Internazionale snapshots

queuing for tickets: Internazionale a Ferrara 2011

This year’s Internazionale a Ferrara had the usual high quality in speakers and guests and subject matter, with overall satisfaction from the 63,000 people who attended. The only criticism I heard on quality was referred to the films being shown,  in the “Mondovisione” section, usually of a higher standard. However I was pleased to have got to see Page One, the documentary on the New York Times premiered at this year’s Sundance Festival. An Italian edition will be issued on DVD by Feltrinelli early next year.

Unfortunately I missed most of Friday’s events although I was grateful to RadioTre for broadcasting two programmes live from Ferrara during the day. I arrived just in time to listen to the debate on the situation in post-Mubarak Egypt, featuring Hossam el Hamalawy who had been awarded the festival’s Anna Politkovskaja Prize earlier in the day.

It turned out to be a very feminine festival for me, with the best moments coming from the women, not least Il ritorno delle bambole, a debate on new feminist issues with heated discussions between the Spanish radical Beatriz Preciado and the more moderate, more “British”, writer Natasha Walter, with Italian philosophy lecturer and writer Michela Marzano trying to fall somewhere in between the two. Competent moderation from writer Loredana Lipperini. One question remained with me: is it sexist to have to declare ‘male’ or ‘female’ on official and other documents? Apparently there’s no sense in it as Preciado maintains there are some 14 different gender distinctions, not just two. Think about it.

It was good to see NYT reporter Elizabeth Rubin ‘up close’ for the RadioTre interview on

Elisabeth Rubin with interpreter live on RadioTre

Sunday, although unfortunately she arrived late for an already short time slot so there was no time for questions. She then took part in the panel for a rather dull debate on Afghanistan at the teatro comunale – I left early. It would’ve been better to have gone to yet another women’s issues debate “Women of the world, unite!” at Palazzo Massari, although thankfully the morning was saved again by women, namely the aforementioned Michela Marzano discussing her new autobiographical book on anorexia with local-girl-done-good Daria Bignardi. The Estense Castle courtyard was packed.

A bad choice again I’m afraid after lunch with a very uninteresting discussion on (political) satire in the press featuring three renowned cartoonists, although the most entertainment was given by the anecdotes of non-cartoonist Marco Zatterin of La Stampa. I had gone in the hope of seeing il Manifesto‘s cartoonist Vauro, who was sadly and inexplicably not present. Should’ve gone instead to listen to Susanna Camusso, leader of Italy’s largest trade union CGIL, who also spoke to a packed piazza municipale addressing the issue of precariato – temporary (and lack of permanent) employment especially among young people. I was grateful to exchange a friendly ‘buongiono‘ with her in the press room after, although again no time for questions as it was time to get over the to teatro  for the closing event: a much-anticipated presentation and interview session with

Arundhati Roy at Internazionale a Ferrara

Indian writer Arundhati Roy together with British writer art-critic and all round

intellectual John Berger. Unfortunately the lack of simultaneous translation through headphones slowed things down rather, but the audience were hanging on every word this ‘odd couple’ had to say on the situation in India and beyond. There was also an impromptu joint reading from Roy’s latest book Broken Republic. A standing ovation followed. I was also fortunate to ‘bump into’ the pair the day after in front of the duomo where they very charmingly to interest in what I was doing in Ferrara! A hearty pat on the back and ‘good luck’ from Berger made my day.

Well, that’s another Internazionale a Ferrara over. Another very intense weekend of conferences, talks, presentations, discussions, meetings and you name it… Perhaps that’s the only disadvantage (and criticism) you can have for these three days: it’s too much in too short a time. As a matter of fact on Monday the local newspaper carried a story of how shops and restaurants in town would like to it to last longer – they’ve seen the opportunity for getting good trade! It was practically impossible to find a place to eat on Saturday night (let alone a parking space) and apparently people were queueing even for their less-than-one-minute espressos at the many coffee bars. But again, that’s the joy of it – a short sharp shock of world affairs and culture, just a few days of being totally absorbed in world affairs and culture. No mean feat in this day and age, and in this provincial town.

note to Internazionale: how about opening up to a wider international audience next year?

Ferrara Cathedral - il duomo di Ferrara

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