mediterranean to New York City.

L’Italo-Americano: Though Parallelo is a part of the Napoli Film Festival, you are showing more than strictly Neapolitan culture?

Antonio Monda: Not only that. We started from that (Naples related film), but we have other stuff to relate to the Mediterranean area, to all of Europe. In particular, this year we have an homage to Dino DeLaurentiis, a legendary producer who was born in Naples, actually outside of Naples. We have a film by Raffaello Matarazzo, which was very successful in the 50’s, and a selection of shorts that Davide personally curated.

L’Italo-Americano: Why Dino DeLaurentiis in particular?

Antonio Monda: Dino DeLaurentiis was by far the greatest Italian producer. He made legendary films such as La Strada or Nights of Cabiria, but also great American films like Serpico and King Kong. He discovered talents like Jessica Lange and Arnold Schwarzenegger. He passed away when he was 92, two years ago and we decided to pay homage to him with a celebration of one of his greatest films La Grande Guerra.

L’Italo-Americano: Can you tell us about O’ Mast and SchermoNapoli, the other films being screened at the festival. They are collections of short films by Neapolitan contemporaries?

Antonio Monda: Yes, to be honest I haven’t seen them, but knowing Davide I am positive of the quality if them.

L’Italo-Americano: Would a film like Gomorrah ever be screened at your festival and do you think films such as the aforementioned Gomorrah negatively depict Naples too much as opposed to promoting its vast culture?

Antonio Monda: We try to screen films that were either never released here (the United States) or classics. Gomorrah was released two years ago and hugely successful. I am a huge fan of the film, but there would be no reason to screen it again, though I want to go on record that I am a huge fan of the film and the book.

There are a lot of pictures of Naples. I’m not denying that there are problems of the city. From the camorra to the garbage situation, there are a lot of huge problems. At the same time, Naples is not only one of the most beautiful, but one of the most vital cities in the world and I think that this should be emphasized. One of the things that we try to do with the festival is to try to emphasize this element.

L’Italo-Americano: Do you see any other parallels between Naples and New York, besides the imaginary line that connects the two?

Antonio Monda: Yes, the melting pots, the harbors, the parallel, but they are both cities that welcome whoever comes to them. They are made for foreigners, everyone feels at home after one minute in both cities.

L’Italo-Americano: You played a role in Wes Anderson’s The Life Aquatic, do you see any bridge between Italian and American cinema?

Antonio Monda: No, I did play a little role in his film and I want to say that the film was shot entirely in Italy. My scenes were shot in Naples, but that is just a strange coincident. But, honestly, the beauty of Wes’s film is that it is by an American who is in love with Europe and the culture, but he is American, from Texas and brings his own elements of that culture to the film.

L’Italo-Americano: You also run and host literary discussions with world famous authors called Le Conversazioni. Are there any more of these projects coming up in the near future?

Antonio Monda: The next project will be on May 8th at the Morgan Library. I still don’t have the guests, we will announce the guests in a few weeks, but I can anticipate the theme, which will be “politically incorrect.” 

41st Parallelo opens this week in New York City

November 28th 6pm – SchermoNapoli
A collection of shorts by Neapolitan filmmakers

November 29th 8:15pm – La Grande Guerra
A classic Mario Monicelli film produced by Dino DeLaurentiis

November 30th 6pm – O’ Mast
A documentary on the sartorial arts

December 1st 6pm – Catene
A classic film by Raffeallo Matarazzo starring Amedeo Nazzari

Check Casa Italiana, 41st Parallelo’s partners website for additional details.

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