By Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer Published Dec 15, 2007 at 9:42 AM

Earlier this year, I helped organize the first annual Italian Film Festival USA of Milwaukee, which showed three films over three nights at Marquette's Varsity Theater in May. It was a short-notice, toe in the water test to see what sort of response it would draw. More than 100 people came each night to see the films, despite some less than lovely weather.

Those results were great and the second annual event -- although it should be noted, others have organized other Italian film festivals in Milwaukee in the past -- is now being planned for UWM's Union Theatre in early March.

While last year's films were a done deal, offered up as a package thanks to the short lead time, this year, my Milwaukee-based partner Paul Salsini -- a Marquette professor of journalism and author of the great novel, "The Cielo" -- and I are working with St. Louis-based Barbara Klein to select the films for Milwaukee. The result is that the festival will be programmed specifically for Milwaukee, although in tandem with the similar events that Klein does in her hometown and in nearby Kansas City.

The result is that for the first time, I have more current (more or less) Italian films at my disposal than ever before. It's expensive to buy DVDs from across the sea, so although we Italian film buffs in town each buy a few films and lend them around, I usually only get to see maybe five or six recent Italian films a year that didn't make it to Milwaukee theaters or U.S. DVD release.

 Now, I have a pile of films, some of which I've now seen and some still awaiting viewing, and it's exciting. For once, I actually feel sort of current on Italian cinema. Usually, being current means seeing films that are "only" two or three years old.

I'm glad that this viewing flows down to other Milwaukee Italian film buffs via the festival in March, which will likely show six films from 2006-'07. I wish you could have the chance to see them all, but, as anyone who sees a lot of films knows, they're not all worth the time it takes to watch them.

Stay tuned to OnMilwaukee.com and you'll get all the details on the festival as they are available.

On a related note, Marquette is hosting a multi-ethnic film festival and early word is that the Italian film will be Davide Ferrario's great Turin-set film, "After Midnight" ("Dopo Mezzanotte"), which has never screened here before. 

Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.

He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.

With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.

He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.

In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.

He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.