Why Gabrielle headlined a Sicilian seaside film festival

In a scene out of Cinema Paradiso, the open-air screening of Louise Archambault's tearjerker came ahead of a roundtable discussion on coproductions at the Italian event.

On Thursday night, around 2,000 cinephiles gathered under the stars  in a Sicilian seaside village to watch a Canadian movie at the Festival Internazionale Cinema di Frontiera.

Recalling the outdoor screening of Ulysses in Giuseppe Tornatore’s 1988 classic Cinema Paradiso, Louise Archambault‘s heart-tugger Gabrielle was projected onto a giant open air screen in the main square of Marzamemi.

As the boy-meets-girl, girl-kisses-boy drama dubbed in Italian played out on screen, festival director Nello Correale told Playback Daily that Philippe Falardeau’s Monsieur Lazhar, produced by the same team behind Gabrielle, earned the top audience award when it screened at his summer event in 2012.

So Correale decided to program the Gabrielle Marion-Rivard-starrer about a developmentally challenged young woman’s hard-fought fight for independence and sexual freedom.

“Our festival is about breaking down borderlines between people, and this love story (Gabrielle) does more than any political film to remove boundaries,” he argued.

Correale had another reason to program the tender Canadian tearjerker at his Sicilian film festival.

Marzamemi, with its sandy beaches and bustling summer nightlife, serves as the port for the commune of Pachino in Sicily, which has around 24,000 residents.

And Correale said another 25,000 former residents of Pachino emigrated over the years to Toronto.

That means many among the Gabrielle audience know a Pachinesi friend or relative in Canada, and may well appreciate its cinema.

“There’s more residents of Pachino in Toronto than here,” the beaming festival impressario said as in the background the Marzamemi audience rooted for the titular Gabrielle character as she and her shy lover completed their love story during a climatic concert scene.

The Festival Internazionale Cinema di Frontiera continues Friday with a roundtable of international and Italian filmmakers, including Canadian producers Martin Katz and Karen Wookey, to discuss possible future coproductions.