Since the origins of cinematographic art, Italian directors have influenced and inspired the most famous directors from all over the world, creating some of the most important absolutely must-see movie, cinema masterpieces of all time. Italy is one of the birthplaces of arthouse cinema and the artistic element has actually been the most essential element in the history of Italian cinema.
The first Italian filmmakers began to take an interest in films a couple of months after the Lumière brothers began their film exhibitions. The very first Italian director is thought to have been Vittorio Calcina, an associate of the Lumière brothers, who filmed Pope Leo XIII in 1896. The very first films date back to 1896 and were shot in the main Italian cities. These short experiments immediately interested the working class as entertainment, motivating Italian directors to produce unreleased films to the point of laying the foundations for the birth of a real film market. In the early years of the 20th century, silent cinema established itself, with various avant-garde Italian directors. In the early 1900s, creative and legendary films such as Othello (1906), The Last Days of Pompeii (1908), The Inferno (1911), Quo Vadis (1913), and Cabiria (1914), were made as adaptations of books or theatrical performances. Italian directors used elaborate sets, luxurious clothing and record spending plans to produce pioneering films.
The first European film movement, Italian futurism, dates back to the late 1910s. After a period of contraction in the 1920s, the Italian film market rejuvenated in the 1930s with the arrival of sound cinema. Many Italian directors dedicated themselves in those years to the cinema of Telefoni Bianchi, comedies with attractive settings. While the Italian fascist government provided financial support to the country’s film market, particularly the construction of the Cinecittà studios, the largest film studio in Europe, it similarly participated in censorship, and thus many Italian films produced in the late 1930s they were films by propaganda. A renewal for Italian directors occurred at the end of the Second World War with the birth of the Italian neorealist movement, which achieved broad public and critical consensus throughout the post-war period, and which introduced the careers of Luchino Visconti, Roberto Rossellini, Vittorio De Sica. Neorealism declined in the late 1950s in favor of lighter films, such as those of Italian comedy and great directors such as Federico Fellini and Michelangelo Antonioni. Actresses such as Sophia Loren, Giulietta Masina and Gina Lollobrigida achieved worldwide fame during that period.
From the mid-1950s to the end of the 1970s, Commedia all’Italiana and many other categories developed thanks to auteur cinema, and Italian directors achieved a position of excellence both nationally and abroad.   Spaghetti Westerns achieved appeal in the mid-1960s, reaching their peak with Sergio Leone’s Dollars Trilogy. Italian erotic thrillers, or Giallo, produced by Italian directors such as Mario Bava and Dario Argento in the 1970s, influenced the horror category around the world. In the 1980s, for various reasons, Italian directors went through a crisis. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, Italian directors such as Ermanno Olmi, Bernardo Bertolucci, Giuseppe Tornatore, Gabriele Salvatores and Roberto Benigni brought Italian cinema crucial praise, while the most appreciated directors of the 2000s and 2010s were Matteo Garrone, Paolo Sorrentino, Marco Bellocchio, Nanni Moretti.
Here is a partial list of Italian directors to know (in alphabetical order)
Gianni Amelio was born in San Pietro di Magisano, province of Catanzaro, in Calabria. His father moved to Argentina soon after he was born. He spent his youth and adolescence with his mother and grandmother. The lack of a father figure will be a common thread in Amelio’s future works. During his university studies in Messina, Amelio began to think about cinema, writing as a film critic for a local newspaper. In 1965 he moved to Rome, where he worked as an operator and assistant director for people such as Liliana Cavani and Vittorio De Seta.
Amelio’s initial work is the television film La città del sole, directed in 1973 for RAI and inspired by the work of Tommaso Campanella. In 1982 he made his film debut with Colpire al cuore, about Italian terrorism, presented at the Venice Film Festival. In 1987 Amelio created The Boys of Through Panisperna, about the lives of Italian physicists of the 1930s such as Enrico Fermi and Edoardo Amaldi. 1989’s Open Doors (Open Doors), including Gian Maria Volonté, established Amelio as one of Italy’s best directors and won best foreign film at the 1991 Academy Awards.
Interesting was The Child Thief in 1992, which won the Special Jury Prize at the 1992 Cannes Film Festival plus 2 Silver Ribbons and 5 David di Donatello. In 1994 Lamerica, on the Albanian migration to Italy, doubled its success, with 2 Silver Ribbons and 3 Davids. 4 years later, Cosi Laughing (So They Laughed) won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival. Amelio won another Nastro d’Argento for best director for 2004’s The Keys to the House.
Antonioni was born into a thriving landowning family in Ferrara, Emilia Romagna, in northern Italy. Born into a working class family, he managed to acquire wealth through night classes and work. As a child, Antonioni loved drawing and music. A precocious violinist, he gave his first performance at the age of 9. He abandoned the violin with the discovery of cinema in his adolescence, drawing would remain an enduring enthusiasm. He is best known for directing his trilogy about modernity and alienation: L’Avventura (1960), La Notte (1961) and L’Eclisse (1962), along with the English-language film Blow-up (1966), considered masterpieces of world cinema.
His films have been called enigmatic reflections on the human soul and feature escapist plots, surprising visual structure and an obsession with modern landscapes. His work significantly influenced subsequent art cinema. Antonioni has won numerous awards and is the only director to have won the Palme d’Or, the Golden Lion, the Golden Bear and the Golden Leopard.
Pupi Avati, born November 3, 1938, is an Italian screenwriter, producer and film director. He is known to horror film fans for his two crime works of art, The House with Laughing Windows (1976) and Zeder (1983). After attending school and studying Political Science at the University of Florence, he began working at a frozen food company. At the same time, he became passionate about jazz, ending up as a professional clarinetist.
In the second half of the 1950s he played and trained in the Doctor Dixie Jazz Band, which also included Lucio Dalla. At first he thought he was an expert musician, then he realized he didn’t have the essential skill. In the mid-1960s he chose to devote himself to cinema after seeing 8 1/2 by Federico Fellini. Avati’s enthusiasm for music, as well as his love for his hometown, which was the setting for most of his films, would end up being recurring themes in his productions.
Mario Bava was born in Sanremo, Liguria, on 31 July 1914. Mario Bava’s very first aspiration was to become a painter. Unable to finish paintings at a good pace, he entered his father’s service, working as an assistant to other Italian cinematographers such as Massimo Terzano. He also assisted his father in the special effects department at the Luce Institute. He has worked as a director, cinematographer, special effects artist and film writer, regularly regarded as the Master of Italian horror. His low-budget genre films, known for their unique visual style and ingenious technical resourcefulness, are a mix of fiction and realism.
He was a leader of Italian genre cinema, and is considered among the most important authors in the horror genre. After offering impactful work and other help on productions such as Hercules (1958) and Caltiki, The Immortal Monster (1959), Bava made his directorial debut with the horror film Black Sunday, released in 1960. He went on to direct films such as The Girl Who Knew Too Much, Black Sabbath, The Body and the Whip, Six Daughters (1964), Planet of the Vampires, 1965, Kill , Baby, Kill, 1966), Diabolik (1968), Chain Reaction (A Bay of Blood, 1971), The Horrors of Nuremberg Castle (Baron Blood, 1972), Lisa and the Devil (1974) and Rabid Dogs (Rabid Dogs, 1974).
Born in Bobbio, near Piacenza, Marco Bellocchio had a strict Catholic childhood: his father was a lawyer, his mother a teacher. He began studying in Milan but then chose to enter film school, first at the Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia in Rome, then at the Slade School of Fine Art in London. His very first film, Fists in the Pocket, was financed by a relative and shot at home, in 1965. Bellocchio’s films include China is Near (1967), Slap the Monster on Page One) (1972), In the name of the Father (1972), Marcia triumphale (Victory March, 1976), Salto nel vento (A Leap in the Dark, 1980), Enrico IV (Henry IV, 1984 ), Devil in the Flesh, 1986 and My Mother’s Smile, 2002.
Bernardo Bertolucci was an Italian director and screenwriter with a career that spanned 50 years. Considered among the best directors of Italian cinema, Bertolucci’s work has achieved worldwide recognition. He was the first Italian director to win the Academy Award for Best Director for The Last Emperor (1987), with many awards including 2 Golden Globes, 2 David di Donatello, a British Academy Award and a César Award.
A student of Pier Paolo Pasolini, Bertolucci made his directorial debut at 22 years old. His second film, Before the Revolution (1964), had strong global reviews and has been called a work of art of Italian cinema. His 1970 film The Conformist, an adaptation of Alberto Moravia’s original, is considered a classic of world cinema and was shortlisted for an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay and the Berlin Golden Bear. His 1972 sensual drama Last Tango in Paris was scandalous and hampered by censors because of its sex scenes, as well as an unscripted rape scene, which actress Maria Schneider did not allow. This was followed by films such as the historic and impressive Novecento (1976), the family drama La Luna (1979) and the black comedy Tragedy of a Ridiculous Man (1981).
His epic movie 1987’s The Last Emperor, a biopic of Chinese emperor Puyi, was a critical and commercial success, garnering rave reviews and Oscars for Best Picture and Best Director. He followed his success with 2 more films in his “Oriental Trilogy”: The Sheltering Sky, an adaptation of the book of the same name, and Little Buddha, an epic spiritual film about Buddhism. His 1996 film, Stealing Beauty, brought him his second nomination for the Palme d’Or. He continued directing well into the 21st century, launching his last film, Io e te (Me and You), in 2012. Bertolucci’s films deal with themes of politics, sexuality, history, class struggle and social taboos and his style has influenced numerous directors. Some of his films are considered among the best films of all time.
Born in Arona, Piedmont, Claudio Caligari began his profession as a documentary filmmaker, often collaborating with Franco Barbero; his first ever work was Why Drugs (1975). He launched his first feature film in 1983, with the drug-focused drama Toxic Love, which won the De Sica Award at the 40th Venice International Film Festival. Only fifteen years later he directed another work, the neo-noir The Scent of the Night. He finished editing his latest and third film, Don’t Be Bad, a couple of days before his death from cancer.
Liliana Cavani is an Italian director and screenwriter. He comes from a generation of Italian filmmakers from Emilia-Romagna who entered the scene in the 1970s, made up of Bernardo Bertolucci, Pier Paolo Pasolini and Marco Bellocchio. Cavani ended up becoming known around the world after the success of her 1974 feature film The Night Porter. His films deal with historical issues. In addition to making documentaries and films, he has also directed operas.
Sergio Citti was an Italian director and screenwriter, born in Rome in 1933. He usually worked with Pier Paolo Pasolini, but also for other directors such as Ettore Scola. His films include We Free Kings, for which he won a Silver Ribbon for Best Original Story. His 1981 film Il minestrone participated in the 31st Berlin International Film Festival. His 1977 film Beach House was part of a retrospective on Italian comedy at the 67th Venice International Film Festival. He was the brother of the actor Franco Citti. Among his masterpieces are Ostia (1970), Storie scellerate (1973), Mortacci (1989).
Luigi Comencini was an Italian director. Together with Dino Risi, Ettore Scola and Mario Monicelli, was considered among the masters of Italian comedy. His first successful film was The Emperor of Capri, with Totò. Comencini’s 1953 Bread, Love and Fantasy, with Vittorio De Sica and Gina Lollobrigida, is considered an example of pink neorealism. Followed by Bread, Love and Jealousy. After having directed Alberto Sordi for the first time in La belle di Roma (1955), Comencini once again confronted Sordi in what is considered his masterpiece, Tutti a casa, a bitter comedy about Italy after the armistice of 1943. The film won the Special Prize at the 2nd Moscow International Film Festival. Set in the Second World War, but dedicated to the Italian partisans, is Bube’s Girl (1963). Followed by Incompreso (1966, based on the English book by Florence Montgomery). One of his must-see films is a TV serial, The Adventures of Pinocchio from 1972, an extraordinarily poetic 6-episode TV miniseries.
Vittorio De Sica
Vittorio De Sica was an Italian director and actor, a prominent figure in neorealist movement. 4 of the films he directed won the Oscar: Sciuscià and Bicycle Thieves, while Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow and The Garden of the Finzi-Continis won the Oscar for best foreign language film. Sciuscià was the first foreign film to be awarded by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences together with Bicycle Thieves. These 2 films are considered masterpieces of cinema history. Bicycle Thieves has been considered the best film of all time by many directors and critics. De Sica was also shortlisted for the 1957 Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for playing Major Rinaldi in American director Charles Vidor’s 1957 adaptation of Ernest Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms, a film that was panned by critics and it was a box office flop.
Fernando Di Leo
Fernando Di Leo was an Italian director and screenwriter. He made 17 films as director and around 50 screenplays from 1964 to 1985. Fernando Di Leo was born on 11 January 1932 in San Ferdinando di Puglia. After working for a short period at the Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia of a film school in Rome, he made his debut as a director in the comedy The Heroes of Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow with his episode entitled A Place in Paradise. Di Leo later wrote numerous screenplays for westerns, often uncredited, such as A Fistful of Dollars and For a Few Dollars More. Some of his westerns had uncredited literary sources, such as Days of Vengeance which was loosely based on Alexandre Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo.
Di Leo was a fan of noir movie and wanted to make an Italian variation of these films. Among his very first works was the screenplay for Mino Guerrini’s Appointment for a Murder based on the novel Tempo di massacro by Franco Enna written in 1955. Di Leo began directing some of his own films at the time, including the war film Red roses for the Fuhrer and a couple of sexual films: Lady on Fire, The Wrong Way to Love and Seduction. From 1969 to 1976, di Leo was able to produce much of his own work with his production company Duania cineproduzioni 70. He returned to the noir genre with Naked Violence, a film adapting a short story by Giorgio Scerbanenco, an author that Di Leo will adapt for numerous future film productions.
Federico Fellini was an Italian director and screenwriter known for his unique style that mixes dreamlike and baroque imagery. He is recognized as one of the most important directors of all time. Most of his films are cinema masterpieces: The Road (1954), The Nights of Cabiria (1957), La Dolce Vita (1960), 8 1/2 (1963), Juliet of the Spirits (1965), Toby Dammit (1968), Fellini’s Satyricon (1969), Roma (1972), Amarcord (1973) and Fellini’s Casanova (1976).
Fellini was nominated for 16 Academy Awards over the course of his career, winning 4 for Best Foreign Language Film, the most for any director in the award’s history. He received an Honorary Lifetime Achievement Award at the 65th Academy Awards in Los Angeles. Fellini also won the Palme d’Or for La Dolce Vita in 1960, the Moscow International Film Festival twice in 1963 and 1987 and the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement at the 42nd Venice International Film Festival in 1985. Among the best directors who ever existed, Fellini ranked 2nd in the directors’ poll and 7th in the critics’ poll.
Marco Ferreri was born in Milan and was an Italian film director and screenwriter, who began his profession in the 1950s by directing 3 films in Spain, followed by 24 Italian films before his death in 1997. He is considered one of Europe’s cinematic provocateurs of its time and has had a consistent presence on the prominent festival circuit, with 8 films competing at the Cannes Film Festival and a Golden Bear win at the 1991 Berlin Film Festival.
3 of his films are among the 100 films selected for preservation for their notable contribution to Italian cinema. His best-known film is La Grande Bouffe from 1973, with Marcello Mastroianni, Michel Piccoli, Philippe Noiret and Ugo Tognazzi. He was a socialist and atheist. Upon his death, Gilles Jacob, creative director of the Cannes International Film Festival, declared: “Italian cinema has lost among its most important artists, among its most original authors. No one was more demanding nor more allegorical than him in reveal the state of crisis of modern man”.
Riccardo Freda, born in 1909 in Alexandria, Egypt, was an Italian director who worked in a number of film genres, including cloak and dagger, crime, horror and spy films. Freda began directing The Vampires in 1956. After school he worked as a carver and art critic. Freda began working in the film market in 1937 and directed her first film Don Cesare di Bazan in 1942. The Vampires was the first Italian horror film of the sound period, after the only silent scary film Frankenstein’s Monster (1920) . The wave of Italian horror productions didn’t catch on until Mario Bava’s Black Sunday was released globally.
Lucio Fulci was an Italian writer, actor and film director. He has worked in a wide selection of categories such as Giallo movie and spaghetti westerns and has garnered a worldwide cult following. His most significant films are in the “Gates of Hell” trilogy – City of the Living Dead (1980), The Beyond (1981) and The House by the Cemetery (1981) – along with Massacre Time (1966), One Above the other (1969), Beatrice Cenci (1969), A lizard with the skin of a woman (1971), Don’t torture a Donald Duck (1972), White Fang (1973), The Four of the Apocalypse (1975), Seven Notes in Black ( 1977), Zombies 2 (1979), Contraband (1980), The New York Ripper (1982), Murder Rock (1984) and A Cat in the Brain (1990). For his telling imagery and nontraditional storytelling, Lucio Fulci has been called “The Poet of the Macabre” by critics and scholars, in reference to Edgar Allan Poe, whom he adapted into The Black Cat (1981). The high level of graphic violence present in many of his films, particularly Zombies 2, The Beyond, Contraband and The New York Ripper, has made him “The Godfather of Blood”.
Matteo Garrone is an Italian director born in Rome. In 1996 Garrone won the Sacher d’Oro, a prize promoted by Nanni Moretti, with the short film Silhouette, which became one of the 3 episodes that make up his first feature film, Terra di mezzo in 1997. He reached the general public with the noir The embalmer in 2002. He won best director at the European Film Awards and the David di Donatello for Gomorrah (2008), as well as numerous other awards. His film Reality (2012) was shown in competition at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival and won the Grand Prix. His films Tale of Tales (2015) and Dogman (2018) were chosen for the Palme d’Or at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival and the 2018 Cannes Film Festival.
Emidio Greco was an Italian director and screenwriter, best known for the 1974 film Morel’s Invention. Born in Leporano, in the province of Taranto, Greco moved to Turin as a boy. In 1964 he finished at the Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia, then, 2 years later, he began working as a documentary maker for RAI. In 1971 he collaborated with Roberto Rossellini, accompanying him to Chile for an interview with Salvador Allende. In 1974 Greco made his directorial debut in a feature film with The Invention of Morel which, appreciated by critics, marked him as a true promise of Italian art cinema. His second film, Ehrengard, recorded in 1982, would not be released until 2002 due to the bankruptcy of the producers. Since then he has directed 6 more films, generally adaptations of literary works. In 1991 he was awarded a Nastro d’Argento for best screenplay for the film A simple story. In 2004 Greco, together with Francesco Maselli, conceived and set up the “Giornate degli Autori” space at the Venice Film Festival.
Ugo Gregoretti was an Italian film, television and theater director, actor, screenwriter, author and television host. He directed 20 films during his career. Born in Rome, Gregoretti joined RAI in 1953, working as a director and documentary maker. In 1960 he won the Italy Award for the television documentary La Sicilia del Gattopardo. In 1962 he made his film debut with the comedy drama The New Angels. In 1978 he began his activity in theater and opera. His work as a director has been primarily defined by a level of sensitivity to social and political problems integrated with a strange use of paradox and satire. In 2010 he was awarded a Silver Ribbon for lifetime achievement.
Luca Guadagnino was born on August 10, 1971 in Palermo and spent his early youth in Ethiopia, where his father taught Italian history and literature at a technical school in Addis Ababa. The family left Ethiopia for Italy in 1977 to avoid the Ethiopian civil war, settling in Palermo. Guadagnino is a writer, director and film producer. He worked together several times with actress Tilda Swinton in the films The Protagonists (1999), I Am Love (2009), A Bigger Splash (2015) and Suspiria (2018).
For the production and direction of Call Me by Your Name (2017), Guadagnino received crucial recognition and numerous awards, including elections for the Oscar for Best Film, the Nastro d’Argento for Best Director, the BAFTA Award for Best Director and Best Film, and the Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture – Drama.
Umberto Lenzi was an Italian writer, screenwriter and director. Passionate from a young age, Lenzi studied at the Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia and made his first film in 1958 which remained unpublished, while his main launch came in 1961 with The Adventures of Mary Read (Queen of the Seas). Lenzi’s films of the 1960s followed the popular patterns of the period, which led him to direct numerous spy films and sensual thrillers. In the 1970s he made crime films, crime films and the first film about an Italian cannibal with Man from the Deep River. He continued making films until the 1990s and later worked as a writer creating a series of thrillers.
Born on 3 January 1929 in Rome, Leone was the son of the director Vincenzo Leone and the silent film actress Edvige Valcarenghi. During his school years, Leone was for a time a classmate of his future musical collaborator Ennio Morricone. After watching his father work on film sets, Leone began his profession in cinema at the age of 18 after leaving his law studies at university.
He is the leader of the Spaghetti Western category and commonly considered among the outstanding directors in the history of cinema. Leone’s filmmaking style consists of mixing dramatic close-ups with long, drawn-out shots. His films are the Dollars trilogy with Clint Eastwood: A Fistful of Dollars (1964), For a Few Dollars More (1965) and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966); and the films Once Upon a Time: Once Upon a Time in the West (1968), Once Upon a Time in America (1984), and Once Upon a Time in America (1984).
Antonio Margheriti was born in Rome on 19 September 1930. The son of a railway engineer, he began his film career in 1950 with Mario Serandrei. He then began making short documentaries starting with Vecchia Roma in 1953. In 1955 he was credited in film scripts such as The Iron Class. He also worked under the pseudonyms Anthony M. Dawson and Antony Daisies. Margheriti has worked in various genres in the Italian film market: science fiction, cloak and dagger, horror, crime fiction, espionage, Spaghetti Westerns, war films and action films which have been distributed to a wide audience worldwide.
Mario Martone is an Italian director and screenwriter. He has directed more than 30 films since 1985. His film L’amore molesto participated in the 1995 Cannes Film Festival. His 2010 film We believed competed for the Golden Lion at the 67th Venice International Film Festival . He was also the director of Lorenzo Ferrero’s opera Charlotte Corday, which premiered at the Teatro dell’Opera di Roma on 21 February 1989. His 2014 film about Leopardi was in competition for the Golden Lion at 71st International Venice Exhibition.
Francesco Maselli finished the National Film School in 1949 and began his profession as assistant director to Luigi Chiarini, Michelangelo Antonioni and Luchino Visconti. Thanks to Visconti, Maselli managed to direct his first feature film, Abandoned, presented in competition at the 16th Venice Film Festival. In the 1980s Maselli dedicated himself to more intimate films, typically centered on female images, such as A Tale of Love, with which Maselli won the Grand Jury Prize at the 43rd Venice Film Festival, with Valeria Golino awarded as best actress. His 1990 film The Secret participated in the 40th Berlin International Film Festival. He directed 38 films starting his career in 1949.
Aristide Massaccesi, known as Joe D’Amato, was an Italian director, producer, screenwriter and cinematographer who worked in many film genres (western, erotic, peplum, war film, sword, comedy, dream, post-apocalyptic film and thrillers. However he is best known for his adult horror and erotic films. D’Amato worked in the 1950s as a photographer, in the 1960s as a camera operator and from 1969 onwards as a director of photography. Since 1972, he has directed and co-directed approximately 200 films under many pseudonyms as a cinematographer. Since the early 1980s, D’Amato has produced many director’s genre films through his production company. From 1979 to 1982 and 1993 to 1999, D’Amato also produced and directed approximately 120 films for adults.
Mario Monicelli he was an Italian director and screenwriter and among the masters of Italian comedy. He was chosen 6 times for an Oscar and was awarded the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement. Monicelli was born in Rome to a wealthy family from Ostiglia, a municipality in the province of Mantua, Lombardy, the second of 5 children of Tomaso Monicelli, a journalist, and Maria Carreri, a housewife. Raised between Rome, Viareggio and Milan, Monicelli lived a carefree youth, and much of the cinematic jokes he later inserted into Amici Miei were influenced by his own experiences during his youth in Tuscany.
Nanni Moretti is an Italian director, producer, actor and screenwriter. His films have won awards including a Palme d’Or at the 2001 Cannes Film Festival for The Son’s Room, a Silver Bear at the 1986 Berlin Film Festival for The Mass is Over and a Silver Lion at the 1986 Film Festival Venice cinema in 1981 for Sogni d’oro, as well as the David di Donatello for best film for Dear Diary in 1994, The Son’s Room in 2001 and The Caiman in 2006.
Ermanno Olmi was an Italian director and screenwriter. Olmi was born into a Catholic family in Bergamo, Lombardy, northern Italy. When Olmi was 3 years old, his family moved to Milan, where he attended high school and took acting lessons at the Academy of Dramatic Arts. He ended up thinking about cinema while working at the Milanese electricity company Edison Volta, where he began producing 16mm documentaries about power plants.
In 1963 he married Loredana Detto, who had played Antonietta Masetti in his film Il Posto (1961). Another early film was The Engaged (1963). His best-known film is The Tree of Clogs, which was awarded the Palme d’Or at the 1978 Cannes Film Festival. The film drew heavily on Olmi’s grandmother’s stories about peasant life in the agricultural areas of Italy. In 1988 his The Legend of the Holy Drinker, based on the novel by Joseph Roth and starring Rutger Hauer, won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival together with Donatello’s David.
Pier Paolo Pasolini
Pier Paolo Pasolini was an Italian poet, author, intellectual and director as well as a journalist, writer, translator and playwright. He is considered among the intellectuals of reference in 20th century Italy, eminent both as an artist and as a political figure. Gay and avowed Marxist, he expressed strong criticism of the bourgeois class and the nascent consumerism in Italy, with socio-political controversies and sexual taboos. A popular protagonist of the Roman cultural scene after the Second World War, he was a recognized figure of importance in European literature and cinematographic arts. Pasolini’s unsolved murder in Ostia in November 1975 sparked a scandal in Italy, and his work continues to spark heated discussion. Among his masterpieces Accattone, The Gospel according to Matthew, La ricotta, Teorema.
Giovanni Pastrone, also known by his stage name Piero Fosco, was an Italian actor, director, screenwriter and film actor. Pastrone was born in Montechiaro d’Asti. He worked throughout the silent film era and influenced numerous crucial directors in global cinema with Cabiria, such as David Wark Griffith, for his The Birth of a Nation (1915) and Intolerance (1916). Martin Scorsese thinks that Pastrone’s work in Cabiria can be considered as the birth of epic movie and is worthy of credit for a number of developments typically attributed to D. W. Griffith and Cecil B. DeMille. Among these was the full use of a moving camera, which freed the narrative feature from the fixed frame.
Elio Petri was born in Rome on 29 January 1929. He was expelled for political reasons from San Giuseppe di Merode, a school run by a priest in Piazza di Spagna, and enrolled in the youth company of the Italian Communist Party (PCI). He wrote for L’Unità and Gioventù nuova as well as Città Aperta. Petri was a film director, screenwriter, theater director and critic associated with political cinema in the 1970s and 1960s. His film Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion won the 1971 Oscar for best foreign language film, and his film The Working Class Goes to Heaven won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival in 1972. Petri’s other significant films include The Tenth Victim (1965), To Each His Own (1967), A Quiet Country Place (1968), Property Is No Longer theft (1973) and Every Way (1976).
Degree in law, Franco Piavoli he practiced as a lawyer for several years. He made the short film Stagioni in 1961; he later abandoned the legal profession to teach in a technical institute and dedicate himself to cinema. After making a couple of short films (Domenica sera, Emigranti, Evasi), he came to prominence in 1982 when he made Il Pianeta blu (The Blue Planet), his launch feature film, in competition at the Venice Film Festival, UNESCO award. The knowledge of this work was made possible thanks to the interest of his friend Silvano Agosti who one day in 1979 showed up at Piavoli in Pozzolengo with an Arriflex video camera and a pack of reels, informing him that it was the time to make his first feature film .
For an entire year Piavoli was responsible for filming the film which Andrej Tarkovsky would define as a total work of art. In the following years he made 3 more feature films (Nostos – The Return, 1989; Voci nel tempo, 1996; Al primo soffio di vento, 2002). In his cinema Piavoli does not give much meaning to words, focusing above all on images and sounds which in turn end up being protagonists and representing life. A cinema defined as “symphonic video”.
Antonio Pietrangeli was an Italian director and screenwriter, significant for his Italian Comedies, born in Rome. He started in cinema by writing film reviews for Italian film publications in the magazines Bianco e Nero and Cinema. As a film screenwriter, his works are Ossessione and La terra trema by Luchino Visconti, Fabiola by Alessandro Blasetti and Europa ’51 by Roberto Rossellini. Pietrangeli’s directorial launch was Il sole nelle occhi, a 1953 film starring Gabriele Ferzetti. The comedies with Alberto Sordi followed Lo scapolo (1956) and Souvenir d’Italie (1957). I Knew Her Well (1965), a portrait of a naive young actress played by Stefania Sandrelli, is his masterpiece.
Dino Risi was an Italian director. With Mario Monicelli, Luigi Comencini, Nanni Loy and Ettore Scola he was among the masters of Italian comedy. Risi was born in Milan. He had an older brother, Fernando, a cinematographer, and a younger brother, Nelo, a director and author. At the age of twelve, Risi became an orphan and was cared for by family and friends of his family. He studied medicine but refused to become a psychiatrist, as his parents wanted. Risi began his career in cinema as assistant director of characters such as Mario Soldati and Alberto Lattuada. He later began directing his own films and was credited with giving early chances to future stars such as Sophia Loren and Vittorio Gassman. His 1966 film The Treasure of San Gennaro participated in the 5th Moscow International Film Festival where it won an award. In his career he made many films: the most important are Una vita difficile of 1961, Il sorpasso of 196e I monsters of 1963 and Una vita difficile of 1973, all masterpieces of Italian comedy.
Francesco Rosi was an Italian director. His film The Mattei Case won the Palme d’Or at the 1972 Cannes Film Festival. Rosi’s films, particularly those of the 1970s and 1960s, often contained political messages. While the subjects of his later films ended up being less politically oriented and more literary oriented, he continued directing until 1997, his last film being the adaptation of Primo Levi’s book, The Truce. He received the Golden Bear for Lifetime Achievement. In 2012 the Venice Biennale awarded Rosi the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement. The 1963 film Hands on the City is considered his masterpiece.
Roberto Rossellini was an Italian director, screenwriter and film producer. He was the pioneer of Italian neorealist cinema, with films such as Rome, Open City (1945), Paisà (1946) and Germany Year Zero (1948). Rossellini was born in Rome. His mother, Elettra, was a housewife born in Rovigo, and his father, Angiolo Rossellini, owner of a construction company. His mother was of partial French descent, from immigrants who had arrived in Italy during the Napoleonic Wars.
Rossellini’s films after his early neorealist films, especially his films with Ingrid Bergman, were not commercially successful. He was a master recognized by the critics of the Cahiers du Cinéma. Truffaut wrote in his 1963 essay that Roberto Rossellini preferred real life to films. Rossellini’s impact in France, especially among the directors who entered the New wave, was so formidable that he was called “the father of the French New Wave”. Unlike directors who usually become more restrained and stylistically more conservative as their careers progress, Rossellini became increasingly innovative and continually experimented with new techniques.
Corso Salani was an Italian director, screenwriter and actor. Graduated from the Institute of Cinematographic Sciences of Florence in 1984, he made his directorial debut the same year with the short film Zelda, set on the island of Capraia. In 1985, he wrote the story and directed the video for the song Guerra dei Litfiba. Having moved to Rome, he was assistant director to Carlo Mazzacurati on the set of Notte italiana (1987), and in 1989 he made his first feature film, Voci d’Europa, which won an award at the RiminiCinema. He also began his profession as an actor, kept in the background compared to his career as a director. The role of reporter Rocco Ferrante in Marco Risi’s Muro di rubber (1991), about the Ustica massacre, became popular.
Gabriele Salvatores is an Oscar-winning Italian director and screenwriter. Neapolitan by birth, Salvatores made his debut as a theater director in 1972, founding the Teatro dell’Elfo in Milan, for which he directed numerous shows until 1989. In that year he directed his third feature film, Marrakech Express, for which he Turnè’s 1990 sequel. Both films include a group of actor-friends, composed of Diego Abatantuono and Fabrizio Bentivoglio, who will be present in many of his subsequent films. Turné was selected in the Un Certain Regard section at the 1990 Cannes Film Festival. In 1991, Salvatores received worldwide recognition for Mediterraneo, which won an Oscar for best foreign film. He also won 3 David di Donatello and a Nastro d’Argento.
Romano Scavolini is an Italian director and the younger brother of screenwriter Sauro Scavolini. He has been directing films since the 1960s. Most of his works are independent film individually shot on a low budget and with an original style. His best-known horror films are Nightmare (1981), a gruesome scary film that was banned in the United Kingdom, and 1972’s A White Dress for Marialé.
Ettore Scola was an Italian screenwriter and director. He won a Golden Globe for Best Foreign Language Film in 1978 for his film One Special Day and during his film career he was shortlisted for five Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language Film. Scola was born in Trevico, Avellino, Campania. From the age of 15, he became a ghostwriter. He entered cinema as a screenwriter in 1953 and collaborated with director Dino Risi and fellow writer Ruggero Maccari on the screenplay for Risi’s film, Il Sorpasso (1962). He directed his first film, Let’s Talk About Women, in 1964. In 1974 Scola enjoyed worldwide success with C’erariamo tanto amati, a great fresco of post-World War II Italian life and politics, dedicated to his fellow director Vittorio De Sica. The film won the Gold Prize at the 9th Moscow International Film Festival. In 1976 he won the Prix de la mise en scène at the 1976 Cannes Film Festival for Ugly, Dirty and Bad.
Paolo Sorrentino is an Italian writer and film director. His 2013 film The Great Beauty won the Oscar, Golden Globe and Bafta Award for Best Foreign Language Film. In Italy he was awarded 8 David di Donatello and 6 Nastri d’Argento. Sorrentino’s direction and screenplays such as Il divo, The consequences of love, The family friend, This Must Be the Place and the 2016 television series The Young Pope, have received 3 Cannes Lions, 4 Venice Film Awards and 4 European Film Awards. He often collaborates with the actor Toni Servillo and with the director of photography Luca Bigazzi. He has also written three novels. Perhaps his best films are the 2 initial ones: The Extra Man and The Consequences of Love.
Born in Bagheria, in the province of Palermo, Tornatore has been interested in acting and theater since the age of 16 and dedicated himself to the works of Luigi Pirandello and Eduardo De Filippo. He initially worked as a freelance photographer. Moving on to cinema, he made his debut with Ethnic Minorities in Sicily, a collective documentary awarded at the Salerno Festival. He then worked for RAI before launching his first feature film, Il camorrista, in 1985. This sparked a favorable reaction from critics and audiences and Tornatore received the Nastro d’argento for best debut director.
He is considered among the directors who have brought important recognition to Italian cinema. In a profession that has spanned over 30 years, he is known for writing and directing dramatic films such as Everybody’s Fine, The Legend of the Pianist on the Ocean, Malèna, Baarìa and The Best Offer. His best remembered film is Nuovo Cinema Paradiso, for which Tornatore won the Oscar for best foreign language film. He also directed several commercials for Dolce & Gabbana. His most personal film, from a linguistic point of view, is A Pure Formality. Then his style became more and more mainstream and “Hollywood”.
Roberta Torre is an Italian director and screenwriter. In 1997 he won the Nastro d’Argento as best debut director with his first film, Tano to Die, a truly original kaleidoscopic “mafia” musical. The film was presented at the 54th Venice International Film Festival, winning the FEDIC Award, the Kodak Award and the Luigi De Laurentiis Award for best debut director. The film also won 2 David di Donatello and 2 Nastri d’argento.
Florestano Vancini was an Italian director and screenwriter. He has directed over 20 films since 1960. His 1966 film The Seasons of Our Love, starring Enrico Maria Salerno, participated in the 16th Berlin International Film Festival. His 1973 film The Assassination of Matteotti participated in the 8th Moscow International Film Festival where it won a Special Prize. In 1999 he was part of the jury of the 21st Moscow International Film Festival.
Luchino Visconti was an Italian film director, director and screenwriter. A significant figure in Italian art and culture in the mid-20th century, Visconti was among the fathers of cinematic neorealism, but later moved towards melodrama and themes such as decadence, death and European history, particularly the decay of bourgeoisie and nobility. He received numerous awards, including the Palme d’Or and the Golden Lion, and many of his works are considered influential to subsequent generations of directors.
Born into a noble Milanese family, Visconti worked as an assistant director to Jean Renoir. His 1943 directorial debut, Ossessione, was condemned by the fascist party for its depictions of working-class characters turning into criminals, but today it is known as a pioneering work of Italian cinema. His best-known films are Senso (1954) and Il Gattopardo (1963), both historical melodramas based on classics of Italian literature, the gritty drama Rocco and His Brothers (1960), and his “German Trilogy” – The Fall of the Gods (1969), Death in Venice (1971) and Ludwig (1973). He was also a skilled theater director of theatrical and lyrical works, both in Italy and abroad.
Lina Wertmüller was born in Rome in 1928. During her youth she was expelled from 15 different Catholic high schools. Throughout this time, she remained fascinated by comic books and defined them as particularly important to her in her youth, especially Alex Raymond’s Flash Gordon. Wertmüller characterized Raymond’s comic framing as “quite cinematic, more cinematic than most films”, an early sign of his predisposition towards cinema.
Wertmüller’s desire to work in cinema and theater took hold at a young age, and from a young age she was fascinated by the works of Russian playwrights Pietro Sharoff, Vladimir Nemirovich-Danchenko and Konstantin Stanislavsky. She is known for her films of the 1970s Pasqualino Settebellezze, for which she was the first female director to be chosen for the Oscar as best director in 1977, Mimì metallurgico, Film of love and anarchy and Overwhelmed by an unusual destiny in the blue sea of August. In 2019, Lina Wertmüller was one of 4 recipients of the Academy Honorary Award for Lifetime Achievement, the second female director to receive the award.
Cesare Zavattini was an Italian film writer and among the very first theorists and supporters of the neorealist movement. Born in Luzzara, near Reggio Emilia, on 20 September 1902, Zavattini studied law at the University of Parma, but dedicated himself to writing. He began his profession at the Gazzetta di Parma. In 1930 he moved to Milan and worked for the book publisher Angelo Rizzoli. After Rizzoli began producing films in 1934, Zavattini obtained his first film script in 1936.
While studying law in Rome, he began working in the theater. In 1943 he joined the Italian Resistance. Zurlini was a member of the Italian Communist Party. He shot short documentaries in the immediate post-war period and in 1954 he directed his first feature film, The Girls of San Frediano, his only comedy film. In 1958, together with Leonardo Benvenuti, Piero De Bernardi and Alberto Lattuada, Zurlini won the Nastro d’argento for best screenplay for Lattuada’s Guendalina. Zurlini made his name as a director with his second feature film, Estate Violenta (1959), starring Eleonora Rossi Drago and Jean Louis Trintignant. In 1976 he created the greatest adaptation of the famous novel The Desert of the Tartars by Dino Buzzati.