Cultured Focus Magazine United Cultures, Races, and Genders to Promote Excellence in Film at the 79th Venice Film Festival

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Cultured Focus Magazine’s Annual Awards and Diversity in Film Symposium Fostered Diverse and Inclusive Perspectives at Venice Film Festival 2022  

At its annual Cultured Focus Awards Ceremony and Diversity in Film Symposium, Cultured Focus Magazine awarded four film industry professionals from diverse backgrounds, highlighting the value of unique individual experiences and perspectives in film. Winners Pino Calabrese, Evgeny Afineevsky, Daphne Di Cinto and Ainslee Robson were announced during the 79th Venice International Film Festival held at the luxurious Hotel Danieli, Venice, Italy, on Monday, September 5, 2022.

Despite their varying backgrounds and cultural differences, the four award recipients were brought together in celebration of excellent film. The Cultured Focus Awards Ceremony and Diversity in Film Symposium were created by actress and film producer Taylor Re Lynn, who founded Cultured Focus Magazine.

During his speech, revered Italian actor and Cultured Focus Lifetime Achievement Award winner Pino Calabrese nodded to this display of unity and diversity, while also acknowledging the importance of cross-culturalism, individuality, and forward-thinking actions.

“I am honored to be here to talk about such important themes. When I started to work fifty years ago, we didn’t have the same sensitivity we have today, and we didn’t realize how many things should have changed,” Calabrese said.

Calabrese was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award because of his remarkable fifty-year tenure in theater, film and television. His theater career began in 1972, working with esteemed industry professionals like Massimo Troisi, Gigi Proietti, Enrico Montesano, Pippo Delbono and many others.

After working in cabaret, musicals, dramas and comedic theater, Calabrese transitioned to productions focused more heavily on social and political content. In the 2019 Sorrento Film Festival, he was awarded for his acting in the 2018 film “Breaths.”

The Excellence in Film Award was presented to Evgeny Afineevsky, a director and producer with Oscar and Emmy nominations under his belt. His most recent film “Freedom on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom,” which premiered at the 79th Venice International Film Festival, highlights the determination and unity of the Ukrainian people throughout the ongoing conflict between Russia and the Ukraine.

His most famous works include “Winter on Fire,” “Cries from Syria” and “Francesco.” He is known for using film as a medium to provide a platform for those who may not have otherwise been able to use their voices.

Afineevsky was born in the Soviet Union to a Russian-Jewish family. He also lived in Israel and served in the Israeli Defense Forces before immigrating to the United States to pursue film. Afineevsky attended the premiere with journalist Natalia Nagorna, his film’s main subject. He reiterated the need for all voices to be heard, despite differences in culture, race, ethnicity, gender or socioeconomic status.

Also recognized at the Symposium were two highly-esteemed female directors who grew up on different continents and were united in sisterhood after chance meeting at the Cultured Focus Awards. Daphne Di Cinto received the Cultured Focus Visionary in Film Award, and Ainslee Alem Robson was awarded the Cultured Focus Innovation in Film Award.

Di Cinto is an Afro-Italian screenwriter, director and actor known for her role as Duchess of Hasting in the popular Netflix series “Bridgerton.” Her new film “Il Moro,” for which Di Cinto was awarded Best Director of a Foreign Short Film at the Madrid International Film Festival 2022, was screened during the Venice International Film Festival.

Born in Northern Italy, she began studying film and theatre in Rome, where she focused on acting at Scuola di Cinema and pursuing a degree in Communication Science at Roma Tre University. She attended Sorbonne University in Paris before moving to New York for her Masters in Fine Arts at the Actors Studio Drama School.

Robson is an award-winning Ethiopian-American director, writer and media artist. Her latest film “Kandaka” focuses on a female African ruler who led her people to war with the Romans. The film was shown during the festival.

Her directorial debut won the Special Jury Prize at the NewImages Film Festival in Paris. “Ferenj: A Graphic Memoir in VR” deconstructs tensions embedded within intersectional layers of Robson’s biracial identity, migration, perception, and nostalgia.

The symposium panel was moderated by award-winning American actress and writer Francesca Van Horne.

In addition to the award recipients, Dr Justin Randolph Thompson also shared some thoughts on diversity and inclusion at the symposium. Thompson is an artist, a professor, and the founder of Black History Month Florence (BHMF). His work explores historic implications of triumph, victory and ascension by re-contextualizing references from Roman antiquity and mending these with aspects of African-American culture, both past and present.

“Throughout the archive in Italy,” Thompson said, “there’s a presence that dates back into antiquity of a black presence in this country, but the knowledge of that is not spread. It’s not around. One of the layers of challenges is the fact that when these stories are only circulated amongst really small circles of academics, then we have the challenge of getting them out.”

Thompson then went on to talk about the lack of diversity within academia.

“Unfortunately, there’s just a lack of black teachers, and the effect that has on understanding some possibilities, opening up some doors… It can’t be overstated. It’s really, really important,” Thompson said.

Calabrese spoke of similar narratives within the film industry, noting the importance of diversity in the media.

“I would like to imagine a future in which each person could be represented on screen. Diversity is wealth, we must never forget that,” Calabrese said.

Finally, Cultured Focus was honored to have Venice Film Festival Committee Member, journalist and film critic Angela Prudenzi attend the event. She highlighted the importance of women’s voices in cinema and spoke on initiatives that further that mission including the Women in Cinema program, which she co-founded. She also spoke on the Women Italian Cinema, an Inclusive Project-WICIP. The project was curated by Federico Spoletti and Prudenzi with the support of the Ministry of Culture. They will present films in the original language version with English subtitles for deaf people and English audio description for blind people.
WICIP is the first international project aimed at promoting Italian cinema written, produced, and directed by women, available in an accessible version. It was selected as a Special Project by the Italian Ministry of Culture. The primary objective is to put a spotlight on female talent in Italian cinema and promote Women Empowerment, Prudenzi explained.

Specials guests in attendance included members of Il Moro’s talented cast including Alberto Boubakar Malanchino and Andrea Melis. Other VIPs in attendance included singer and actress Loretta Grace, Ira Fronten, Aida Diouf, Judith Saint Jermain, Cecilia De Pasquale, and Charity Dago. The event was hosted by American film producer Taylor Re Lynn.

The Cultured Focus Awards Ceremony and Diversity in Film Symposium was created as a way to uplift unique and diverse voices within the film industry. This was evident at this year’s event, which was the embodiment of inclusivity for the betterment of film.

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