Each year, a festival in Bologna, Italy, called Il Cinema Ritrovato showcases hundreds of rare and restored films. This month, two friends, cinephiles and co-curators are bringing 13 of them to the Twin Cities.

Maggie Hennefeld, a University of Minnesota professor, and Michelle Baroody, film programming curator for the Mizna arts organization, have distinct academic interests. Hennefeld specializes in silent film and its funny female stars. Baroody concentrates on contemporary Arab cinema.

But both delight in bringing rare films to big screens.

"Our goal is always to bring stuff that we just don't think would make it here otherwise," said Baroody, of their organization Archives on Screen, Twin Cities. "We're not trying to take over the repertory scene — we want to add to it, because we think more movies is always better."

For a few of the films that are part of their Il Cinema Ritrovato on Tour, at the Main Cinema and the Heights Theater, "rare" is an understatement.

The silent film "Page of Madness" was released in 1926 and then lost for decades — until 1971, when director Teinosuke Kinugasa rediscovered the original 35mm print in his shed. The new restoration features its original blue tinting.

"That's going to be really, really beautiful," said Hennefeld, associate professor of Cultural Studies and Comparative Literature at the University of Minnesota. "Color — tinting, toning, hand-coloring and stenciling — were really important to the narrative meaning and aesthetic experience of silent cinema." Another example: The festival's closing night film, "Lady Windermere's Fan," billed as "an unfaithful adaptation" of the Oscar Wilde classic, uses different colors for different characters.

Hennefeld first saw that restoration during last summer's Il Cinema Ritrovato, meaning "cinema rediscovered." The festival, founded in 1986, is a feast: Last year's featured 470 films spanning huge expanses of time and place. There are restored classics and unseen treasures, on 35mm and 16mm, shown in grand theaters and outdoors, on the Piazza Maggiore.

"It's things like that that make you a cinephile," Hennefeld said of the fest's open-air screenings. "You can go from a cine-phobe to a cinephile over the course of a screening."

With the Twin Cities festival, she and Baroody are trying to create some of that same magic. Only indoors, in Minnesota, in winter. Still, they believe it's possible. "Barbie" proved that people want to experience movies together. And local film lovers show up, at the Trylon and elsewhere, for the old and the odd.

"As much as we're curating cinema, we're also creating a community around a kind of passion for the politics and culture and history of film archives and experimental filmmaking," Hennefeld said. "That's really our credo; it's all about the community."

From the plethora of films they saw or wanted to see in Bologna, Hennefeld and Baroody made a list of 50 favorites. Then, with the help of an Il Ritrovato curator, they whittled that list to 13.

Most films screen at the Main Cinema, now run by the Film Society of Minneapolis St. Paul, one of the festival's partners.

The first night of the fest starts with three "early 1930s French music videos by this incredible feminist director Germaine Dulac," Hennefeld said, that contain incisive gender commentary. With "Leila and the Wolves," Lebanese director Heiny Srour uses time travel to center women's contributions to the fight for Arab liberation, Baroody said. The only Italian film of the fest, "Bandits of Orgosolo," has "all the things you want from Italian neorealism," Baroody said. "It's depressing, dark, gorgeous — with lots of sheep running around."

In Italy, that film "was the talk of the festival," Baroody said. That and "The Ballad of Tara," an Iranian film directed by Bahram Beyzaie, which was "a revelation." (That film, too, is a part of this Minneapolis festival.)

"You're surrounded by all these people who are really, really into these old films," she said. "So when a film stands out in that crowd, you know there's something really special about it."

The festival closes with the silent film "Lady Windermere's Fan" at the Heights Theater in Columbia Heights, with live accompaniment by the Poor Nobodys. Sure, that film is available on YouTube, without music and with low resolution. But Hennefeld is hoping students and film fans opt for the in-person experience.

"If you want a crappy aesthetic experience without a glorious six-piece ensemble not in a 1920s-era moving picture palace, then yeah, definitely watch it on YouTube," Hennefeld said, laughing.

"I think I became a curator so I could see these films on the big screen, no joke," she continued. "Doing my research, wandering the archives, seeing a silent film on a flatbed viewer at the Library of Congress, I thought, I want to see this on the big screen, and no one else is curating it my area."

Il Cinema Ritrovato on Tour

When: Feb. 15-18.

Where: Feb. 15-17 at the Main Cinema, 115 SE. Main St., Mpls., Feb. 18 at the Heights Theater, 3951 Central Av. NE., Columbia Heights.

Tickets: Opening night is free. General admission tickets are $12; $8 for students. Closing night is $20.

More info: https://mspfilm.org/2024-il-cinema-ritrovato-on-tour/