The Garden of the Finzi-Continis. 1970. Italy. Directed by Vittorio De Sica

As a prelude to the 11th edition of To Save and Project: The MoMA International Festival of Film Preservation, Edmund de Waal, author of The Hare with the Amber Eyes and a celebrated British ceramicist, introduces The Garden of the Finzi-Continis, Vittorio De Sica’s heartbreaking film adaptation of Giorgio Bassani’s great historical novel. The Garden of the Finzi-Continis, which received the 1972 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, is a story about the Jewish community in the northern Italian town of Ferrara in the late 1930s, when Mussolini instituted an anti-Semitic code modeled on Germany’s inhuman Nuremberg Laws. It is also the story of a middle-class boy who briefly and painfully enters the cloistered world of the Finzi-Continis, an aristocratic Jewish family whose wealth and learning will not save them from the Holocaust.

All this is tragically familiar to Edmund de Waal, whose beautiful memoir chronicles five generations of his ancestors, the Ephrussis. This fabulous Russian-Jewish family began as Ukraine grain merchants and built a grand banking dynasty at the center of cosmopolitan society and art in Belle Époque Paris and fin-de-siècle Vienna. But like the Finzi-Continis, they too were devastated by war and the Holocaust.

As an artist, de Waal has exhibited his large-scale porcelain installations in many museums, including the dome of the Victoria and Albert Museum. His first New York exhibition is on view through mid-October at Gagosian Gallery.

Organized by Joshua Siegel, Associate Curator, Department of Film.

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