IN LOVE: At War for Love is the story of Arturo and Flora who are in love despite an arrangement already in place for her to marry the son of a New York Mafia figure. Photo supplied

THE Cinema Italiano Festival is returning to Whakatane with festival director Paolo Rotondo promising a fuller curation of great Italian films for audiences.

“Whakatane already held it once before and it did very, very well,” Paolo says. “We were incredibly impressed with Whakatane, so we brought it back. There are obviously some very cultured and interesting people who want to see good cinema.”

Paolo, a New Zealand actor and filmmaker, created the festival with his wife three years ago to replace a previous one that had ceased operating. Since then, it has grown in popularity, traveling to 15 different centres across New Zealand.

This year the festival is celebrating “Love” through its selection of hilarious comedies, art house dramas, and thought-provoking documentaries.

“Italian cinema has an incredible tradition, and I’m kind of like a creative ambassador; I want to put out the absolute best of my culture,” Paolo says. “And by saying ‘best,’ I don’t mean just the good stuff, but really the whole image of what Italy is like and that culture.”

With a variety of classic pieces and more contemporary works, the festival will immerse viewers in the rich history, fascinating culture, and beautiful storytelling present in Italian film.

Some of the films featured include Indivisibili, a drama about conjoined twins who support their family through singing, and Palio, a documentary that showcases the oldest, continually-run horse race in the world.

“Palio is visually stunning, exciting, brutal, and beautiful,” Paolo says. “It’s full of incredible stories that you’d really only get out of Italy, in terms of the organised corruption that goes on in this horse race that everyone knows about. It sort-of becomes a metaphor for what Italy is like, as a whole.”

The event will be held at Whakamax on The Strand from October 14 to October 30. Tickets are $17.50 or $15 for students. For more information or to pick up a schedule, stop by Whakamax or visit the festival website at

ITALIAN STYLE: Festival director Paolo Rotondo has curated a fuller selection of comedies, art house, dramas, and documentaries for this year’s Cinema Italiano Festival. Photo supplied