Held on the grounds of the stunning Venice Arsenale, an area which in the Venetian state's heyday served as their production hub for ships and armaments, this year's amfAR gala will honor the much beloved Turkish-born filmmaker Ferzan Özpetek. The event, once again as in past editions both in Cannes and in Venice last year, will be presented by the Red Sea International Film Festival, joined by Italian beverage company Campari and will be held on the night of September 7th.
Grammy-nominated English singer Ellie Goulding will provide the entertainment for the evening.
Born in Istanbul, Özpetek moved to Rome in 1976 for Cinema Studies at Sapienza University. The filmmaker's prolific body of work includes the 1997 film Hamam (also known as Steam: The Turkish Bath) which premiered at the Directors’ Fortnight at Cannes and stars Alessandro Gassman as an Italian designer, whom upon inheriting a Turkish bathhouse in Istanbul, discovers his true sexual identity. His subsequent films including Le Fate Ignoranti, La Finestra di Fronte and Mine Vaganti (Loose Cannons) were also wildly successful at the box office and earned him multiple awards such as the David di Donatello, Nastri d’Argento, the Ciak prize, and the Golden Globes.
Özpetek's work combines LGBT characters with heterosexual ones, mixing well known actors with non-professional personalities in stories that really do wonder to educate and illuminate his audience. He never preaches or sets out to teach a lesson, but watching one of his films inevitably changes one's viewpoint for the better. He is one of the most successful contemporary filmmakers working in Italy, and his films are always box office hits in a country where cinema has unfortunately faded in recent times.
In 2011 Özpetek conducted his first opera, Giuseppe Verdi’s Aida, an outstanding success repeated the following year at the San Carlo Theater in Naples with his staging of La Traviata, and in 2019 with Madama Butterfly. In 2017 the film Napoli Velata was released in theaters and two years later La Dea Fortuna earned both a David and Silver Ribbon award for Jasmine Trinca, as best leading actress. In May 2019, Özpetek took part in the Venice Biennale with the video installation Venetikaand. In January of 2020 he directed the theatrical adaptation of Mine Vaganti, now back on a national tour after suspension due to lockdown.
But film and theater weren't enough for the prolific Özpetek, who has also written three novels and turned Le fate ignoranti into an eight-part TV series, now available on Disney+.
Also, during the pandemic, and supported by the SIAE (the Italian Society of Authors and Publishers), the filmmaker established the annual “Day of White Coats” on February 20, which now officially commemorates the immense commitment of health personnel in the fight against Covid-19.
As far as amfAR's history, in September 1985 -- and in the midst of a worldwide epidemic which sent the medical world into chaos -- the American Foundation for AIDS Research (amfAR) was formed through the unification of AMF with the like-minded National AIDS Research Foundation, which had been incorporated in California in August 1985. Dr. Mathilde Krim and Dr. Michael Gottlieb (a co-author of the CDC report on the first cases of AIDS in June 1981) became its Founding Chairmen, and Elizabeth Taylor, its Founding National Chairman. One of its first donations was a gift of $250,000 from Rock Hudson shortly before he succumbed to AIDS in October 1985.
Past amfAR honorees include designer Jeremy Scott, celebrity model Iman, Glenn Close, Dr. Anthony Fauci, art dealer Larry Gagosian, actress and entrepreneur Gwyneth Paltrow, British Vogue EIC Edward Enninful, filmmaker Lee Daniels, DreamWorks Chairman Jeffrey Katzenberg, models Naomi Campbell and Kate Moss, Julia Roberts, Scarlett Johansson, Donatella Versace and many more.
Özpetek will be joined by Achille Boroli, the wine entrepreneur and a supporter of amfAR since 2015, who will also be honored in Venice.
For more information and to purchase tickets to the gala, check out the amfAR website.