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Coffi Festival: Germany Meets Italy (Passionately)

This year’s Coffi Festival is offering a unique opportunity: to meet Italian culture head on. Diana Calvino finds out what visitors can expect from festival organizers Dominik Calzone and Almus Jenß.

Originally founded in Italy near Salerno in 2004, the Coffi Festival started as an international short film festival. Last year, however, Dominik Calzone, Markus Meixner, and the festival’s founder, Andrea Recussi, decided to take the festival to Berlin. The project became even broader. For the Berlin edition, the festival consisted not only of short films, but also exhibitions, theatre, street art, concerts, workshop, and (yes, in case you’re starving) street food with typical Italian aperitivi.

This year’s theme will be “growing on diversity”, focusing on cultural and personal diversity. Organized by an international team of nearly 30 people, it will present over 100 artists exhibiting their work.

As a half German half Italian, Dominik likes the idea of letting these two different cultures make the best out of their diversity. He sees it more as a chance to balance strengths and weaknesses than as an obstacle. In general, all the projects he is supporting are permeated by this idea, together with the firm belief in flat hierarchies and the attempt to value local resources. Coffi offers a rich and varied programme, which drove me almost crazy when I read the movie list. Though I am Italian and most of the short films are directed by Italians, I could hardly find someone I knew.

But what is amazing and peculiar about this festival is its core concept: passion. Passion as a definition of art is the key to widening the concept of art itself to include food or business too. If art is what you do with passion, artworks are just one side of a multifaceted diamond. That’s why startups will also feature at Coffi.

As an example, Dominik also participates in a project whose aim is to put almost forgotten places, little towns lying far away from mainstream tourism, back on our radar. Amavido.de – a soon to be launched platform for “slow tourism” – gives the opportunity to not only visit beautiful and uncontaminated places and to experience the local culture, but also to help prevent these places from vanishing as ghost towns.

The idea came to Dominik when he noticed that in Calabria, where his father is from, there are beautiful hidden places that seem to be sentenced to death. There is no work and people are moving away. It all leads back to business, local resources, and most of all to passion, providing once again that link with art. Amavido will be presented at Coffi, next to other startups connected to Italian art and culture.

Coffi Festival Berlin is also an attempt to narrow the gap between artists and visitors. The latter are invited to contribute to the festival’s decorations through workshops, street art, or upcycling. It has been conceived as an interactive event, where visitors do not go just to see what is going on as passive spectators. They also get to decide how much they want to pay. Festival attendees will be asked to pay when they leave the festival area. The suggested donation is 10 € for the whole day, but it is up to the individual if they want to pay more or less.

The festival has not restricted itself to only one weekend, however. A number of pre-events occurred in June, including a pre-party and a screening of the movie The Legend of Kaspar Hauser in the presence of its director. If you cannot wait until the festival weekend to get your fill of Italian culture, then you can get involved now. You can join the team and help prepare for the festival by creating decorations, street art and upcycling. The professional Italian upcycling designer team PLINTO will be coming from Turin, and will be on-hand to help out. From 3rd to 5th July there will also be a special workshop for more experienced upcycling designers, where they can explore the art of upcycling together in an intercultural designer group. (If you are interested in getting involved with the festival’s pre-events, email PLINTO directly at info@plinto.org.)

The wide variety of events means that the Coffi Festival will cater to all tastes whilst also providing an opportunity to widen perspectives on Italian culture. But most important are the links between art and startups, and between artists and art lovers. This melting pot of ideas that mixes art, business and passion promises to be a refreshing experience.

When: 9th to 12th July
Where: WBB Willner Brauerei Berlin, Berliner Strasse 80-82, 13189 Berlin
Price: up to you

By Diana Calvino

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