by Sherif Awad
Although the European film industry is quite vast, rewarding and prosperous among many European countries and beyond, many European-born artists tend not only to co-star or star in American films but also to cross the Atlantic Ocean and to reallocate in Hollywood or New York in the aspiration for a greater film career. One of those artists is Cristina Parovel who was born to a Slovenian mother and an Italian father from Trieste, the Italian city in the unique cultural region of Mitteleuropa (Middle Europe) situated at the crossroads of Latin, Germanic and Slavic cultures. Cristina became involved with the arts at an early age, studying acting, ballet and painting. She debuted on stage at the age of twelve in a modern adaptation of Little Red Riding Hood at Trieste’s Teatro Rossetti. She then went on to study in London at the Actors Center and back in Rome at Accademia Nazionale d’Arte Drammatica that was founded by the late Italian writer and critic Silvio D’Amico. Soon, Italian film producers starts to cast her in various roles…
“The best way to launch a film career in Italy is to appear in a typical Italian comic film”, explains Cristina whose film debut was exactly twenty years ago in the box office hit Paparazzi (1998), an Italian comedy starring the very popular comedians Christian De Sica, Massimo Boldi and Diego Abatantuono. “The film was about the comic misadventures of five Paparazzi photographers who chase Italian and non-Italian celebrities across the country running from elite parties to private beaches. There was a lot of cameos of Italian film and TV appearing only in one scene or two.” she remembers. “It was fun playing along with those icons because their films were quite successful in Italian film theatres”.
Cristina then landed several supporting roles in successive Italian films including the romantic comedy The Sky in My Room (1999), the sport comedy The Last Mundial (1999), the musical drama One Hundred Years (1999). “My character Vanessa in One Hundred Yearswas a young woman who appears to be the resurrected dead ringer of the deceased girlfriend of the main protagonist”, says Cristina that was inspired by her performance by Kim Novak’s character in Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo(1958). It was this reference to classic American films that Cristina taking this decision to travel with her acting career beyond Italian cinema. “My acting career really blossomed after landing roles in the crime thriller Prisoners of a Nightmare (2001) then with director Rossella Izzo in the Italian 2003 telefilm Deception. After a recurrent appearance the successful Italian TV series A Place in the Sun, I was regularly flying back and forth between Europe and the United States until I decided to settle down in Los Angeles back in 2009. It was not a tough decision because all my life I feel like a free-spirited artist who must pursue dreams and challenges even across different cultures and linguistics”, she says. Before travelling the US, Cristina received many awards in Italy including the Young Actress Award at Salerno Film Festival (2000) and the Best TV Actress at “Art & Poetry Award (2007).
Italians in America
Many Italians actresses succeeded in America to be top billed along with Hollywood stars. One can remember Virna Lisi, Gina Lollobrigida and Sofia Loren during the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. But in the 1980s, 1990s and the new century, the Hollywood scene became more competitive and so Italian actresses started to get one or a couple of film roles then they went back to homeland. A vivid example of that is Italian star Valeria Golino who appeared in one American film Rain Man (1988) along with Dustin Hoffman and Tom Cruise. Golino was followed by Francesca Neri who appeared in Hannibal(2001) starring Anthony Hopkins then Collateral Damage (2002) starring Arnold Schwarzenegger then went back to Europe ever since.
As for Cristina Parovel who, after settling down in the United States, took the opportunity to attend the Actor Studio in New York where she studied the Russian techniques by Konstantin Stanislavski and the American techniques by Sanford Meisner. This allowed her to co-star in several theatrical plays in New York and California including Simpatico. Colorful cinema roles then came to her varying between the horror genre like the feature-length Lost Souls (2009) starring cult favorite actor Nick Mancuso and the romance genre like the short films I Love You, I Love You (2011) and Unhappy Endings (2012). “I have co-starred in many short films where I played provocative roles like a nightclub dancer or an attractive showgirl. Short films really help to launch the career of actors and actors in the States and elsewhere”, notes Cristina. “Of course, the outings of short films depend on the production values and the capabilities of the writers and directors involved. Sometimes the budget of one short film doesn’t exceed the ten to twenty thousand dollars but the result takes its filmmakers and cast to numerous film festivals. Appearing in short films also creates a good resume and portfolio in the eyes of agencies and casting directors”.
Cristina’s latest short film is the still unreleased Let Mercy Come (2018) where she plays the completely new challenging role of Nahid, the Syrian and Muslim mother of a young man called Rahim. “In this film, we are a Syrian family of refugees who moved to the United States but on daily basis we are facing a lot of prejudices and preconceptions regarding our ethnicity and religion”, explains Cristina who appeared for the first time wearing veil in front of the camera. “The film will be released soon in the festival’s circuits. I hope also it could be selected in Aswan Women Film Festival because the main characters are women. I liked my character very much because I consider it a great departure to more socially conscious roles”, she added.
But what is next for Cristina Parovel? “I have enrolled also in film production and directing studies at the New York Film Academy (NYFA) and the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). These further studies will make me create my own films as director and a producer in addition to my acting and modelling career. In the next few months, I shall focus on raising funds to shoot my first documentary film as a director”, she revealed.