April 18, 2016
Updated 6/2016- Checco Zalone and his director Gennaro Nunziante were the talk of the town in Toronto, Canada recently during the screenings and opening gala of the Italian Contemporary Film Festival. Theaters across Canada were packed with audiences taking in the duo’s latest brilliant collaboration, “Quo vado?”, which is being touted as the highest-grossing Italian film in history. With box office earnings of €52.1 million in the first 12 days, the film beat out “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”. Now, it’s touring the festival circuit throughout the world and people all over the globe are getting the chance to see just why Italian audiences came out in droves to see this film.
The infamous character known as Checco Zalone was born Luca Pasquale Medici in the southern Italian city of Bari in 1977. He attended a local high school and then studied Law at l’Università di Bari “Aldo Moro”. He performed with local musicians and then made his comedy debut in 2004 along with Giacinto Lucariello e Pierluigi Morizio. They hosted a local beauty pageant called, Ragazza Cinema Ok.
A few years later, he landed a spot on the television variety show, Zelig and his career in comedy took off. In 2009, he made his first feature film, “Cado delle nubi” (Fall from the Clouds). Directed by Nunziante, Zalone plays a down-on-his-luck dreamer, just dumped by his girlfriend and dealing with the political incorrectness of accepting the fact that his cousin is gay.
His 2011 follow-up film, “Che bella giornata”, also directed by Gennaro Nunziante broke box office records, taking in 2.5 million euro during in just two days. “Che bella giornata” is the story of a clumsy security guard who unknowingly falls in love with a terrorist. The film was wildly successful in Italy and paved the way for “Sole a catinelle” and his latest film, “Quo Vado?”. If his last films broke records, his latest blew those numbers out of the water.
“Quo vado?” was the first of Checco Zalone’s films I’ve seen and after seeing it, it became obvious why his films are so popular in Italy. For the first 10 minutes, I did nothing but laugh. The pace is fast moving with joke after joke, many of which poke fun at the stereotypes of the southern Italian culture. If you grew up Italian American or if you have spent time in Italy, you will get the humor right away. With that said, subtitles are needed. There is no way that his films could be understood outside Italy by someone who doesn’t speak fluent Italian unless you are watching with subtitles. It’s just not possible. The dialogue is quick, sharp and filled with irony and cultural references. Thanks to the ICFF for providing subtitles for the North American audience, the entire theater was roaring with laughter throughout the entire film.
“Quo vado?” follows the now infamous Checco as he does whatever it takes to keep his secure government job, which provides him sick leave, benefits, paid vacation and a Christmas bonus. When he refuses to accept a buyout from government officials in Rome, he is forced to do the jobs that no one wants. However, he seems to have a talent for making the best out of a bad situation, so everything hilariously works out in his favor. There are some pretty crazy storylines that would only work in a Checco Zalone film.
I attended the press conference in Toronto where the actor appeared with his director and longtime friend Gennaro Nunziante. They were down-to-earth and very accommodating to the room full of press. The journalists were able to ask one question and mine pertained to the comedy genre. Since the duo has clearly mastered the this genre, I wondered if they’d ever venture into different territory.. perhaps drama. Checco Zalone’s animated and lengthy answer generated hysteric laughter and in the end, the answer was no. I guess there’s no reason to fix what’s not broken.
It was just announced that his next film is slated for a 2017 release. We’ll keep you posted. In the meantime, read my interview with Stefano Grillo, one of the actors in “Quo vado?” and watch the trailer..