Giffoni Experience Blog: Sarah Molloy, Generator 16+ Programme

Read Sarah's experience of her trip to Giffoni Experience Film Festival.

 This July, I attended the 2017 Giffoni International Film Festival with ADIFF. Giffoni is a children's film festival in Italy, and what makes it unique is that young people from all over the world are invited to come and take part as a juror for the films in competition. It gets it name from its location in the small town of Giffoni Valle Piana. It is a beautiful festival with the aim of bringing together young people of different cultures and inspiring an appreciation of cinema. The theme of the festival this year was ‘Into the Magic’. The festival certainly emulated this and the Giffoni Experience was one I will never forget.

       The festival took place from the 14th - 22nd of July. After a long journey consisting of returning home to Dublin from Mexico, and then a flight to Naples via London, all in 24 hours, I arrived to the picturesque city of Salerno as a weary traveller. It is a coastal city, surrounded by lush hills and filled with heritage. There I met the family of the person who would be hosting me during the festival, her name was Maria-Rosa. Her family was very kind and always made sure I was looked after.

       Every morning I travelled with Maria-Rosa into Giffoni where we would begin our day with viewing one of the films in the competition. This was then followed by a debate. There was seven films for us to view, and I really enjoyed them. They were all commendable and completely different, the only obvious similarity between all seven films was the presence of a young protagonist. Two films which I particularly liked were ‘Do It Right’, or ‘De Toutes mes Forces’ in its original french language, and ‘Lane 1974’. I liked ‘Do it Right’ because of its authentic portrayal of how a teenager struggles to deal with his world being split after the death of his mother. I thought ‘Lane 1974’ was beautifully made. It is about a young girl living in a commune in California in the 70’s. It was really original and the characters were so well written. However, my favourite film was definitely the only Irish film, ‘Handsome Devil’. It is about a boy who was ostracised in his school for being different. It had the covetable ability to sensitively deal with a serious issue, while also being hilarious. I am of the (only slightly-biased-by-patriotism) opinion that it was the best film I saw in Giffoni.

(Above: Film still "Handsome Devil")

       I also saw a preview for the film, 'Everything, Everything'. I had been really looking forward to seeing this, and not just because Nick Robinson was going to be there for a Q&A. It was the first movie preview I had been to; it was really cool seeing the security guards going around with their night vision goggles, making sure nobody was illegally recording the film. The film itself was colourful and aesthetic, and the acting was very good, but aside from that, it wasn't great. The story was predictable and full of plot holes. There were times when I physically cringed at the poor dialogue and the under-developed characters. It just goes to show that a big budget isn't everything when making a film. I liked the soundtrack though.

       Often in the debates held after every screening, the director of the film, and sometimes the actors, would join us. Being able to ask them questions, and hear what they had to say about their film, could make you think about it in a completely different way. They seemed to enjoy hearing our responses and opinions as well. Chad Chenouga, the director of ‘Do it Right’, told us how personal the film is to him as he incorporated his own childhood experiences into the story. Being able to talk to the directors was a really exceptional experience.

       After a break from the morning's activities, there was a Q&A session with one of the invited guests. There was a host of Italian and international talent. As I was an international juror, I was only able to attend the English-speaking talks. I was starstruck by the celebrities who were there, it felt as if there should've been a TV screen between us. I went to talks with Julianne Moore, Amy Adams, Kit Harington and Bryan Cranston. I was particularly looking forward to seeing Kit Harington, as I am a huge Game of Thrones fan, however the highlight had to be Bryan Cranston playfully smacking his translator when he imitated him being attacked by bees. I couldn't get over how well spoken and articulate the guests were. They all shared with us the different advice and experience they had garnered in their industry. They were all so eloquent and passionate about film, it made me want to be a filmmaker!

       When we weren't attending premieres or chatting with celebrities, we would hang around Giffoni with Maria-Rosa's friends. I learned very quickly that there are many cultural differences between Italian and Irish young people. Their language is so different, they have a very different school system, their food wasn't just pizza and pasta, even their style is dissimilar. While I would take sullen journeys on the luas, they would spend warm evenings zooming around on mopeds. I couldn't get used to kissing people on each cheek every time I saw them either. But at the end of the day, we all enjoy the same things and we all had similar interests. One of Maria-Rosa's friends became fluent in English just from listening to Justin Bieber. They were very interested to learn about Ireland, and once I convinced them that Irish is not a dialect of English, I had them saying "tá mé leathcheann" and "póg mo thóin" in no time.

       Although it was interesting trying to communicate to the Italians with a mix of simple English and spontaneous sign language, it was nice to get to spend time with the people who spoke the same language as me. During the festival we were given two days off, one of those days was spent taking a boat to the Amalfi coast with the rest of the Irish delegation. The break was lovely and the translucent waters of the Amalfi beaches were very refreshing on a hot day. We saw the Amalfi Cathedral and learned a bit of history while we were there. My other day off was spent travelling around Salerno on the back of a moped, which had me split between the elated sense of happiness from feeling like I was flying, and begrudgingly seeking absolution in the face of my imminent death. After surviving that, we watched the sunset reflect off the water from up in the hills surrounding Salerno, with gelato in hand, of course.

       I learnt a lot while I was in Giffoni. I discovered what makes a good movie and my mind was opened to the different types of film I can enjoy. I don't think I ever realised how much work and detail goes in to making a film. I got to stay in a beautiful country for two weeks and I experienced parts of it that you can't see from staying in tourist areas and resorts. I met so many new people from different parts of the world, this festival is truly unique in how it manages to bring people together. Getting to be a juror in Giffoni was really special. The feeling of having our say and being heard is so important. In the end, the French film 'Do it Right' was awarded first prize in my category by popular vote.

(Above: Still from "Do it Right")

       I will really miss Giffoni. I had such an amazing time. There was such a great atmosphere and sense of community. The people were great, I made so many new friends. I would love to go back. I'm so grateful to have had the opportunity to go with ADIFF. I've never had an adventure like it before, it really was magical.

- Sarah Molloy, Irish Juror, Generator 16+