Cinema Italy returns to Atlanta with heartwarming films

cinema italy my brother chases dinosaurs
The opening film of Cinema Italy is "Mio Fratello Rincorre i Dinosauri" ("My Brother Chases Dinosaurs"). (Courtesy of Claudio Di Persia)

When it comes to movies beyond the United States, Italy is the most awarded country in the world by the Oscars, with 14 wins and 29 nominations. The tradition and impact of contemporary Italian film has an Atlanta connection to Cinema Italy. The Italian movie festival returns on May 26 after a two-year COVID absence. Claudio Di Persia is the president and artistic director of Cinema Italy, and he joined “City Lights” host Lois Reitzes via Zoom to share some highlights from this year’s upcoming festival

Di Persia has been bringing his traveling festival to cities since 2003. “We commit for five years,” he explained. “If you just do a one-off, your chances of success are minimal; you have to grow the market. So at first, we did Miami and Acapulco, Mexico, to experiment outside of the US … 15 years ago, we started with Atlanta. Atlanta, to us, was a perfect match.”

He praised the city, saying, “You guys got a great culture. The people in the city are exposed to great culture. With the Olympics, Atlanta was in the light of the world, the center of the world, and then little by little … it started disappearing from the spotlight or at least diminishing the spotlight. And by trying to bring international film festivals … I think it enhances a city that already has so much to offer.” 

This year’s Cinema Italy will screen seven films out of about 60 candidates. “It’s really the cream of the crop, the best that we have to offer,” said Di Persia, “And they’re all contemporary films … At the Plaza Theatre, we do contemporary cinema to promote the next generation of directors and actors.” 

One featured film, “The Great Silence” (not to be confused with the 1968 spaghetti Western of the same name), is based on a play adapted by director Alessandro Gassmann. Its story is set in a dilapidated, once beautiful villa in Naples, to be sold by its inheritors. In the struggles to come to an agreement on the sale, members of the family grapple with the gulfs of understanding between them. “I rarely see a film twice,” Di Persia testified. “This film I already saw three times … It’s an incredibly well-done film.”

Another selection, “My Brother Chases Dinosaurs,” won the audience’s vote for best film at this year’s Miami festival. It’s a story of a family whose newest addition is born with Down syndrome, and as a way to help their young son cope with being different, his parents convince him that he’s a superhero. “It’s a beautiful, heartwarming story,” Di Persia attested. “People walked out of it and said, ‘I don’t know how you’re going to top this one.’”

Cinema Italy takes place at Atlanta’s Plaza Theatre from May 26-29. More information and tickets can be found at