What makes a film a “design film”? Are we thinking of a documentary that specifically addresses the topic of design? Of a film that, while exploring other themes, shows design and its impact on our lives? Or is perhaps a “design film” one that, because of how it was conceived, shot and edited, represents design as applied to cinematography? To answer this question, Alice Rawsthorn, a leading name in design journalism – and probably the most creative contributor to the field – and Guest Curator for the 2019 edition of MDFF, presents a selection of ten films to demonstrate that the definition of “design film” can encompass all these things, going so far as to touch on themes such as consumerism, industrialisation and pollution. Design as an attitude is also the title of one of Rawsthorn’s latest works.

Now in its seventh year, Milano Design Film Festival – 24-27 October 2019 at Anteo Palazzo del Cinema, Milan – is an eagerly awaited yearly rendezvous with cinema and design. It brings together stories of architects and designers, styles, avant-garde movements and investigations into major social issues. A four-day event that, like every year, offers the public a wide selection of films and a variety of talks and debates. The aim is to acquaint viewers with the latest conceptions of design and architecture, by addressing the notion that everything around us is related to design. As the Hungarian painter and photographer László Moholy-Nagy, a leading exponent of Bauhaus, claimed, the design is not a profession, but rather an inclination.

Ultimately, each film in the programme speaks to everybody and tells the story of every individual. In the opening film, Boris Benjamin Bertram’s The Human Shelter, the Danish director takes us on a poetic and anthropological journey to discover the places we call “home”. The documentary seeks to explore how the notion of shelter, of refuge, can change depending on the circumstances. By presenting contemporary life, even in its most extreme settings, – a New York studio, a slum, a six-square-metre Tokyo room – Bertram launches a reflection on the relationship between humans and the political, climatic and social geography of their habitat. The film fits perfectly into this edition’s programme, developed by curators Antonella Dedini and Silvia Robertazzi together with Porzia Bergamasco. The title of MDFF 2019 is in fact Mind The Gap – an invitation to grasp the difference, observe change and ponder over the digital revolution that directly involves us by altering the way we relate to others, as well as with the objects that surround us.

They will talk about Artificial Intelligence, with a film selection that investigates a future woven by machines with algorithmic threads. Featuring in this section: Elevation by Marcus Fairs and Oliver Manzi, produced by prominent British online magazine Dezeen, explores how drones have changed our perception of archi- tecture; More Human Than Human by Femke Wolting and Tommy Pallotta opens a reflection on creativity in the robot era; in Maxim Pozdorovkin’s The Truth About Killer Robots, journalists, engineers and philosophers analyse incidents in which humans fell victim to robots, showing how AI, if unmonitored, can become a threat.

The section Art of Thinking is a collection of stories connected to the design world and of cinematic experimentations, such as the original online performance Operation Jane Walk by artists Leonhard Müllner and Robin Klengel or Martin Cries by Jonathan Vinel – 16 minutes of pathos created using the graphic engine of videogame Grand Theft Auto V.

Thought-provoking documentary Push by Fredrik Gertten, winner of the Politiken Audience Award 2019, investigates the relationship between the financial world, the real estate sector and the housing crisis through conversations with Roberto Saviano, Joseph Stiglitz, Leilani Farha (UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Housing) and Saskia Sassen. In a similar vein, Daniel Kötter’s Hashti Tehran portrays the Iranian city’s urban challenge, its suburbs and highly complex social reality. Finally, Milo Admi’s Mirabilia Urbis paints a picture of Rome through the writings of journalist and environmentalist Antonio Cederna, from post- war reconstruction to the shanty towns, through to the fight for housing in the 1970s.

The 2019 edition will maintain a strong interest in the biographical genre. Among the many titles in this space: the Italian preview of City Dreamers by Joseph Hillel; Bauhaus Women by Gregor Schnitzler; Harry Seidler: Modernist by Daryl Delora (Italian preview); Barbara Stauffacher Solomon: Visions Not Previously Seen by Christian Bruno, Kurt Keppeler, Nataliija Vekic; Corrado Levi Marrakech Theorie (2006-2019) by Alice Guareschi.

Design will be the focus of the opening night (October 23, an invite-only event at Triennale Milano Teatro), culminating in the Italian premiere of Chair Times. A History of Seating by Heinz Bütler (Switzerland, 2018, 90’). Created in collaboration with Vitra Design Museum, the film tells the evolution of industrial design, its key players and avant-garde movements – the makers of design history, through Rolf Fehlbaum’s exclusive chair collection. The screening will be presented by Fehlbaum, in conversation with Stefano Boeri, President of Triennale Milano. Greeting our visitors will be two special guests for the evening, Mayor of Milan Giuseppe Sala and Guest Curator Alice Rawsthorn. Rawsthorn will make two more appearances at Anteo Palazzo del Cinema on October 24: at 11:30am, for a conversation with Fehlbaum before the public screening of Bütler’s film, and at 8:30pm, for her lecture introducing Alain Tanner’s Une ville à Chandigarh.

Another highlight of the Festival will be the talk preceding Ornamento e Delitto, the only film by Aldo Rossi, Gianni Braghieri and Franco Raggi, directed by Luigi Durissi for the 13th Milan Triennale (1973). The documentary will be presented in the version recently restored by the Cineteca di Bologna. Architects Braghieri and Raggi, together with Chiara Spangaro of Fondazione Aldo Rossi, will transport us back to that unique creative and political season thanks to the support of Marazzi Ceramiche, sponsor of the Festival since the first edition.

The artisanal tradition of Italian brands will be reflected in the film produced by Lualdi: Doors Lualdi Stories, directed by Francesca Molteni with texts by journalist Patrizia Scarzella. Architect Cino Zucchi will join them to present the film – a web of stories, focusing on a family’s first artistic carpentry workshop, founded in 1860: deep roots that managed to evolve into an international business, now a leader of Italian design, known for its exclusive partition systems. Latta e Caffè by Antonello Matarazzo is an ode to the poetic, visionary works of Neapolitan architect Riccardo Dalisi: a story of Italian craftsmanship, originality and creativity that is apt to represent the mission of the newborn Design Italy platform: researching, celebrating and promoting – also commercially – the creativity and uniqueness of Italian design abroad. Design Italy is a new sponsor of the Festival.

A series of important Italian premieres addresses the topic of architecture. Architecture of Infinity, by Swiss director Christoph Schaub, analyses the spiritual component of art and architecture through works by Zumthor, Peter Märkli and Alvaro Siza, among others. Benoit Felici’s The Real Thing examines the paradoxical world of architectural duplicates: if nowadays one can live in a Chinese replica of the Champs-Élysées, this film both sheds light on how to live an authentic life in a non-place, and launches a reflection on a practice, that of the copy, as ancient as architecture itself. The Black Museum by Oliver Hardt tells not only of architecture but also of the symbolic importance of the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) in Washington D.C., designed by David Adjaye. Last but not least, Jacek Link-Lenczowski’s The Idea Is Paramount. The Architectural Passions of Andrzej Wajda, retraces the story of the Museum of Japanese Art in Cracow, born from the Polish director’s previously unknown passion for Japanese architecture and culture, and from his financial contributions.

This year, Milano Design Film Festival unveils a major novelty: AFA – Architecture Film Award. An award strongly supported by Silvia Robertazzi and Antonella Dedini, who chose to promote this international biennial event together with Fondazione dell’Ordine Architetti PPC della Provincia di Milano. The aim of the award is to select films dedicated to the different dimensions of architecture – city, landscape, private projects and so forth – in order to promote the creation of cinematic works dedicated to design as the architect’s communication medium. The panel of judges, led by director and lecturer Maurizio Nichetti, will include Roberto Pisoni (Director of Sky Arte HD), Davide Rapp (architect, film director and representative of the Fondazione dell’Ordine degli Architetti di Milano), Marco Della Torre (architect, designer and Dean’s Office Coordinator of the Academy of Architecture of Mendrisio – USI) and director Francesco Clerici. They will be tasked with awarding the prizes: €7,000 for the winner of the Architecture’s Film category and €3,000 for the Studio’s Film category.

Another important new addition to the Festival programme is the launch of Bloom, a spin-off of MDFF that seeks to delve into the relationship between man and nature. This section is curated by Antonio Perazzi – an Italian writer, botanist, academic and landscape architect, who has advised Michele de Lucchi, Antonio Citterio, Franco Zagari and Park Associati, to name a few. The programme includes multi-award winning film In Between Mountains and Oceans by Masaaki Miyazawa and Roberto Burle Marx by Joao Vargas Penna.

As in previous years, the festival will be enriched by numerous talks and debates – not just with the film di- rectors: on October 24, 10am, Michele De Lucchi will update the public on his futuristic project Earth Sta- tions; on Saturday 26, 2pm, Mario Botta will present the topic of religious architecture, explored in the film Mario Botta. The Space Beyond by Loretta Dalpozzo and Michèle Volontè; on Friday, 3pm, architect Giulio Ceppi will examine the unexpected connections between art and advertisement, and present the results of workshops he held in male and female Milanese prisons: a SkyArte HD documentary will tell the story. On Friday, 4:30 pm, architects Umberto Zanetti and Alessandro De Magistris will present Palace for the People by Boris Missirkov and Georgi Bogdanov: a clear historical example of architecture’s status as a tool of power in the second half of the 20th century.

As per tradition, on Saturday morning (26 October, 10 am) we will host students and professors of the Academy of Architecture of Mendrisio, Università della Svizzera Italiana. The works of the students who took part in the workshop Filmare l’Architettura will be presented by the young directors themselves.

A special evening event will conclude the Festival: thanks to Cassina, Peter Greenaway will lead a public conversation with writer Gianluigi Ricuperati, focused on the influence of the art of interiors and of the culture of design on his filmography, with screenings and commentaries of scenes related to architecture and the visual element from the performance ‘The Missing Nail. A Vision” by Peter Greenaway for Cassina on Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper, a musical lecture created in collaboration with the group Architorti di Marco Robino 3, curated for Italy by Mara Moscano and Silvia Viglietti.

The year 2019 marks the 40th anniversary of the partnership between sister cities Milan and Shanghai. MDFF joins the celebrations with a talk and a selection of screenings that tell the story of the two cities, their differences, but also their common traits. An eminent guest, Professor Shaonong Wei, Dean of the School of Design of the East China Normal University of Shanghai, will guide us through the history of the Chinese metropolis. Didi Gnocchi, CEO of 3D Produzioni and Head of MemoMi, a WebTV on Milanese history, will join Wei and architects Alida Catella from COIMA and Italo Rota to delve into the topic during the talk. We will then screen three documentaries by MemoMi that retrace the history of Milan’s foreign dominations: by the Spaniards, Napoleon and the Hapsburg. This window opened onto the Chinese megalopolis reaffirms the international calling of Milano Design Film Festival, which since its first edition has been pairing the Milanese event with international initiatives. This year marks the third screening event in Shanghai, organised in collaboration with the Italian Consulate and the Italian Cultural Institute (23, 24 and 26 November, Jing’an District Culture Center). MDFF will also hold a workshop on Milan-Shanghai relations (22 November, 2:30 pm, Shanghai Exhibition Center) during the fourth Salone del Mobile.Milano Shanghai. The Chinese tour will continue with Chengdu’s Europe Culture Season (27, 28, 29 November, Osgh Cinemas, Luxe Town) and Hong Kong (6, 7, 8 December), where prestigious K11 MUSEA will host the Business Design Week with the cooperation of the Consulate General of Italy in Hong Kong, UA CineHub, and the coordination of Santina Bonini.

The final programme with screenings, guest appearances and talks will be online a www.milanodesignfilmfestival.com