In 1959, the Festival dei Popoli was established thanks to the effort of a group of scholars and visionaries who saw the documentary as the most effective medium to come in contact with the thousand souls of the world. At that time, the drive towards knowledge was powerful. It was fuelled not only by the challenges Italy was tackling at the height of its social and economic boom, but also by great global upheavals - such as the youthful generations coming to the fore, the movements of liberation from imperialism, the fights for civil rights… – and especially by a technical and theoretical revolution – i.e., the coming of Direct Cinema and the introduction of 16mm single system sound cameras. The latter factor was to allow film to get rid of the burdensome studios and to come in a more unmediated contact with the realities that were waiting to be told.
Over the fifty years of its lifetime, the Festival dei Popoli has never lost sight of this drive to stay in contact with the world, and follow its developments. This need to inform has aimed at the artistic quality of the films presented on one hand, and has always aspired to the state of the art in the realm of cultural events on the other. In this context of continuity and renewal, three years ago a plan to bring the Festival dei Popoli back among the major international film festivals was launched. There was one very clear tenet, the same as in the earlier years: to divulge and to defend a form of film based on the ethics of information and the reflection about the self and the world. To fulfil this mission, the plan foresaw several stages:
setting up of a solid organizational structure, based on a small group of collaborators and on gradual task professionalization;
creating an international information network that would allow the Festival to be constantly up-to-date with the world’s major productions;
implementing a promotional campaign based on the Festival’s operative image, on the artistic excellence of the Tuscan territory, on the logistic quality of the facilities, on a warm and discreet welcoming, and on the renown of an event that welcomes both films and film-makers in harmony;
setting up a permanent activity in Tuscany, in Italy, and worldwide that would allow the Festival to export programmes (New York, Beijing) or co-operate with similar film events (the DocNoir section at Noir in Festival);
actively collaborating with regional and town institutions in order to launch initiatives aimed at making Florence and Tuscany a production hub by attracting projects, advising, and organizing Writing Workshops or Masters in Creative Documentary Film-making;
matching the Festival with a market that would allow presented films – and Italian products in general – to gain more opportunities of purchase, distribution and theatrical release on both national and international levels.
According to everyone’s expectations, this plan was to be implemented in five years, whereas it has already taken an actual shape. The Festival dei Popoli 51st edition is a proof, strongly characterized by cross-over and contamination. This stands out among the range of proposals, where you can find the retrospective on Swiss documentary cinema – rich in masterpieces from the past and renowned guests – next to the retrospective dedicated to Peter Mettler – the visionary and humanist Canadian visual artist – also featuring an original photo exhibition, as well as an overview of the best of contemporary Italian documentary film-making. The Festival’s highlight is the Official Selection, that will present film masters along with young beginners under the aegis of eclecticism, offering extreme formal research and stories characterized by great human and social depth, reflections on the meaning of life and investigations of the state of the world, memories from the past and glimpses of the future, including auteur cinema and mainstream movies for the general public.
On top of all this, you will meet an auspicious reality, a recently founded association of Tuscan documentary film-makers with a thousand initiatives about to be launched, and a new market – Italian Doc Screenings, which has quickly gained an international reputation as an opportunity for meeting, launching new projects, and giving an actual meaning to the visibility that Italian «real cinema» has been looking for over the past years.