FROM MIFF TO MIFF AWARDS: A NEW LANDMARK FOR INDEPENDENT CINEMA IN THE WORLD.
MIFF (from its English acronym Milan International Film Festival) is an annual international cinema exhibition that took place in the seat of Lombardy region, Milan. Conceived with a mission to encourage and support the progress of indie films from around the globe, the festival highlighted the art of moviemaking – the ingenuity and integrity of artistic expression. The International Film Festival of Milan, or MIFF, took its first step in 1999, born from the vision of its founder Andrea Galante, an Independent filmmaker with a Masters Degree from American Film Institute, at that time Editor-In-chief of La Dolce Vita a magazine about Movies and Italian Culture.
The festival was established in the year of 2000 and made its first official appearance in a Press Conference the 23rd of March at AFM (American Film Market) that year. Due to the strategic decision to hold the festival in October between the London Screenings and the historic MIFED, film market in Milan, the early MIFF was instantaneously well-received by the film industry. Not only did the film community embrace the endeavor, but the public embraced MIFF wholeheartedly. Hundreds of entries were received by the deadline and a total of 70 films (43 features and 27 short films) coming from 27 different Countries were selected for MIFF’s first edition.
Government Institution, Sponsors and Fiera Milano (MIFED organizer) don’t believe at once to the new festival idea and plan so Galante entirely finances the First edition organizing the event with a group of volunteer staff. Thursday, the 26th of October, 2000, MIFF inaugural edition opened at Eliseo theater, with A Shot at Glory, a film starring Robert Duvall and Micahel Keaton. The Closing Night Award Presentation took place at the famous club, Atlantique. All the award trophies were made by the sculptor/painter Giuseppe Rizzi. Actor Franco Nero presented the first Best Film Award to It's the Rage, an American film starring Gary Sinise (Best Actor), Joan Allen, Robert Forester and Giovanni Ribisi.
In order to manage the young festival, trained staff and volunteers arrived from all over Italy to contribute to the success of MIFF’s second edition. With the limited budget available, the committee decreased the number of films, and in the year 2001, only about 50 films were able to be selected for the program; however, owing to the dedication and energy of all involved, MIFF was not only able to heighten the quality of the event but also enjoyed a dramatic increase in the number of its audience.
MIFF 2001 opened with the Italian film La Rentree. By this edition, after a full year of concentrated effort, founder Andrea Galante was able to acquire and secure the rights to use Leonardo da Vinci's Horse as the model for the “Best Film” category award statuette at the festival. The closing night gala of MIFF’s second edition was held at the centrally located Dal Verme, a magnificent 1600-seat historical theater, where Saturday, October 27, 2001 the first Leonardo’s Horse award or Best Film was presented by Mark Damon (producer, 9 1/2 Weeks’ and Monster’s) to the horror flick Cookers by Dan Mintz. In that same year, director Michael Radford (Il Postino and The Merchant of Venice) chose MIFF to present the Italian premiere of his new experimental film Dancing at the Blue Iguana.
MIFF 2002 opened at the Teatro delle Erbe with Changing Hearts, starring the famous Faye Dunaway. The multi-awarded English-American co-production Showboy won the prestigious Leonardo’s Horse for Best Picture. Press and media have tripled their coverage of the event. Broadcasting channel such as CNN and RAI National Italian Television ran specials on MIFF, including its content and its program. The "Best of the Festival" third edition, MIFF's Best, at the Italian Culture Institute in Los Angeles was a sold out event with the participation of Academy Award nominees and celebrities such as Minnie Driver, Dante Spinotti, John Savage, Robert Forester, and representatives from major Italian Institutions in the city of Los Angeles.
Highly committed to discovering new talents of the young generation and delivering standard of excellence in film to the public, MIFF brings together filmmakers, film industry representatives, artists and in 2002, adds an element of fashion to its program with a runway show. Organized by , NABA (New Academy of Fine Arts), the first MIFF fashion catwalk took place during MIFF closing night ceremony of the same year.
MIFF’s fourth edition in 2003 opened at Teatro Smeraldo with Dummy, a European Premiere, casting the recent Oscar® winner Adrien Brody, Vera Farmiga (who, three years later, co-starred with Leonardo Di Caprio and Matt Damon in The Departed), and Armani’s spokesmodel and actress Milla Jovovich. The jury at MIFF 2003 consisted of many notable figures in the industry, including actor Vincent Schiavelli (One...Cuckoo's Nest, Ghost). The closing night award ceremony featured a fashion show and was held at the Ragno D'Oro, with an after-party at "Hollywood," one of the most exclusive clubs in Milan. The English-American production, American Cousins, with Danny Nucci (Titanic) and Shirley Henderson (Bridget Jones’ Diary) won the Leonardo’s Horse. “MIFF’s Best” ceremony in LA brought together many celebrated figures in show business including the legendary Alfred Hitchcock’s production designer Bob Boyle (North By Northwest, Marnie, Birds, etc.), Tomas Arana (The Gladiator), and Daniel and Billy Baldwin. Subsequently, the press coverage of the event was significant and attendance doubled each year since MIFF’s inauguration.
In 2004 in conjunction with AFM-American Film Market’s date change to fall and for weather considerations, MIFF shifted its date to spring. Following the date change, Andrea Galante officially implemented into the festival program a fashion category called "Fashion Opera Prima," a competition for emerging fashion designers. Finally, from its fifth edition, all the awards presented at MIFF were uniformly statuettes of Leonardo’s Horse, no longer reserved only for the best film category. MIFF opened for the first time in the spring lot, March 10, 2005, at EuroplexCinemas, the biggest multiplex in Italy. The opening film was a European premiere and Santa Barabara Film Festival winner Deadlines. Co-director and producer Ludi Boeken came to Milan to introduce the film in person to the audience. Fifth edition’s “Best Film” went to John Duigan’s Head in the Clouds starring Charlize Theron, Penelope Cruz and Stuart Townsend. At the Awards’s Gala dinner on March 19, the movie received 5 awards and was quickly picked up for Italian distribution. In the month of May 2005, this MIFF winner was released in 270 Italian theaters with the title of Gioco di Donna and with a top box-office gross for more than two weeks.
After the change of festival dates in 2005, Non-profit Cultural Association Made in Milan is created to organized the festival and the sixth edition of MIFF in 2006 confirmed the festival's high potential with its optimal position between the dates of Sundance and Cannes. MIFF opened in the historical center at Spazio Cinema Anteo with the film Bubble by Steven Soderbergh, a film very characteristic of Independent cinema that opened in Italian theaters a month following the festival. At the Italian Premiere, the film's celebrated director, a friend and colleague of Clooney, presented the cast of the film: Misty Wilkins and Debbie Doebereiner arrived in Milan from the US to participate in the inauguration night of MIFF 2006 which was followed by the screening and then a party at Luminal, a new trend-setting nightlife spot of the city. Ideally positioned in the vicinity of the Basilica di Sant'Ambrogio, MIFF Sixth edition's Filmmaker Lounge was located at Sanvittore Caffè and the festival organized free shuttle service from 6PM to 1AM to allow the public to reach the screening rooms without difficulty in parking. Among the winners on the evening on the 8th of April at Lime Light, include Peter Falk (famous in Italy for the series Lieutenant Colombo) and Josh Hartnett, who won Leonardo Horse Award for Best Actor. Best Perfomance Female goes to Alexandra Maria Lara (the following year chosen by Francis Ford Coppola, with Tim Roth, for Youth Without Youth) for Doris Dorrei's film The Fisherman and His Wife. Why Women Never Get Enough. The Lifetime Achievement Award went to the celebrated director Pupi Avati, presented to him by Ezio Greggio. Four of the films in the edition's program found distribution in Italy and among these Lucky Number Slevin (aka "Slevin - Patto Criminale" in Italy), winner of four awards including Best Film and Audience Award, opened shortly after the festival in 350 theaters nationwide, setting the record of Italian cinema distribution for "MIFF-branded" films and maintained top box office figures, earning approximately 4 million euros by the end of August.
2007, one of the more delicate years in Italian cinema, MIFF symbolically opened in the Cinema Excelsior, which for few months had been closed to make space for a shopping center near Corso Vittorio Emanuele. The festival opened with the Italian premiere of 4 Minutes, a German production, which on the same day, received 8 nomination for LOLA Awards (German Oscars). About a month after the festival, this film won the LOLA Award for Best Picture and was distributed in Italy by Lady Film. A case quite peculiar in our country, 4 Minutes has been released in 35 theaters only nationwide and made higher box office of films release in 200 theaters, and once again confirmed the quality of "MIFF-branded" films. The Seventh edition's program was much focused on Italian productions (60% of the program) and Milanese movie production companies, to who a panel was dedicated. The Seventh edition also incorporated into its program "Readings," staged reading of scripts performed by professional actors, one of whom included the actress Tiziana Foschi. 2007 also introcued a new category in its program called "Corporate Film" (Industry or trade films by companies). MIFF dedicated a day of seminar to the theme of "Product Placement" as a focal point in film production, to investigate the relationship between cinema and business enterprises in the light of new regulations, with participation by various companies, product placement agencies and production houses. The Seventh edition saw five of its films get distribution in Italian territory (among them, the winner of Best Film, The Most Beautiful Day of My Life) and MIFF 2007 Best Documentary Winner Gian Claudio Guiducci will be nominated for a David di Donatello with his MIFF Winner documentary Centravanti Nato). This year, MIFF starts another tradition by hosting its very first "MIFF's Best Porto Cervo" in the beautiful Costa Smeralda, Sardinia, which was held on the 13th and 14th of September at the luxurious Hotel Le Palme, and with the participation of Dolcenera (a celebrated singer/songwriter who was responsible for the soundtrack of the Best Film Winner).
In the past eight years since its inaugural, MIFF has discovered and highlighted many a fresh new talents in the art of filmmaking; it has established itself as a landmark event in the world of international cinema, well-received and recognized by leading persons of the industry. Despite the great success, however, the sudden fall of the Milanese government in the Spring of 2008 resulted in the city of Milan cutting off the much-needed financial support to MIFF. With this abrupt halt in institutional contributions, the festival suffered a dramatic reduction of the operational budget. With not much time left and with paltry budget available, the director/founder of MIFF still decides to charge ahead with the eighth edition, reducing the period of the exhibition and compacting the festival program. Shortening the festival from 10 days to a week, and focusing mostly on the awarded films and filmmakers, the eighth edition took place from April 7 to 14. This year, the festival opened with The Trap, recipient of the second edition Neurothon Award. The film went on to win Leonardo’s Horse Award for Best Director (Srdan Golubovic) and Best Performance Male at MIFF 2008. Leonardo’s Horse Award for Best Film and four other awards went to an original low-budget romance horror production called “Vampire Diaries.” The film’s lead actress, Anna Walton, received Leonardo’s Horse Award for Best Performance Female. Few months following the 8th edition, Anna Walton was picked up for the cast of Hellboy II, directed by Guillermo Del Toro, and also cast in the film The Mutant Chronicles alongside John Malkovich, joining the list of many fresh new talents MIFF continues to discover. MIFF 2008 also had the pleasure of a world premiere screening of Love is Not Enough starring Giovanna Mezzogiorno, and the Italian premiere of The Postal, a satire by the celebrated independent film director from Germany, Uwe Boll. Leonardo’s Horse Award for Lifetime Achievement was presented to Renato Pozzetto on April 12 Award Ceremony at Le Banque, a trendy local hotspot. This award was especially memorable since it was presented to Pozzetto by his friend since childhood, Enrico Bruschi. Also in the same edition, MIFF organized a panel discussion “The Invisible: Independent Film Distribution in Italy” with Simone Scafidi and other notable and up-and-coming filmmakers in the country. This panel discussion was paired with the screening of the documentary, “The Invisible – Italian Film Debut from 2000 to 2006” by Vito Zagarrio. In the end, the decision by MIFF to go ahead with this edition despite the huge difficulty due to sudden budget cut, proved to be the right decision and the festival was able to successfully present a line up of 58 films.
Constantly searching for new initiatives and ideas with the experience of the previous years, and with the purpose of propelling MIFF’s Best at the Italian Cultural Institute in Los Angeles (an event held annually since the first edition in Los Angeles where MIFF presents the corresponding edition’s winning films), MIFF 9th edition will see a dramatic change in its format. The Made In Milan Association has rescheduled the festival in Milan to the beginning of summer, to the first part of May, strategically precedine Cannes Film Festival. In addition, the festival has undergone a major restructuring, with a new format that is “avant-garde, modern, original” and “practical in its function of promoting films that are not yet distributed.” Thus, a new genre of international film event is born, MIFF AWARDS, with its focus on the effectiveness of supporting the independent film culture. MIFF Awards is the product of a merger between the traditional film festival programming process with the Academy Awards Rules.
The Lifetime Achievement Award at MIFF awardees during the seven previous editions are: Carlo Ponti, Valentina Cortese, Giancarlo Giannini, Franco Nero, John Daly, Pupi Avati, Mario Monicelli.