SYRFILM honors Baldi: The Bach of filmmakers

(Italian film producer and director Gian Vittorio Baldi, center, talks with Point of Contact's Pedro Cuperman last Friday before the 6th Syracuse International Film Festival's opening night screening at Eastwood's Palace Theater. On Baldi's left is Maria Krunic, his translator and production assistant. Photo by Laura Brazak, courtesy of SYRFILM.)

It's a thread that runs through all his work, which finally he agreed one might call "respect" during a conversation one afternoon last week that began in the caf (c) and ended in the lounge at the Renaissance Hotel. The evening before, in talking with film students about producing films, Baldi had said, "One of my most rigid principles -- and I follow this as the president of my university too -- is never to interfere in the creative work of a director." And the next evening, Baldi said again -- it's a term he's used for years -- that he aims in his own films to create "detachment" in audiences that allows them the space to think. Since 1953, when he set down his manifesto, Baldi has held that cinema is not yet an art form and that getting there requires filmmaking free itself from the bells and whistles we so often take for granted.

Gian Vittorio Baldi is the Italian film producer, director, writer, and university film teacher whom the Syracuse International Film Festival honors on May 2 with this year's Lifetime Achievement Award. Although he is not yet well known in the US and he complains that journalists abroad have sometimes even gotten his home city and date of birth wrong, Baldi will tell you he has produced 28 films by others and made some 200 shorts, documentaries and experimental films. He considers himself Roberto Rossellini's spiritual disciple, and says of his own feature films, "I have written and directed eight films, which I still love." In October, a week or so before his 79th birthday, there will be a full retrospective of Baldi's cinema career in S o Paolo, Brazil, conveniently more or less in the neighborhood of his next film, "Il cielo sopra di me/The Sky above Me," which he'll shoot this coming year at Atacama, Chile, home of the high altitude desert space observatory.

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