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Canadian film fest to spotlight Calabrian star Stefano Grillo

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Born in the historic seaside city of Crotone, Calabria, actor Stefano Grillo is about to reach North American shores.

“Quo vado?” is Checco Zalone’s box office record-breaking film and it is opening this year’s edition of the Italian Contemporary Film Festival in Canada. Grillo plays the part of Don Michele Vannucci, the pastor in a fictitious village in Calabria, called Castrovizzo. Don Michele Vannucci is a priest who fights against organized crime and because of this, ends up being transferred elsewhere.

The focus of “Quo vado?” is on Checco Zalone (Luca Medici aka Checco Zalone). Born into a life of relative comfort and privilege among his peers in his small town in southern Italy, he is one of the lucky few to have a posto fisso, or guaranteed job as a public servant. When a new reformist government vows to cut down on bureaucracy, Checco is forced to accept ever-worsening public-sector postings in order to maintain his guaranteed pay, benefits, and lifetime employment. While on assignment at Italy’s Arctic research station, Checco meets Valeria and falls in love with her. Checco cannot help but be enchanted by her Norwegian progressive, merit-based society. Ultimately, Checco must choose between his secure yet parasitic place in Italy or a new and uncertain life with Valeria. The film opened on January 1, 2016 in over 1200 theatres across Italy. In the first eight days alone, the film earned €47 million in box office takings, beating “Star Wars.” It’s no surprise because the film is hilarious. The first 10 minutes alone will have you crying from laughter.

I asked Stefano Grillo about his experience working on one of the most popular films in Italy’s history and why the subject will be understood beyond the borders of his country.

Fra Noi: Tell me about your experience making this film and working with Checco Zalone ..

Stefano Grillo: My experience was fabulous. On the set, I met great professionals and at the same time beautiful people. Working with Luca (Checco Zalone) was magnificent. He is a great artist, very attentive to every detail. I am especially grateful for Massimiliano Moretti’s casting. I owe my part in “Quo vado?” to him. He was the first to give me a chance and audition me. After working on the film together, we have become very good friends He is a great professional, and the Italian film scene is so much in need of people like him.

FN: In your opinion, why has “Quo Vado?” been so successful in Italy?

SG: Because Zalone and Gennaro Nunziante (the director) manage through sharp humor to describe the positive and negative aspects of our country.

FN: Can you give me an example of these negative and positive aspects?

SG: One of the negatives is the attachment to the state jobs as if they were the only reason for living. This is just because today in Italy, young people do not have steady jobs and therefore having a stable job of any kind means to be privileged. The positive aspects are the ease with which people can adapt and the devotion to family. Love in the movie wins over everything and everyone.

FN: Do you think the message of the film will be understood by audiences outside of Italy?

SG: The message of the film will be captured perfectly outside Italy because it has a universal message! Love fails to question everything, even the comforts to which we are accustomed from childhood.

You can see Stefano Grillo in “Quo Vado?” on the following dates:

June 9 @ 7 p.m. TIFF – Toronto
June 10 @ 9 p.m. Colossus – Vaughan
June 10 @ 9:15 p.m. Colossus – Vaughan
June 11 @ 4 p.m. Film House – Niagara
June 12 @ 7 p.m. Museum of fine Arts – Montreal
June 13 @ 7 p.m. Cinematheque Quebecois – Montreal
June 14 @ 7 p.m. Cinema Guzzo – Montreal
June 14 @ 7 p.m. Cinema Cartier – Quebec City

You can see Checco Zalone in person:

June 9th, 2016
TIFF Bell Lightbox
7 p.m. Screening “Quo Vado?”

Opening Party
Roy Thompson Hall
9:30 p.m.

June 10th, 2016
Colossus Theatre
9 p.m. Screening “Quo Vado?”

For a complete ICFF schedule, click here.

The festival runs June 9-19. We’ll be checking in with more filmmakers during the next 10 days.

About Jeannine Guilyard

Jeannine Guilyard is a longtime correspondent for Fra Noi and the Italian-American community newspaper in Rochester, N.Y. She has also contributed to the Italian Tribune of New Jersey, Italian Tribune of Michigan and L’Italo Americano of Southern California. Jeannine wrote and directed the short film “Gelsomina,” which was selected for the Screenings Program of the 59th Venice Film Festival, and she won Emmy and Peabody awards as an editor of ABC’s “Special Report” following the events of Sept. 11, 2001. Jeannine is also a writer and editor for Italian Cinema & Art Today, a publication and blog she founded in 2005 to bridge culture between New York and Italy. Follow her on Instagram at Italianartcinema and on Twitter at @ItaloCinema2day.