EFFE Laureate - Mittelfest

31 July, 2017

Location: Cividale del Friuli, Italy
Director: Franco Calabretto
Dates: 15 - 25 July 2017
Art Disciplines: Dance - Music - Opera - Street arts - Theater - Visual arts - Puppet Theater
Find out more about the festivals on their EFFE Profile and the Mittelfest website.

These days the town of Cividale del Friuli nestles against Italy's border with Slovenia but it has watched such frontiers come and go over twenty-one centuries, since Julius Caesar founded it in his own name as Forum Iulii – a meeting place between the Italian peninsula and the Transalpine, Pannonian and Illyrian peoples to the north and east. Not much has altered, for it is exactly that confluence that Mittelfest has been celebrating for the last twenty-six years.

This landscape of low mountains and short rivers changed hands frequently, depending on whoever wanted to conquer northern Italy – Huns, Lombards, Byzantines, Austrians, Venetians or French. For much of the latter part of the twentieth century Cividale was at the edge of Balkan communism and it was to soften the effects of the iron curtain's disintegration that Mittelfest was founded.

Running for ten days in July, the festival concentrates on the arts generated in central Europe – theatre in all its forms, music, cinema, dance, poetry and visual arts. It has become, says its Director for the last four years, Franco Calabretto, “an observatory of changing Europe”. While the emphasis on the middle of Europe has remained from the early years, its definition has expanded. “These days many of our problems are coming from the Mediterranean and so Mittelfest has come to include 'Mittelmeer'.

The International Jury for EFFE noted that Mittelfest renews “a dialogue that makes the festival unique, devoted not to an artistic genre, not to a city or an author, but to a precise idea of European citizenship. The festival asks a question; what makes us strangers to each other, in Europe, in our homes”.

Franco Calabretto has widened the philosophical debate too, focussing for several years on the four elements (earth, air, fire and water) and linking with environmental themes and the slow food movement. Being an EFFE Laureate will, he says, “give new energy to our networking and collaborations.

By Simon Mundy for EFA