Giffoni Experience Blog: Ryan Corneille, Generator 16+ Programme

Read Ryan's experience of his trip to Giffoni Experience Film Festival.

Host family, people, different countries:

My host's name was Pier Sacco. He lived in an apartment in the hills of Salerno with his parents and sister. He didn't speak a lot of english and would often mess up or forget words to the point where our communication on the phone would devolve into us in turn shouting words until one came up that we both understood (eg. fountain, bar, park). Thiis isn't to say his english was so bad we couldn't talk it was surprisingly good and we almost always knew what the other was saying. Despite this language difficulty Pier was as friendly and accepting as possible, introducing me to his friends, inviting me to parties and events, and generally making sure I was welcome everywhere we went even when everyone but me conversed in Italian. He insisted on paying for everything no matter what. I felt compelled to repay him but he rejected everything I offered. He even gave me a farewell gift on my departure. His vast group of friends came quickly to be fascinated by me because of my nationality. Everyone of course knew of Guinness but to them I was an alien creature. Some people wanted to be introduced to me despite not speaking english. We all hung out together all day so we became friends quickly be it at the park beside the cinema relaxing under a tree watching the others play volleyball, or at a restaurant in the town square sitting in the shade  and throwing water balloons at each other from the nearby fountain. Pier was not the only host among his group of friends and through them I was able to meet other jurors who had come from other countries. Some countries I met include Australia, Albania, Belgium, Georgia, America, Macedonia, Qatar, Britain, and Czech Republic to name a few. Being (in most cases) the only other english speaking person around they and I usually banded together to escape the endless Italian conversation. In those short 12 days I made friends with people who I will likely never see again and some of which I was never able to get contact information from which is my biggest regret. Talking to them was great and having something in common thanks to the festival made nationality and all other differences fade away. Except of course when both I and they would ask each other about our countries extensively. We could relate to each other on films and our experiences abroad. One that constantly came up was food. The Italian families constantly insisted on feeding us more food than we have ever had, to the point where each of us felt bad for not eating enough of it.  They were great to talk to and everyday I would meet someone new and we would spend the night talking about everything. It was great.

Travelling with the Irish delegation and film fest abroad:

The irish delegation consisted of four members (excluding our chaperone Sarah Ahern). Two of them, named Cai and Comhghal, were in the 13+ age category while myself and a girl named Sarah (not to be confused with the chaperone) were in the 16+ category. Sarah Ahern, Cai, Comhghal, and myself travelled together to Naples by plane. Sarah joined us later since she was on holiday in Mexico just before the festival started. Initially following being left with our host families we didn't see each other often throughout the festival. Sarah Ahern did call us together to meet and talk about what we had been doing throughout the festival. We also had a free day from the festival during which the five of us visited the beautiful Amalfi coast. During the festival we didn't see each other much initially as I said but as it went on we spent more and more time together. Cai and Comhghal stayed together (being in the same age category) and found themselves being with people I knew so we saw each other often in the last week or so. Sarah's host tended to drag her away from us and anyone we knew so we didn't get to see much of her but we did meet up when we could. Overall spending time with the Irish group was fun they were a great bunch.

Being at a film festival abroad was great. Everyone was so enthusiastic about the films. By this I mean they applauded everything and generally overreacted to everything on screen, it was fantastic. For example when Handsome Devil was being played everyone applauded when Andrew Scott came on screen. It was like this in every screening. My host literally dragged me into watching Cars 3 but being with everyone reacting as they were made the experience far better than if I had been alone. After the films people were allowed to ask questions or give their thoughts on the film to either whoever from the film was there (from director to cast) or just to the audience. It was great hearing the how different nationalities approached the film; some focused on theme, some on cinematography, some cared only about character writing.

Favourite films:

The films shown were Weirdos, The Inland Road, Do it right, Lane 1974, The Next Skin, Before the rooster crows, and Handsome Devil. Of the 7 films my favourite technically was The Next Skin. The direction, performances, and story was fantastic. The story starts with an interesting premise, a boy lost for 8 years returns to his supposed family and tries to lead a normal life while having amnesia about his childhood. As the film goes on the story becomes more complex as more and more is revealed. The direction and cinematography was incredible too since it was shot near Catalan. It's fantastic and I highly recommend it. As a viewing experience however the best was Handsome Devil. While the film is great (second or third favourite shown), the italians increased the enjoyment tenfold. Whenever anything of importance happened it was greeted with applause, gasps, whistling, you name it. It was a fun time. Of the other films the other ones I'd recommend are Do it right and Before the rooster crows they were really good. The other three films however: Weirdos, The Inland Road, and Lane 1974 were poor in my opinion and I would not recommend. In short, Weirdos was a mess in several ways, The Inland Road had terrible characters and writing, and Lane 1974 was way too short at around 70 minutes if I recall correctly. Due to this it both has very little happen in the film and ends very suddenly. It felt like it was missing an hour of film. Having said that about the films the festival was great and being able to hear the directors or cast talk about the production of the film was very interesting (even if I didn't agree with them).

(Above: still from "The Next Skin")


As mentioned earlier we spoke to several directors of the films shown. They explained in depth their thought-process behind the film, how all the themes worked together, they answered questions from the audience, it was all fascinating. The international guest speakers were the other aspect of the day which we looked forward to. Most days were spent after the film sitting at the park or at a restaurant for several hours waiting for the guest speaker to arrive. The first to arrive was Julianne Moore. She was by far one of the best speakers there and my personal favourite. Due to being in better roles and more of them than most her questions were the best of any speaker at the event and the quality of her answers surpassed that of the questions. She was extremely articulate in everything she said. It was as if she had prepared an exact answer for the questions but obviously they were thought up there. She gave incredibly interesting answers to all the questions about acting, working with different directors, her life choices, etc. It was fascinating to hear. The next guest was Amy Adams. She was a lot more reserved and shy when answering her questions. It was towards the end that she opened up and gave a lot more detailed answers which were great. Not to say that the earlier ones were at all bad or no good they were great she was simply not as open as toward the end. Next up was Kit Harrington who had by far the worst questions. He tried to answer them as best as he could but even then he was a bit shallow when answering and while the other speakers talked about hard work and commitment in regard to getting into acting Kit just spoke about how lucky he was, undermining the whole thing. The final guest was Bryan Cranston. Bryan knew how to put on a performance. He knew exactly how to talk to a crowd. His questions were good enough but he answered them superbly and was very funny. He was my second favourite speaker and was a fantastic person to listen to. He was funny, informative, inspirational, the works. Overall the speakers were great to listen to. They talked about things I would never have even thought of in regard to their performances.

A particular memory:

On the last day of the trip, the day after the festival had officially ended, Pier, his friends, and I decided to go swimming by the Amalfi coast. We took the bus there and after walking around the beautifully vertical city which was built on the cliffside, we went to the beach and swam for a while. We were supposed to make our way back by bus again but while we were waiting at the stop the bus passes us. Pier's friends ran after the bus to try get it to stop but to no avail. So we began walking up the road, Me, Pier, his friends, and 2 girls we met at the beach who happened to be taking the same bus back. Suddenly we went past a tight wall to find Piers friends hopping in the back of someone's car and driving off leaving us stranded. Dismayed, Pier and I attempted to hitchhike our way back to Salerno. After several minutes of trying to get a car to stop an old couple finally stopped for the 4 of us. So there we were, 3 of them sitting in the back and me on Pier's lap. The old couple let us out of the car at a junction and we walked the rest of the way about a minute of walking brought us to Piers friends who were (I guessed) waiting for another ride. We left them behind and decided to walk to Salerno. The view was stunning. We walked on a path that was basically a cliff edge. Looking down to the right was a sheer drop. Beyond the cliff were several houses and a massive shipping port. There were shipping containers, vans being loaded into the massive freighters, cranes hoisting the containers aboard the deck, it was amazing. On the other side was a mountain that continued up for a hundred or 2 (I don't remember exactly) metres with a viaduct which continued into the valleys. Walking that cliffside road was great. After walking for what seemed like an hour we eventually made it to a small park where we waited until Pier's sister was able to pick us up.

Giffoni is about appreciating cinema and creating an exchange between different nationalities. Does this resonate with you?

Throughout my time at the festival I was always struck with how everyone came together despite their differences and became friends if only for a few days. Everyone was so different, every culture so varied, but despite this everyone talked like they had all come from the same place. Our differences faded away. Everybody was brought together by their love of films. As I've said previously hearing the different people talk was fascinating but hanging out with them outside of the festival was even better. Everyone was so much fun to talk with and generally just be around. We all found common ground with films and our own experiences in the festival and abroad. Hearing about their different countries and their stories was just incredible. My only regret was I wasn't able to get contact info for most of them.

Final thoughts:

The Giffoni Film Festival was the greatest 2 weeks of my life. Being with so many different people in a beautiful town, watching the films, partying at night, it was incredible. If anything, I learned that despite people's differences, they can be brought together by something they love. I learned to appreciate different people and that just because we come from somewhere different, it doesn't mean that they are any different. I loved every second of it and I want to thank Sarah Ahern for giving me the opportunity to experience it. It was an experience I'll never forget.

- Ryan Corneille, Irish Juror, Generator 16+