Friday, 25 September 2015

Prix Italia

There was a comic moment at shit o'clock this morning when we arrived at Stansted Airport at the same time as a group of lads who were wearing lederhosen and little pork pie Tyrollean-style hats, "ooh look, a stag do!" I said. Nathan looked behind me and naughtily gestured at another group of men, "Are they on a stag do too, then?" he asked. I turned around to find a group of identically dressed Orthodox Jews in Homburgs. It's always good to start a day of travel with a bit of casual xenophobia...

At 5.20am, Stansted was like Piccadilly Circus at rush hour. A queue of cars and taxis stretched all the way along the slip road leading up to the drop-off zone, and the customs hall was jam-packed with people. First thing in the morning is the worst time in the world to have to face such large crowds. Smelly people, excessively loud people, fatties, dawdlers and people making announcements in multiple languages are top of the long list of those you end up wanting to shoot!

To make matters worse, I managed to leave Nathan's mobile phone in the stupid plastic tray thing that they make you turf all your electrical goods and belts into. Fortunately we managed to get it back. The staff at Stansted Airport are very kind.

The plane journey to Turin was uneventful, but for a rather stroppy Ryan Air stewardess with a face like a slapped arse and an attitude only her mother could be proud of!

We were transferred from the airport to the hotel with surprising ease. Turin, at first glance, seemed to be a somewhat grimy industrial city, covered in graffiti and full of rather edgy people. I learned today that it's actually the fourth largest city in Italy after Rome, Milan and Naples. It has almost two million citizens.

The Prix Italia festival has been in full swing for a week or so. There have been all kinds of events, screenings, operas, talks, dinners and so on...

We arrived at the festival village at around noon, and have been beautifully looked after ever since by two immensely charming Italian lassies called Alessandra and Viola. Nathan and I have been treated like celebrities all day. We've been interviewed on live telly, taken for a lovely pasta lunch in a beautiful building which looked like an Escher painting and generally pampered and made to feel special.

The awards ceremony itself was charmingly shambolic. We had no idea what was going on most of the time, but it was all happening with great humour and good heart.

The good news is that we won! Uncle Archie was over the moon, describing the Prix Italia as "so august and secretive it is almost legendary." It's a real feather in the film's cap. They're also very beautiful awards which look like flaming torches made of woven metal presented in beautiful wooden boxes.

I got the distinct impression that we were considered the bells of this particular ball. I think everyone was really tickled that we'd turned up, thinking perhaps we brought a bit of eccentric colour to the event. We were certainly made to feel like rock stars. Everyone wanted their photographs taken with us.

We made a hugely political speech, pointing out that there was still a long way to go in the journey towards LGBT equality, and that Italy remains the last country in the Western World not to legally acknowledge LGBT relationships in any shape or form. It was a calculated risk which paid off; the room lit up and erupted into cheering. The awards were being broadcast live on Italian TV. You never know who's watching and who might be moved to take up the cause, but no one can say we didn't do our bit.

Afterwards one of the award organisers described the speech as the highlight of the occasion.

After the ceremony, and a lovely buffet, we were whisked away to the theatre to watch the European premier of a Chinese opera performed by a company of sixty and a 50-piece orchestra from the Beijing Opera House.

Obviously it would have been a much better piece if the singers had been mic'd up and the orchestra had replaced its wind section with more strings. It was also fairly mediocre music with a shockingly weak plot. Opera libretti are so often completely on the nose. In fact, I've yet to watch an opera which is anything other than slightly disappointing when it comes to the theatrical side of things.

...But what a thrill it was to visit the Teatro Reggio here in Turin. It's a magnificent, opulent, glamorous barn of an opera house which was built in the 1970s and opened by Maria Callas. It's the first opera I've seen in the home of opera.

After the show, we sat on a little piazza outside a taverna and drank a gin and tonic with the band of new friends we've accumulated today which include legendary film maker Anthony Wonke, whose film, Children of the Revolution has just become Channel 4's most decorated film ever!

On our way home we were able to reunite a lost husky dog with its owner. All in a day's work!

This day has been just wonderful. The people running the awards are open, friendly and passionate about their work. Their spirit, kindness, honesty and enthusiasm knocks the BAFTAs and its snooty, celebrity-obsessed, somewhat arch, too-cool-for-school ethos into a cocked hat. It reminds me how much we need to fight to remain in Europe.

Right... I'm off to bed!

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