The cinematographic history of Abruzzo as backdrop on the International Screen

The history of film in Abruzzo is both long and extensive thanks to more than a hundred films which have been made here since the end of World War II, when many internationally renowned Italian directors chose to set their stories among the mountainous landscapes of our region. Amongst them, the names of Vittorio De Sica, Giuseppe De Santis, Pietro Germi, Dino Risi, Valerio Zurlini and Carlo Lizzani stand out.

Continuavano a chiamarlo Trinità _ Campo Imperatore - Abruzzo in Film

They call me Trinity, 1970 – filmed on location in Campo Imperatore

In the 1970’s, the plain of Campo Imperatore in the L’Aquila region of Abruzzo was home to numerous ‘Spaghetti Westerns’, including the “Trinity” saga which, thanks to the teaming of box-office stars Bud Spencer & Terence Hill, reached a vast audience and attracted many further productions.

Ladyhawke - Rocca Calascio - Abruzzo in Film

Ladyhawke, 1985 – Michelle Pfeiffer in Rocca Calascio

In the 1980’s, this time due to the Hollywood film “Ladyhawke”, whose cast included famous actors such as Rutger Hauer, Michelle Pfeiffer and Matthew Broderick, the wonders of Abruzzo began being appreciated throughout the world.

And so it spread around the world – an image of Abruzzo which generated in those foreign film-goers an aspiration to visit a region offering breathtaking scenery, picturesque villages and an authentic image of Italy where it is possible to enjoy both group excursions and to swim in the Adriatic Sea.

The Name of the Rose - Abruzzo in Film

The Name of the Rose, 1986 – filmed between Rocca Calascio, Campo Imperatore and L’Aquila

Those American films then attracted numerous directors, including Sergio Rubini, and Richard Fleischer. Jean-Jacques Annaud then set several scenes from the film “The Name of the Rose” at Rocca Calascio and Liliana Cavani shot “Francesco” with Mickey Rourke. Finally it was Giuseppe Tornatore who directed the actors Roman Polanski and Gerard Depardieu among the villages and landscapes around the Gran Sasso while filming “A Pure Formality”.

The Fox and the Child - Abruzzo in Film

The Fox and the Child – 2007, Abruzzo National Park

Later on after the year 2000, big productions attracted by both the natural beauty and the variety of the different towns and villages – plus the bonus of being only a short distance from Rome – started arriving in Abruzzo. First Luc Jacquet filmed the successful “The Fox and the Child”, then Anton Corbijn set “The American” with George Clooney in Sulmona and Castel Del Monte and finally Matteo Garrone set a compelling part of his latest film “Tale of Tales” with Salma Hayek, Vincent Cassel and John C. Reilly in Roccascalegna.

These productions have created a knock-on effect in touristic terms. The name of George Clooney and the magnificent photography of the films he starred in has prompted many foreigners to visit central Abruzzo, and since the release of Matteo Garrone’s film, the number of tourists at Roccascalegna has grown significantly.

The American - Sulmona - Abruzzo in Film

The American, 2010 – George Clooney and Violante Placido on the steps beneath our stunning Aqueduct

In recent years Sulmona specifically has been the backdrop for two films which have been popular at major festivals around the world: “Like the wind” (Come il Vento) by Marco Simon Puccioni and “Chlorine” (Cloro) by Lamberto Sanfelice, have shown an image of our town which has fascinated many foreign spectators who then chose to spend their holidays in the birthplace of Ovid.

SIFF - Abruzzo in Film

Since 1983 the cultural association Sulmonacinema has organized the annual Sulmonacinema Film Festival. After first exploring the emerging international film scene (Hungarian, Canadian, Swiss, Cuban, Latin American and Australian), the festival focused on young Italian cinema, with the feature film competition reserved for either first or second films. The jury, which is made up of students from the various Italian film schools and is chaired by either a director or a famous actor every year awards five silver Ovids (for best film, best director, best actor, best actress and best soundtrack). The festival also featured experimental projects of the avant-garde and artistic research – as extra to the main competition – including previews, meetings with writers and various workshops.

In addition, the Sulmonacinema Association works together with schools and other associations and organizations in the development and execution of projects at local, regional and national levels.

Since 2007 the Sulmonacinema Film Commission has been providing operational and logistical support to both film and television production companies who film in the local area. Among numerous projects, the production of “The American” starring George Clooney stands out.

George Clooney awarded by SulmonaCinema - Abruzzo in Film

George Clooney awarded by SulmonaCinema for “The American”

From 2016, having reached its thirty-fourth edition, the event will become the SULMONA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL. It has returned to this direction to establish an International Short Film Competition open to the world.

The new objective of the Festival has thus become the selection and promotion of works from up and coming filmakers from around the world with unique and innovative visions and voices – thus creating a dynamic encounter between the social and economic demands of the Abruzzo region and global cultural perspectives.

About The Author

Pierlorenzo Puglielli

First and foremost comes the Cinema followed by writing and then Abruzzo - Pierlorenzo’s great passions. In 2014 he founded Wolf - Solutions for the cinema. The main mission of Wolf is to attract film & television productions to the Abruzzo region. Together with his colleagues, Pierlorenzo creates communication campaigns for companies, and writes & directs commercials, music videos, and documentaries. For 13 years he has also organised the Sulmona International Film Festival.

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