Usually, names like Visconti, Pasolini and Fellini are the only ones that come to mind in discussions about Italian filmmaking. But this weekend, Yale hopes to change this limited perception of Italian cinema by hosting screenings reflective of the new millennium.

As part of the “Italian Cinema for the New Millennium: Cinema as Witness” festival, five recent Italian films will be screened at the Whitney Humanities Center auditorium from Thursday to Sunday. The screenings will be supplemented by symposia examining the work of famed Italian director Roberto Rossellini. This will be the second year of the Italian festival, which is presented in partnership with the Italian Cultural Institute of New York.

Members of Yale’s Italian Study Center and students at the Graduate School said they are excited about the opportunity to showcase a generation of emerging young directors. Giuseppe Gazzola GRD ’08 said these directors face a challenging precedent, but that their work merits exposure to a new audience.

“The biggest bias we have, and in Italy as well, is that [new directors] are not good as those back in the ’60s,” Gazzola said. “And, of course, they cannot be until they grow up.”

According to Italian professor Millicent Marcus, who specializes in cinema, economic constraints hamper those seeking to distribute new Italian films. Distribution companies like Miramax, Marcus said, base their selection of films on predictions about which will be the best contenders for Academy Awards. As a result, she said, fewer foreign films are shown in America.

“It used to be that there was more of a foreign flow into the United States,” she said.

It is also difficult for these films to compete with Hollywood, which has a monopoly on filmmaking, Gazzola said. She cited “Big,” starring Tom Hanks, and “Swept Away,” starring Madonna, as examples of original Italian screenplays bought and produced by Hollywood.

Event organizer Barbara Garbin GRD ’07 said she purposely chose recent films, representative of the past two years, for this year’s festival.

“Given [that] the theme is ‘Cinema as Witness,’ these films are testimonies [to] the history and reality of society,” Garbin said.

Marcus said the organizers have made an effort to relate these films, which grapple with immigration, youth unemployment and racial conflict, to the greater New Haven community. “Nuovomondo,” which addreses the issue of immigration within an archetypal family story, is a beautiful and poetic film, she said.

“We’re hoping that this will speak to the New Haven community in very powerful terms,” she said.

A return to neorealism is at the center of these films — among them, “Perlasca, un eroe italiano” (The Courage of a Just Man), “Buongiorno, notte” (Good Morning, Night), “Nuovomondo” (The Golden Door), “Il vangelo secondo Precario” (The Gospel According to Precarious) and “Alla luce del sole” (In Broad Daylight).

Director Roberto Rossellini, one of the founders of Italian neorealist cinema, will serve as the subject of the weekend’s symposia. Faculty members and graduate students from Rome, Yale and around the United States will be giving presentations at the screenings in addition to panel discussions and keynote addresses. Their speeches will focus on the cinematography and legacy of Rossellini.

The speakers include his daughter, Ingrid Rossellini of New York University, Anthony Riccio, author of “The Italian-American Experience in New Haven,” and “Nuovomondo” lead actor Vincenzo Amato.