....and it's annual Film Festivals
Ischia sits like a jewel in the sea off the coast of Naples and would seem to have been inhabited since fish decided to climb out of the water up onto land and perhaps even the gods before that. Native populations with origins shrouded in history gave way to invading Greeks, then to Syracusans and finally to Imperial Rome. After Rome came Visigoths, Normans, Sicilians, Aragonese, Austrians, Bourbons, British and French. In 1862 Ischia was embraced by Naples and remains a Neapolitan province to this day. Wandering over the island you can find traces left behind of the many peoples who walked here; from the old and ancient shades resting as happy remnants in museums, to poets, warriors, lovers, artists, film people, historians and more.
The Castello Aragonese.
They say a gent from Syracuse built the first fortress on the island and the 15th C saw a stone bridge connecting the now castle to the wharf and mainland, replacing the old wooden structure which could hardly have been useful in a heavy storm. Alfonso of Aragon, the aforesaid gent who built the bridge, was also responsible for tunneling into the rock seeking an easier and safer access to the buildings above. These areas are full of shadow and light today. Many of the spaces open up to the sun from skylights hewn from the living rock casting an eerie ghost-light below where sounds seem to have no echo.
The castle keep rises some 80 meters above the ocean. Trapezoids, squares, rectangles and cylinders divided by crenellated walls catch the sunset light to hurl it back down to the water like so many cross-bow darts.
Ischia is a great place to be. The light plays with everything it can; seagulls trail on the wind, the blue of the sky is matched only by the blue of the sea. Sunset on the Castle bathes it in gold. Good people. Great food. Incredible wines. And a history to walk through and discover, from the first settings of stone on stone to the eerie crypts of the Church of the Immacolata where for centuries nuns of the order of Poor Clares reverently placed the bodies of their dead on stone seats where they proceeded to gradually shrink and mummify through the passage of time.
It is said that Vittoria Colonna (wife of Francesco Ferrante of Avalos to whom she was married in the Cathedral of the Assumption in the Castle in 1509) met with Michelangelo here. It is even said they kept trysts at the ‘Michelangelo Tower’ standing tall across the bay. Sounds good but, alas, there seems to be no truth to the tale though some poetry and drawings did exchange hands.
During the month of June the island is home to the Ischia Film Festival/Ischia Film Location Festival founded in 2003 by Michelangelo Messina and Enny Mazzella, a hard working and totally gracious duo who have put this venue on the map and on the June calendar June of each year. A filmfest that offers nightly cinema, cinema competition and judging by some of the most well known talents in film, seminars, interviews, discussions, cocktail parties and the best food that Ischia has to offer.
Through the Ischia Film Location Festival many of the primary topics deal with cinema locations. How to get various countries' locations to the attention of the film people and then how to get cinema-goers interested in making a trip to see where their favourite films were made. A case in point is New Zealand and the filming of 'The Lord of the Rings' In 2004 I had the very great pleasure and honour to participate with Michelangelo and Enny (and my dear friends Carolyn and Peter) and all the other guestsand illuminaries, to talk about how film can affect and generate location tourism 'cine-tourism' in general and, in particular, what happened in New Zealand with the birth of Red Carpet Tours.
2005 saw Alan Lee and John Howe, who both worked as concept artists on 'The Lord of the Rings' trilogy, as guests of IFF and the Island enjoyed them as much as they enjoyed the Island and their participation at the Festival. As a matter of fact they are still talking about the time spent there and I am sure that we will be seeing suggestions of the Castello Aragonese in future work from these two wonderfully talented and imaginative gentlemen.
I met Ischia through the good graces of Michelangelo and Enny and can only hope that this small space on my website can repay them for the friendship and laughter we have all shared in the shadow of the Castello.
Please visit the Film Festival website and see if you can't find your way to Ischia in June this year. It is well worth the trip.