Movie posters are usually supposed to make you want to watch a movie, but with this Italian woman, it got her to organise a whole film festival dedicated to Indian cinema! River to River is Italy’s only film festival dedicated to Indian cinema, and has been organised annually by Selvaggia Velo at Florence, Italy, for the past 16 years, ever since its inception in 2001.
The 44-year-old says that the idea for the festival came to her after she organised an exhibition of hand-painted Indian movie posters in 1998. “The next year, I invited those same Indian artists to do a live show in Florence, and it was there that I thought to myself — why not put India and Indian cinema together and organise a festival?” Selvaggia says, adding, “The aim of the festival is to showcase the best of Indian cinema in Italy — independent, Bollywood, shorts, documentaries, features... everything. And not just films from India, but about India too. We want to show the different views of India.”
Studying the humanities at the University of Bologna, Selvaggia grew up and lived in different countries. But Indian cinema has always fascinated her, even if she never studied it as a subject. “I’ve never studied it in books, so my way of studying of Indian cinema was watching it, speaking with filmmakers and interacting with them, being on sets — being inside the process. Only after that I began to appreciate it even more,” says Selvaggia, who lists Guru Dutt, Bimal Roy and Raj Kapoor as some of her favourite Indian filmmakers.
Travelling to India every March to scout for the festival — which concluded its 16th iteration in December, 2016, Selvaggia makes it a point to visit and interact with filmmakers and people in the industry.
She says, “Your instinct can only take you to a certain point, but you have to add knowledge to that. I feel only after the fourth or fifth edition, I understood Indian cinema better. I need to keep on learning and nourishing myself with this.”...