Hailed as “one of the most important artists in any medium”, the award-winning and Oscar-nominated Italian documentary filmmaker Gianfranco Rosi is coming to Cambridge this month as filmmaker-in-residence at Cambridge University’s Centre for Film and Screen.

Rosi's work is indisputably among the most important in the world.

John David Rhodes

Rosi’s most recent documentary, 2016’s Fire at Sea, was an uncompromising look at the everyday life of six locals on the Italian island of Lampedusa, the first port of call for the hundreds of thousands of African migrants crossing the Mediterranean in search of a better life in Europe.

Fire at Sea won the Golden Bear award for best film at the 66th Berlin International Film Festival and was nominated for Best Documentary Feature at the 89th Academy awards in February.

During Rosi’s two-week residency (May 14-28), the Arts Picturehouse will screen the entirety of his work to date, with each screening followed by a Q&A with the director. Rosi will also connect directly with staff and students in the Centre for Film and Screen by delivering masterclasses and participating in a public symposium, Lands, Seas, Bodies: On the cinema of Gianfranco Rosi, on Wednesday, May 24.

International recognition of Rosi soared after Meryl Streep, the jury chair of the Berlin film festival, publically endorsed Fire at Sea as “a daring hybrid of captured footage and deliberate storytelling that allows us to consider what documentary can do. It is urgent, imaginative and necessary filmmaking.”

Dr John David Rhodes, Director of the Centre for Film and Screen and a specialist in Italian cinema, calls Rosi’s work “indisputably among the most important in the world.”

Audience numbers for documentaries have grown considerably in the last ten years, largely driven by audiences going in search of authenticity in the lived experience.  

“It’s a rich moment for documentaries because they provide the ability to respond powerfully and flexibly to geo-political crises,” said Rhodes. “People are starved for contact with the real and with reality. People are trying to find ways to make contact with the world – documentary filmmaking is one way of doing that. It can produce knowledge and experiences that are otherwise closed to us.

“Rosi’s residency offers our students and the wider University the opportunity to engage at close range a working filmmaker of the highest calibre. As was the case last year when we hosted Joanna Hogg (our first filmmaker-in-residence), Rosi’s residency brings to our community of film scholars and students of cinema the opportunity to think about film from the point of view of the film artist. It offers a vital opportunity to test practice and theory against each other, while getting to hang out with one of the most interesting people working in world cinema.”

More information about the screenings and public symposium is available on the Centre for Film and Screen’s website.

Tickets for the screenings including a post-film Q&A can be purchased from the Arts Picturehouse website.

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