Evviva! It’s the return of the St. Ali Italian Film Festival.

As the chances of visiting Italy in the flesh this year rapidly drop from slim to zero, it’s a great relief that we can experience all the country has to offer on the big screen instead, in the form of this year’s St Ali Italian Film Festival.

Taking place next month in Palace Cinemas, the 2020 programme includes titles from all over Italy, and features an impressive array of gangsters, feuding families, historical figures, telekinetics and romantics.

Excited to get a taste of what the festival has up it’s sleeve, I popped along to the premiere at Palace Raine Square at the start of the week.

The mood was set from the start, as we were serenaded to our seats by Perth’s very own Mr Accordion Man, who succeeded in getting the crowd singing along to classic Italian songs (or humming, in the case of those who didn’t know the lyrics…ahem).

The evening’s feature was The Goddess Of Fortune – the eagerly-awaited 2019 film from award-winning director Ferzan Ozpetek.

The Goddess Of Fortune (La Dea Fortuna)

At a glance, it’s a story of couple Alessandro and Arturo who are asked to take care of close friend Annamaria’s children whilst she is in hospital undergoing tests for a serious medical condition. But what makes the film so special is the scenes that play out as a result, as the two men come to terms with their new parental roles whilst managing the fractures in their own relationship.

What could be considered tough subject matter is dealt with rich humanity as moments of drama are balanced with those of raw comedy – seen most as the pair struggle, and fail, to look after the two youngsters.

It’s a moving tale of love in all forms, with an ensemble cast of some of Italy’s best actors representing a refreshingly broad spectrum of long-term relationships, from the tired 15-year partnership between Alessandro and Arturo to the almost fairytale ties between Annamaria and her wicked-witch-like mother.

There’s lots of other notable films at this year’s festival, including: multi-award-winning true crime gangster movie The Traitor; the wonderfully-named family comedy My Brother Chases Dinosaurs; and a screening of the classic Malena – 20 years after it’s Italian release and featuring a soundtrack from the late, great composer Ennio Morricone.

Opening night movie Pinnochio.

For the full Italian experience, get yourself some tickets to the opening night event, featuring a screening of 2019’s visually-striking live-action reworking of Pinnochio, another singalong from Mr Accordion Man, plus authentic food and goodie bags along the way.

It may not be exactly like holidaying in Italy, but it’s certainly the next best thing, and this way you get to sleep in your own bed.

The St Ali Italian Film Festival is on from 1-14 October at Palace Raine Square, Luna On SX, Luna Leederville and Windsor Cinemas. Multi-film passes and discounts are available. Head to https://www.italianfilmfestival.com.au to find out more.