David di Donatello Academy president Piera Detassis, who is also Hearst Italia’s film editor at large, is the first woman to head the organization behind Italy’s equivalent of the Oscars, which she has been busy overhauling and pushing toward greater gender parity. The current ratio of women among the academy’s 1,578 voters is roughly 30%, which marks a step forward, though there is certainly room for improvement. On the eve of the Davids 66th edition, which comes just as Italian cinemas slowly start to reopen, Detassis spoke to Variety about the various challenges she has been contending with and her hopes for Cinema Italiano going forward. Edited excerpts.
Somewhat like last year, the Davids are taking place amid a push for the film industry to restart, though last year’s impetus was partly lost due to the second wave of COVID-19. How do you see the prospects this time?
More from Variety
This year is different. This time the signals, though necessarily limited, are strong. After a year-and-a-half of [mostly] closure, they prove that people still want to see movies in cinemas. There is less fear; the vaccinations have provided an acceleration. My only wish is that more new Italian movies will soon be out in cinemas. My only regret is that [new] Italian cinema, which is crucial for Italy’s identity and for the industry’s solidity, is hesitating to come out onto the big screen. I hope the Davids can provide a boost for this.
You’ve pointed out how in 66 years a woman has never won the David for best director. What can be done?
We are working on improving the juries, which will also improve naturally as our members get younger. Italy is way behind on this. Nothing bores Italians more than this topic. I realize this every time I talk about it. So I am counting on new generations. Someone suggested introducing a prize for best female director, which I refused. But I must say there is great concern and sensitivity on this issue on the part of male directors. Changes we have already made to the juries’ makeup have led to two women being nominated for best director, two for best film, two for best first feature and two for best doc. For Italy that’s not bad.
What do this year’s nominees say about the state of Italian cinema?
The frontrunners are all distinctive titles and there are lots of biographical films. There is a propensity for reconstructing history. It’s as though in the year of the pandemic we are seeing a tendency toward storytelling based on memory and history as a need to cling on to reality and truth.
Talk to me about organizing the in-person ceremony.
The first thing I made clear to RAI is that I wanted all [nominated] categories to be physically present. This wasn’t possible [in one venue] in terms of space [due to social distancing] so we decided to have two locations that could visually interact with each other [on TV]. We are holding the Davids at the Fabrizio Frizzi TV studios in Rome’s Teatro Dell’Opera [opera house] where we will use the box seats. It’s symbolic, in that we are uniting the worlds of film, TV and live entertainment on RAI in primetime, having won the battle to keep this slot. The support we’ve been able to get from RAI is crucial.
Best of Variety