By Julie Lawrence Special to Published May 21, 2007 at 5:10 AM

For three years now the Italian Film Festival of St. Louis has been dedicated to promoting Italian culture through the language of film. Last year the all-volunteer IFF board expanded the festival to Kansas City, and this year, thanks to local help from Marquette professor Paul Salsini and's managing editor Bobby Tanzilo, Milwaukee gets a chance to experience never-before-screened Italian cinema in the theater.

"The level of interest in St. Louis for the festival has been wonderful, we thought it would be a good idea to bring the festival to other nearby cities -- cities like St. Louis that don't get too many Italian films in the commercial theatres, but where there are many Italians, Italian-Americans, and cinephiles who would like the opportunity to see Italian film," says IFF president Barbara Klein.

Receiving grants from the Italian Cultural Institute of Chicago and the National Italian-American Foundation, the all-volunteer board of the non-profit organization -- made up of Italian nationals, America-Italians and Americans -- is able to present award-winning and critically acclaimed Italian films that are all making their Milwaukee premieres.

The Milwaukee IFF is held at Marquette University's Varsity Theater on Tuesday, May 22, Wednesday, May 23 and Thursday, May 24. All films start at 7 p.m., are free and open to the public.

What you'll see at the 2007 IFF:

"Alla Luce Del Sole" (Come Into The Light)
Director: Roberto Faenza
Description: Called by the archbishop of Palermo to lead the parish in his hometown of Brancaccio, just outside the city gates, Giuseppe Puglisi was able to build a community center in less than two years. Here, assisted by a group of young volunteers, he worked hard every day to try and save the lives of small innocent children. Soon he understood that to make a dent in that disintegrating structure he needed to do and give more. Doing more and giving more, meant going up against the inertia of the local powers. Inevitably his path will place him in a position of conflict with the interests of the mafia powers.
Acclaim: This film has won four awards and had seven nominations, including (the David Donatello are the Italian version of the Academy Awards):

  • David of the Youth (Roberto Faenza): David Donatello
  • Nominated Best Actor (Luca Zingaretti), Best Producer (Elda Ferri): David Donatello
  • Nominated Best Director (Roberto Faenza): European Film Award

This film is a very powerful and moving film and was voted audience favorite in 2007 in St. Louis and Kansas City.

"La Febbre"
Director: Alessandro D'Alatri
Description: The story of Mario (Fabio Volo), a 30-year-old surveyor who lives with his widowed mother. He and his friends plan to start a discoteque, but Mario is unexpectedly hired by the city. He quickly comes to realize that the requirements of his new desk job clash with his entrepreneurial spirit, while a meeting with a young woman offers other possibilities in his life.
Acclaim: This film won two awards and 11 nominations:

  • Best Score, Best Sound: Italian National Syndicate of Film Journalists
  • Nominated Best Editing, Best Visual Effects and Best Film: David Donatello

"La Destinazione"
Director: Piero Sanna
Description: Emilio (Roberto Magnani), a young man from Rimini, enrolls in the State Police and is assigned to Coloras, a small town in the Barbagia area of Sardinia. Soon he comes to realize that the interior of Sardinia is a world all of its own, steeped in centuries-old traditions. One day a man is killed and the state police try to capture the assassin. During the same period, Emilio meets and begins dating Giacomina, a young girl from the town. On Good Friday, a grave incident occurs that disturbs Emilio and he decides to leave Coloras for a new "destination."
Acclaim: This film had two nominations:

  • Nominated Best Emerging Director (Piero Sanna): David Donatello
  • Nominated Best Emerging Director (Piero Sanna): Italian National Syndicate of Film Journalists 
Julie Lawrence Special to staff writer Julie Lawrence grew up in Wauwatosa and has lived her whole life in the Milwaukee area.

As any “word nerd” can attest, you never know when inspiration will strike, so from a very early age Julie has rarely been seen sans pen and little notebook. At the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee it seemed only natural that she major in journalism. When offered her an avenue to combine her writing and the city she knows and loves in late 2004, she knew it was meant to be. Around the office, she answers to a plethora of nicknames, including “Lar,” (short for “Larry,” which is short for “Lawrence”) as well as the mysteriously-sourced “Bill Murray.”