La dolce cinema! The 2021 Italian Film Festival

A scene from the opening night film of the 2021 ST. ALi Italian Film Festival , The Ties (Lacci). Image: Italian Film Festival.

It’s a slightly later start than usual but it’s still a spring celebration. The 2021 ST. ALi Italian Film Festival presents a program of new, old, sexy and bold. Here’s a sample menu of what’s on offer this year. 

This year’s Italian Film Festival kicks off with opening night film, The Ties (Lacci), a family drama that revolves around an infidelity and spans three decades. It’s an Australian premiere.

Following that impressive opening, the program’s dramatic offerings include: Hidden Away (Volevo nascondermi), a fascinating biopic about tormented artist, Antonio Ligabue; Padrenostro (Padrenostro), a riveting thriller about a young impressionable boy, his friendship with a older boy and the sinister secret surrounding his father; You Came Back (Lasciami andare), a suspense drama with a supernatural edge, set against the backdrop of Venice; Glass Boy (Glassboy), the heartwarming tale of a boy, sheltered from the outside world because of his haemophilia, who takes a chance and discovers life; and festival centrepiece, To Chiara (A Chiara), a thriller noir about a teenage girl who has to deal with a disturbing family truth and make some difficult choices. 

Film still from Three Perfect Daughters (È per il tuo bene). Image: Italian Film Festival.

Italian humour can be dry, quirky, slapstick and caustic – sometimes all in the same movie. For laughs this year you can go see Three Perfect Daughters (È per il tuo bene), a hilarious look at three fathers whose daughters’ modern day concepts of love are not their idea of perfection; When Mum Is Away… With The Family (10 giorni con Babbo Natale), the sequel to the popular 2019 comedy, 10 Days Without Mamma – it’s your classic ‘road trip with Santa’ tale, just in time for Christmas; and another sequel, Like A Cat On A Highway 2 (Come un gatto In Tangenziale – Ritorno a Coccia di Morto), which turns up the dial on idiosyncratic Italian humour with a riotous, twisted tale replete with tattoos, nutty characters, cheeky wit and a much-too-handsome priest. 


A highlight of the festival is the Australian premiere and special presentation of renowned director, Nanni Moretti’s new film, Three Floors (Tre piani). Set in an apartment block in the affluent Rome neighbourhood of Prati, the film weaves together three seemingly divergent worlds in a plot arc that is gripping and poignant.

2021 ST. ALi Italian Film Festival trailer. Video: palacecinemas/YouTube.

The retrospective this year features four films by one of Italy’s most esteemed directors, Roberto Rossellini: Amore, Stromboli, Paisan and Journey To Italy.  As an additional treat, a Rossellini classic, Rome, Open City (Roma cittá aperta), closes the festival.

In an homage to film goddesses, the festival presents three classics: The Leopard (starring Claudia Cardinale), Marriage Italian Style (starring Sophia Loren) and Buona Sera, Mrs Campbell (starring Gina Lollobrigida) whose plot you may recognise as the inspiration for the musical, Mamma Mia.

Film lovers will appreciate the documentary, Fellini Forward: From The Creative Genius Of Federico Fellini, an experimental project that captures the making of a short film using human and artificial intelligence to try and recreate the genius of legendary Italian director, Federico Fellini. 

The festival runs in Sydney from Wednesday, 27 October to Sunday, 21 November at Palace Cinemas. 

For more information, the full program and to book tickets to the ST. ALi Italian Film Festival 2021, visit:

Rita Bratovich is the arts and entertainment editor of the Sydney Sentinel.