Monday, September 26, 2011

According to Jim: Jim Belushi Masterclass at Roma Fiction Fest

RomaFictionFest programme signed by Jim Belushi
The fifth edition of the Roma Fiction Fest, which over the last four years has brought some of the biggest names in TV drama to the city, finally opened yesterday in a dramatically diminished format at its new home at the Auditorium Parco della Musica. A massive reduction in budget means that very few international stars are slated to appear at this year's festival, with a definite shift of focus towards home grown product. Thankfully, however, the inaugural event yesterday saw the arrival of the exuberant Jim Belushi on the festival's fuchsia carpet. Winner of the 2011 RomaFictionFest Excellence Award, the star of movies as diverse as About Last Night..., Salvador and K-9, appeared on stage in Sala Sinopoli to give a Masterclass about his work in television, and in particular as the lead in the smash hit US sitcom According to Jim.

The afternoon kicked off with an unseasonal, but very, very funny episode from the series - The Christmas Party – which the actor chose because of the many visual gags. This was, of course, perfect for an Italian audience unused to reading subtitles for a show they usually watch dubbed. In fact, Jim Belushi called Massimo Rossi - the Italian dubber who voices Jim in the Italian edition - up onto the stage for an affectionate meeting; Rossi revealed that some episodes were so hilarious that the actors would be forced to record their lines separately because it was impossible not to burst out laughing mid-take!

A multi-talented actor, musician and comedian, Jim Belushi is an enormously charismatic presence on stage – rather than a pure “Masterclass”, the event transformed into “An evening with Jim Belushi”, shifting from gags and stand up comedy one moment, to intimate anecdotes about his brother, the late great John Belushi, and memories of his Albanian-born father, the next. Music is also an essential part of his life and at Dan Ackroyd's insistence, he put aside initial misgivings about stepping into his older brother's shoes and now also performs as Zee Blues in the present incarnation of The Blues Brothers. At one point he even plucked an harmonica from his pocket and gave us an improvised burst of the blues!

As was fitting in a television festival, however, Jim Belushi's love of the medium was clear. Not only is he a TV performer, he is also a fan himself, who described his recent excitement at getting to meet “Batista” and “Dexter” (from the TV series Dexter) at a party. The Tudors, The Borgias and Lost were also on his list of recent favourite shows.

After two hours of sheer entertainment, as a final salute he threw himself to the ground and did a backwards somersault to the delight of the audience who were already on their feet applauding. Seemingly in no hurry to leave the stage he stayed shaking hands and signing numerous autographs.

Watch some highlights from Jim Belushi's appearance at Roma Fiction Fest 2011 – including his blues performance - below (or click here to watch on You Tube).

Friday, September 9, 2011

La Grattachecca di Sora Maria

La Grattachecca di Sora Maria on Via Trionfale, one of the city's most famous “grattachecca ” kiosks, has been serving its delicious shaved ice desserts laced with syrup flavours and pieces of fruit since the 1930s. In fact, it is considered so much of an institution in Rome that, if bizarre reports in the media today are to be believed, aspiring medical students at the Sapienza University were quizzed about the typical ingredients on the menu there as part of a recent entrance examination!

La Grattachecca di Sora Maria
Funnily enough, I might well have been able to answer those questions myself, having waited patiently in line just the other evening to try this peculiarly Roman delicacy – slushed ice mixed with pieces of lemon, coconut, amarena cherries and forest fruits, doused in a variety of fruity syrups.

Needless to say, this kiosk is enormously popular with locals and tourists alike and there is always a queue that spills out into the road. The desserts are handmade on request with fresh ingredients, and it has to be said, served with a smile from the ladies behind the counter who clearly take real pride in maintaining this Roman tradition.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Che Guevara Photographer at the Museo di Roma in Trastevere

A broody portrait photograph of his bearded face – the Guerrillero Heroico by Alberto Korda – is quite possibly one of the most famous photographs ever taken, ensuring that Ernesto "Che" Guevara is still instantly recognisable as a symbol of revolution over 40 years since his execution in Bolivia in 1967. What is less well known about Che, perhaps, is that the man in that iconic photograph was a passionate and talented photographer himself, documenting his travels and the people he met with a ceaseless curiosity.

Ernesto Guevara - Self-portrait © Centro de Estudios Che Guevara
The Museo di Roma in Trastevere may be one of the smaller exhibition spaces in the city, but it is always well worth a visit, consistently presenting rewarding photography shows, and Che Guevara Photographer, consisting of 232 of his photographs, is another fine example. Opening with a series of black and white photographs taken in Guatemala, the exhibition then accompanies Che and his trusty Kodak to locations as far and wide as Mexico, Egypt, India, Ceylon, Spain, Japan and of course, Cuba. Ranging from the grainy street photography and photojournalism of his early years, to views of archaeological sites, and later images that record Cuba's industrial development, the photographer's constant concern with his own artistic investigation is clear from the careful framing of every shot and often surprising viewpoints. Whilst the prints are modern photographic copies created ​​from both Che's original negatives and positives, in both black and white and colour, many of them reproduce the fingerprints, scratches and water damage found on the original negatives with no attempt to clean them up, heightening their raw immediacy and preserving the authenticy of the images as Che created them.

Now safely archived at the Havana-based Che Guevara Studies Centre, this exhibition also makes one thankful that the photographs have survived at all, for what could be more personal or bring us closer to the man behind the myth than be able to see the world through his own eyes? Or, as in the case of his intimate self-portraits, see Che as he saw himself, or rather, wanted to be remembered for posterity. Recommended!

Che Guevara fotografo continues at the Museo di Roma in Trastevere until 11 September, 2011.

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