In 1981 Ottavio Mai and Giovanni Minerba decided to stage their own rebellion against mainstream movies where homosexual "characters" were always relegated to marginal roles and/or to offensive stereotypes. Their opposition took the form of their first film, shot in video, Dalla vita di Piero. The film was well received at Festival Cinema Giovani di Torino, Turin's festival for young film-makers, and was then presented at several international festivals.
So the seed of the Torino International Film Festival on Homosexual Themes, "From Sodom to Hollywood", was planted. As Mai and Minerba travelled to the various festivals to present their film, they realized that there were many excellent films being made on GLBT themes that were never released in Italy in any shape or form. They therefore began to work on the concept of a Festival and presented their ideas to local government bodies: to the Piedmont Regional Council, to the Turin Provincial Council and to the City Council of Turin. For three years they received no response. Then in 1985, the City Council appointed a new Councillor for Culture, Marziano Marzano, a man of open, liberal ideas, and non-conformist attitudes. With his support the first festival took place in 1986, in the face of the fierce opposition and controversy which was to dog the event over the years to come. The festival also managed to obtain funding from the Turin Province and from the Piedmont Region, and, subsequently, the invaluable artistic and cultural backing, which has been maintained through the years, of such prestigious national and international bodies as the Museo Nazionale del Cinema, the British Council, the Goethe Institut, the Colegio de Salamanca, the B.F.I., the Canadian Embassy, the Spanish Ministry of Entertainment, and the Centre Culturel Français.
Initially conceived simply as a programme of films focusing on GLBT themes, the event became a Festival in 1989 and was recognized as such by the Italian Ministry of Culture and Entertainment in 1990. Since 2006 the Festival has been under the administration of the national film museum, the Museo Nazionale del Cinema di Torino, while Giovanni Minerba still remains the overall Director.
As well as presenting films not yet screened in Italy, our Festival has always considered its most important role to be that of vigilant observers, on behalf of Italian audiences, of developments in a certain kind of cinema, which would otherwise have absolutely no possibility of being released in theatres in Italy, either for commercial or non-profit screenings.
What are the memories we treasure of unforgettable moments and exceptional guests of past Festivals?
1988, when our Festival revealed the great talent of Gus Van Sant, awarding him a prize for his debut film Mala Noche, and we also screened for the first time ever in Italy another new director, later to become a cult auteur: Gregg Araki.
1989, with the world preview of The Rainbow, a new film by Ken Russell,
1995: celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Festival, and 100 years of Cinema. Huge success for the retrospective "One Hundred Years of Cinema", which was accompanied by an interesting book of essays written by international experts and critics (David Robinson, Richard Dyer, Vieri Razzini, Mariuccia Ciotta, Fabio Bo) and entitled "Da Sodoma a Hollywood. Fotogrammi sovversivi attraverso cento anni di Cinema".
In 1996, we once again held the international preview of a Ken Russell film, Salomé, and we welcomed to Turin Robert Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman, winners of two Oscars.
2009 marked the anniversaries of two memorable events: the 20 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall and 40 years since the Stonewall riots in New York. We commemorated the Berlin Wall in collaboration with the "Biennale for Democracy" a Turin city event, and with the presence of Wieland Speck as our guest. To remember the Stonewall riots we focused on two emblematic figures: actress Judy Garland, a GLBT icon, who died a few days before the rebellion, and Harvey Milk, the political activist murdered in San Francisco in 1978. Milk's story was told in the remarkable documentary by Rob Epstein, The Times of Harvey Milk, which won an Oscar in 1985.
Guest and patroness of our 25th year celebrations was Claudia Cardinale, who opened the Festival, presenting a film by Tunisian director Mehdi Ben Attia, Le Fil.
James Ivory received the "Dorian Gray Prize" career award from Liliana Cavani, and presented his film The City of Your Final Destination (based on the well known novel by Peter Cameron The City of Your Final Destination). The closing ceremony was emceed by Fabio Canino with a performance by singer, Patty Pravo, special guest for the evening.
2011: The Festival's signature graphic and the promotional trailer were created by writer and cartoonist Massimo Fenati.
At the inauguration ceremony, singer Noemi performed a short set for an audience of close to one thousand people. Other guests for the evening included Stuart Milk, adviser to Barack Obama on personal rights, and actress Luciana Littizzetto. The Dorian Gray Prize for career achievement was awarded to the great Lindsay Kemp.
The festival was expanded with a new section, Vintage, which was supported by "Italia 150" (organizers of events marking the 150th anniversary of the Unification of Italy in 1861), and was dedicated entirely to Italian films, to celebrate "150: il nostro Risorgimento" (150: Our Independence). Films in the section ranged from the 1950s to the present day, showing how GLBT themes were treated in different historical periods as cultural attitudes evolved.
Among the many illustrious guests to the Festival, we have welcomed: Peter Cameron, Ivan Cotroneo, Negramaro, Ferzan Ozpetek, Eytan Fox, Ira Sachs, Rose Troche, Veruschka, Dario Argento, Udo Kier, Greg Gorman, Franca Valeri, Chaz Bono, Franco Nero, Monika Treut, Paola Cortellesi, Lucia Bosé, Lillian Faderman, Kenneth Anger, Filippo Timi, John Maybury, Ida Di Benedetto, Asia Argento, Luciana Littizzetto, Adriana Asti, Paul Bartel, Arnoldo Foà, Antonia San Juan, Vladimir Luxuria, Agustin Villaronga, Lorenza Foschini, David Weissmanm, Donatella Maiorca, Léa Pool, Andrea Occhipinti, Isabel Ruth, Alessandro Golinelli, Serra Yilmaz, Bruce LaBruce, Walter Siti, Lisa Thrasher, Barbara Hammer, Giuseppe Bertolucci, Paul Vecchiali, Ron Athey, Jenni Olson, Gianni Amelio, Lino Banfi, Franko B, Patricia Rozema, Holly Woodland Andrea Sperling, Joao Rodriguez, Melania G. Mazzucco, Jamie Babbitt, Roberto Cuzzillo, Ventura Pons, John Greyson, Harry Baer, Auraeus Solito.