Visions of Italy beyond the North/South divide: regional documentaries and global identities.
The "Southern Question," "Padania," and their Discontents
Ever since its inception, the Italian nation has struggled to provide an integrated image of itself and its culture to its own citizens and to the rest of the world. This was the case after Unification as much as it was in the postwar period (Ascoli and Von Henneberg; Bouchard). In the present age of postmodern globalization, national unity continues to be subject to debate. Placed at the core of a variety of cultural practices, it also informs a recent set of documentary films about Emilia-Romagna and the Po Valley whose subject-matter and formal narrative structures intervene directly in the ongoing struggle to define the local, national and global nature of Italian identity. Indeed, documentaries, such as Gianni Celati's Visioni di case che crollano (2003), Davide Ferrario's Mondonuovo (2003), Giuseppe Bertolucci's Segni particolari: appunti per un film sull'Emilia-Romagna (2003), and Nello Ferrieri and Raffaele Rago's Mozambico dove va il cinema (2002), point to an unresolved crisis of postmodernity in Italian society and subvert a notion of identity based on territorial belonging. At the same time, these documentaries suggest a relational understanding of subject- and community-formation constructed through the encounter and negotiation with other cultures within and outside Italy. They do so by underscoring a number of elements that shed new light on the construction of Italy and Italians since the postwar period with respect to the country's internal national divides (exemplified by the "Southern Question," on the one hand, and by the separatist attacks of the Northern League, on the other hand) and in relation to the challenges put forth by the phenomenon of global migration which is forcing an expansion of cultural boundaries and a reflection on the foundations of local histories.
The Italian "Southern Question" has been central to the construction of the Italian nation and its contested notions of identity since at least the 19th century. A number of critics have convincingly argued that the language and images used to describe the South and its people as fundamentally "other" vis-a-vis the rest of the peninsula had a lasting effect on both northerners and southerners, even when they did not correspond to reality (Gribaudi; Moe; Lumley and Morris; Schneider). These long-standing perceptions of Italy as divided into an affluent and dynamic North and a fatalistically poor and picturesque South have been challenged since the mid-1980s by the work of a number of scholars, who have questioned this model and responded with their research to renewed essentialist views brought forth by the rise of the Northern League on the Italian political scene. (1) To be sure, attempts to read the relation between North and South differently had occurred at other times during the 20th century. In Bound by Distance, for instance, Pasquale Verdicchio notes that in The Southern Question Gramsci highlighted the ways in which "North and South were never objective cultural and political entities, but were rhetorical effects of the very process of unification; it was the rhetoric of nationalists that provided the image of two distinct Italies, a binary opposition that obscured the potential for other cultural, political, and economic alliances" (12-13). The same rhetoric certainly has survived under different guises throughout the Novecento and lately manifests itself in the xenophobic and racist appeals of the Northern League to regional separatism and to the purity and legitimacy of a state they dubbed "Padania," a geo-cultural term that, notwithstanding the League's appropriation, was never intended to be exclusive. As Giuseppe Gavioli writes in "Verso mezzogiorno: un itinerario padano," "anche vista dall'esterno, Padania, prima di essere sequestrata da Bossi, non evocava immagini di rivolte regressive e secessioniste, ma soprattutto una grande pianura che si diffonde dalla lunga fascia che accompagna il suo fiume, fino al Delta. E insieme, una straordinaria sedimentazione culturale, storica; anche mitica" (53). (2)
In this essay I argue that regional documentaries, in their exploration of local landscape and identity, reframe the terms of a national and international "Southern Question." By taking as their subject the area denominated "Padania," but with a very different purpose than that of the Northern League, they reclaim this wide region from misappropriations, allowing it to be rethought as a crossroad of different experiences, populations, ideas and histories. Moreover, these documentaries' allusions to filmic history underline commonalities and shared interests between North and South that had been obscured by Italian identity politics from Unification to the second postwar period. In this sense, my intervention is a contribution toward shifting the discussion about the South of Italy from a discourse of "otherness," "difference," and "backwardness"--a set of ideological stances that have condemned and relegated the South since Unification to the position of "ball and chain" of the North (Gramsci 20)--to a discourse that implicates the North in "the Southern Question," challenging the taken for granted and mutually exclusive separations between the Italian North and South.
Despite the wealth of filmic material produced since the postwar period (Bernagozzi, Il cinema corto), documentary filmmaking in Italy has not received much attention on the part of public and scholars alike. However, in recent years this genre has experienced a revival of sorts: the number of contemporary filmmakers who have chosen to adopt it as a preferred mode of expression has increased, as has the growth of historical and aesthetic research on the topic (Bertozzi, "L'occhio e la maceria" 11; L'idea documentaria). More significant to the purpose of this essay, the documentaries by Celati, Bertolucci, Ferrario, Ferrieri, and Rago are privileged sites of investigation for inquiries into identity-and nation-building projects since their structure and aesthetic choices directly address or evoke previous disavowed documentaries and visual representations in the same area, positioning them within a cinematic lineage that bears considerable significance on contemporary discussions of Italian unity, history, and culture. By way of metacinematic devices--from intertextuality proper to the explicit presence of the camera, the narrator or the filmmaker within the narrative and the frame--these films use the metaphor of cinema to construct new hypotheses and new identities, thus exemplifying an alternative "politics of representation" (Hall 442) to account for the transformations of our age. In their innovative style and multi-layered content, these regional documentaries can be considered "experimental ethnographies," following Catherine Russell's definition of a new type of radical filmmaking "flourishing within a postcolonial, postmodern context" which is "simultaneously 'aesthetic' and 'ethnographic,' work in which formal experimentation is brought to bear on social representation" (3). (3)
Going Local "with affection"
Gianni Celati has carried out journeys of "affective" observation along the territory of the Po Valley since the 1980s, accompanying photographers like Luigi Ghirri in their visual exploration of geographical spaces. (4) His writings in the past twenty years have tried to foreground the contemporary postmodern incapacity to perceive and see the outside world as it is. In both Narratori delle pianure (1985) and Verso la foce (1989) his writing became more and more descriptive and cinematic, slender and essential, minimal and hyper-realistic (Fink 3), expressing an effort to re-acquaint us with a way of seeing the world that is in front of our eyes but that we do not seem to notice anymore. Celati's interest in cinematic writing is reflected in his recent experiments with the medium of film. In his new role as documentary filmmaker he translated his visual style directly into cinematic images. In his 2002 documentary, Visioni di case che crollano, a piece of "experimental ethnography" about the "derelict rural buildings" (Celati, Visioni) he first encountered in the Po Valley in Verso la foce and then again in the course of his first documentary, Strada provinciale delle anime (1991), Celati's intention was, as he explained it in an interview with Sarah Hill, that of "riattivare la semplice percezione delle cose poco osservate, la capacita di guardare il mondo esterno cosi com'e. Forse il problema di fondo e che noi non crediamo piu veramente al mondo esterno, crediamo solo a un'immagine di noi stessi da proiettare in base all'estetica spettacolare dei consumi" (219-20).
In Visioni di case che crollano Celati pays homage to the "crumbling houses" (5) which refuse to disappear and haunt the local inhabitants who do not know how to confront them. The film is quite literally about "case che crollano," but not as "reperti oggettivi" (Hill 219). Rather, they are the "oggetti d'affezione," according to Celati's terminology (Hill 219), whose mere presence serves as reminder of a rural civilization that might be forgotten but not gone. (6) These houses are not simply relics of the past, but, as Celati puts it, "uno tra i piu sorprendenti aspetti d'un paesaggio moderno. In un'epoca in cui si tende a restaurare tutto per cancellare le tracce del tempo, quelle case portavano i segni d'una profondita del tempo e cosi ponevano la domanda: cosa dobbiamo fare delle nostre rovine?" (Hill 219). The answer for Celati is as simple and complex as watching them carefully in order to understand their significance in our age. (7) In the documentary, long sequences are dedicated to the "veduta frontale" of these houses, to borrow an expression that Celati uses about Michelangelo Antonioni's films where "waiting" without expectations registers a way of being in this world, an epochal shift which can only be expressed and comprehended through pause ("La veduta frontale" 210-11). (8)
In opposition to this way of seeing the "crumbling houses" of the Po Valley and their relation to the history of the place, Celati's film includes another view which seems to go along with the spectacularization and cosmetic surgery forced on us by postmodern society: a way of understanding these houses as a nostalgic "loss of identity and memory" which denies the presence of other non-teleological possibilities. To illustrate and counteract this position Celati inserts in the film interviews with local people who lament the loss of a pastoral pre-modern past, of origins and of authenticity. Within the economy of the film, their explanations are then dismissed by various commentators. One of them, writer Daniele Benati, for example, labels these melancholic theories "a bit phony," (9) suggesting their unreliability, as if the houses were uncomfortable reminders of a rural civilization too quickly dispensed with and now substituted with a vague nostalgia to compensate for the inability to think through alternatives.
A further criticism of these gloomy commonsensical explanations and their questionable assumptions can be located in Mondonuovo, a film by Davide Ferrario set in the same area. (10) Gianni Celati, who is the recognizable narrator-traveler, talking directly to the camera or to the director or reading extracts from his books, is far more explicit on his position regarding questions of "roots" and identity. He clearly condemns exclusivist views of authenticity deriving from belonging to a certain territory and, looking into the camera, declares:
Non credo per niente a quelle cose che si chiamano testimonianze e non credo per niente alle memorie ufficiali. E non credo nell'identita locale. Quella la lascio per degli altri. E non credo all'appartenenza a un territorio e non credo alle cosidette radici, e mi dispiace dirlo. L'idea di appartenenza a un territorio, come se dopo si diventasse testimoni autorizzati, proprietari di un luogo. Tutto questo mi sembra proprio il contrario dell'idea del lavoro del narrare. Che dev'essere lavoro, al contrario, di qualcuno che proprio non ha niente in pugno; e completamente disarmato, ti puo solo suggerire qualcosa. L'inimmaginabile che e intorno a te.
While in Visioni di case che crollano the local inhabitants speak nostalgically about these buildings without really stopping to "see" them for what they now represent, Celati juxtaposes lyrical sequences in which a group of African immigrants, new inhabitants of the Padana plain, enter and attentively observe these houses, seemingly accepting them unconditionally for what they are. As a German woman (Marianne Schneider) comments in the film, "noi non siamo piu abituati a vivere tra crolli e distruzioni [come in Africa o nel Medio Oriente] dunque questi ci sembrano la fine del mondo" (Hill 219). While the inhabitants of so-called Third World countries are constantly subjected to ruins and uncertainty, rich populations like Italians, Celati contends, insist on "un restauro totale del visibile" (Hill 219) to hide from a "crumbliness" which is as much ideological and existential as it is material. By inserting the Africans in his film, Celati (and Ferrario, who adopts the same mechanism) not only defamiliarizes common perceptions of locals and foreigners, insiders and outsiders in the local landscape of Padania--"Mondonuovo" after all is the name of one village of the Po Valley--but also seems to agree with American Studies critic George Lipsitz that "the solutions to what seem like our newest problems may well be found in communities that have been struggling with them for centuries. The most 'modern' people in the world that is emerging may be those from nations that have been considered 'backward'" (19).
Far from being linear, the narration in the film occurs on different levels and is tied together by John Berger's reflections on these houses. One level of the story concerns the voyage by train of an international group of travelers across the plain and follows their visit to the houses; another portrays a theatre director (Alberto Sironi) and an actress (Bianca Maria D'Amato) in the process of rehearsing a play about a woman's life recollections of the "vecchie campagne" and her reflections on the transition from an agricultural to an industrial society. The overt theatricality of the actress's recitation is paradoxically more "real" in its mediation of the tragic transformations of an entire system of living, working and socializing than the sociological explanations offered by the testimonies and interviews of the locals. It is during her monologues in a theatre that footages from Renzo Renzi's Quando il Po e dolce (1951), Florestano Vancini's Delta padano (1951) and Giuseppe Morandi's I paisan (1967) complicate the narrative as they are projected onto the screen behind the actress and accompany her words.
The importance of this strategy of cinematic citation, adopted also by Giuseppe Bertolucci in Segni particolari where sequences from older pictures are incorporated in the montage, including Renzi's same 1951 censored documentary, should not be underestimated for the links that both filmmakers attempt to establish between a forgotten past and a forgetful present. In fact, Celati's and Bertolucci's citations intervene in the repressed history of documentary filmmaking in Italy. Through intertextuality, they force a rethinking of its genealogy and offer the occasion to posit a new type of cinematic radical memory of place, attentive to the differences, but also to similarities and "shared interests" between the North and South of Italy. A flashback to documentary filmmaking in the 1950s and to the historical circumstances out of which Renzi's film emerged, but was censored, will illustrate this point.
Documenting and "Un-documenting" Italy in the Postwar
The immediate postwar period represented an unusual moment of creative productivity for regional cultures in which, perhaps for the first time, Italians started to become familiar with each other's realities. If the Italian South represented a territory to be discovered and taxonomized, (11) it is also the case that part of the documentary impulse which expanded throughout Italy was not just exploitative, or propagandistic, but meant to explore regional traits and diversities and to use film in a civic and pedagogical sense. As Marco Bertozzi notes, "l'idea documentaria assurge [...] a potente solerzia testimoniale: in una sorta di riacquisizione del quotidiano, uscito umiliato e offeso dalle nefandezze della guerra, e come se il mondo in rinascita necessitasse di testimonianze ritenute 'oggettive' sulla ripresa di un'esistenza finalmente normale" ("L'occhio e la maceria" 11). (12)
Already in the late 1930s and 1940s documentary filmmaking became for some directors a lens through which to map out northern Italian realities that had been marginalized, if not suppressed, by the fascist regime. The intent behind this type of filmmaking was the desire for a different, less picturesque and less artificial cinema. In 1939 Michelangelo Antonioni, in an article entitled "Per un film sul Po" published in the journal Cinema, wrote that "vorremmo una pellicola avente a protagonista il Po e nella quale non il folklore, cioe un'accozzaglia di elementi esteriori e decorativi, destasse l'interesse, ma lo spirito, cioe un insieme di elementi morali e psicologici; nella quale non le esigenze commerciali prevalessero, bensi l'intelligenza" (qtd. in Bernagozzi, "Note per una storia del documentario in Emilia" 19). That "documento senza etichetta," as Antonioni defined it, later became Gente del Po (1943-1947), a film destined to have a long-lasting influence on the director's style. In the same years, the 1940s, other regional documentaries lost to fascist censorship offered to the viewer images of the Po Delta and its populations strikingly similar in their depiction of poverty to what might have been common representations of the South. (13) Bernagozzi noted that "in questo modo Chioggia, Comacchio, la Bassa padana, il delta padano comincia ad essere il meridione dell'Italia settentrionale, cosi come continuera ad esserlo in tanto documentarismo del dopoguerra" (Il cinema corto 31). This is why documentary filmmaking and its historiography are so central for a discourse that attempts to undo rigid dichotomies between North and South, since it might very well hold the key to disclose unexpected similarities that were purposely set aside not just in post-Unification, but even in the postwar period a century later. (14)
It is from the periphery that a new cinema emerged in the postwar years dedicated to pointing out the tremendous contradictions coexisting within the new Italy. In this way, the return to local issues after the efforts of the fascist regime to nationalize and homogenize the country becomes the expression of a desire not to provincialize regional questions, but, on the contrary, to make these issues emblematic "di una piu vasta topografia del malessere" (Bernagozzi, Il cinema corto 49). (15) In Emilia-Romagna, in cities like Ferrara, Parma and Bologna, such desire found expression in the establishment of local film companies like Este Film and Columbus Film which tried to produce independent films without the suffocating control of Roman bureaucrats. In this fertile climate, Bernagozzi remarks:
L'eredita del Po, del suo paesaggio, dei suoi uomini [sic] diventa la costante di questo cinema [...]; una sorta di "meridione" nell'economia dell'Italia centrale. La Nel mezzogiorno qualcosa e cambiato, Col cuore fermo, Sicilia, Minatori di zolfara (per non citare che pochissimi documentari); qui una ricerca altrettanto disperata, ossessiva, delle tragiche contraddizioni di un governo che si avviava malauguratamente verso gli spazi di un neocapitalismo non programmato, di un falso benessere non controllato ma supinamente subito. supinamente subito.
(Il cinema corto 51) (16)
Postwar censorship, in a dangerous replication of fascist standards, exercised the same control over products not considered "in the best interest of Italy" (Overbey 28). To get an idea of the extent of the practice, one needs only remember the insidious presence of censorship exercised on feature films by the new Christian Democrat government to conceal issues that portrayed Italy, North and South, in an unfavorable and uncomfortable light. The legal vicissitudes of a neorealist film like Umberto D (1952) are but the most visible symptoms of a larger phenomenon which was pervasive in the case of documentary films because of the perceived intrinsic "'natura sovversiva' del cinema corto" (qtd. in Bernagozzi, Il cinema corto 48). (17) The documentaries that suffered marginalization or censorship included those that portrayed events tied to the Resistenza, workers' strikes and social agitations, and generally representations of Italy considered offensive. Renzo Renzi's Quando il Po e dolce (1951), and Florestano Vancini's Delta padano (1951) were among the penalized ones. (18)
These last two documentaries hold a special place in my argument. Both denounced the poor living conditions of the inhabitants of the Po Delta and both were ostracized. Vancini's film passed the censors' cut, but since it was not distributed in theatres, its ability to reach the public was severely diminished (Renzi 60). The selection committee of the Venice Film Festival censored Renzi's film with the accusation that "denigra l'Italia" (Renzi 60). I would like to focus here briefly on this censored documentary because its history, recounted by Renzi at length in a 1952 article entitled "Quando il Po e dolce" published in Cinema, is emblematic of the cultural and political efforts conducted through the years by many different Italian authorities to erase unpleasant and uncomfortable realities. Such efforts were geared towards the control of images of the Northern regions of the peninsula that had to be consistent in their representation of modernity and progress in order to maintain the perception of two separate and irreconcilable Italies. As it was in the 19th century, the ultimate goal of these authorities remained that of "fare l'Italia" according to an established set of rules and despite evidence to the contrary.
Quando il Po e dolce, a type of "documentario inchiesta" produced by Giobatta Cavallaro to which Enzo Biagi and Sergio Zavoli also collaborated, tapped into a vision of Northern Italy that was much different than the official representation. (19) The very analogies that Renzi provocatively made in his essays on the film between the Po Delta and Africa--including the allusions to Italian colonialism reiterated in the subtitle of the same 1952 essay reprinted in 2001 in Renzi's La bella stagione as "Quando il Po e dolce. L'Africa in casa"--establish a comparison between Africa and a Northern region, rather than the "mezzogiorno," as it had been customary even prior to Unification (Moe 2-3). In the essay Renzi recounted:
A cinquanta chilometri da Ferrara, cioe da una delle zone piu civili e ricche d'Italia, una popolazione di centinaia di migliaia di persone vive, in condizioni medievali, un'esistenza le cui basi e i cui valori sono del tutto diversi dai nostri [...]. Confesso che di fronte alla vastita della materia ci scoraggiammo non poco [...] la tragedia del Delta e del tutto silenziosa: non vi e mai crollata una scala carica di dattilografe per sollecitare l'interessamento di soggettisti. [...] [R]accontammo che era nato un problema del Delta, fin dal secolo scorso [...]. E descrivemmo le condizioni igieniche, la mancanza di scuole, le malattie, la situazione dei bimbi, i lavori illegali (come la pesca di frodo), il mangiare, il dormire, il modo di sposarsi, il modo di morire e il culto dei morti, secondo il ritmo di un'inchiesta [...]. Il titolo, Quando il Po e dolce, traeva spunto da un modo di dire locale che riguarda il rifornimento dell'acqua potabile. Infatti, qui non c'e acqua potabile: le donne raccolgono quella del Po quando c'e la bassa marea e l'acqua salata del mare non entra nel fiume: appunto "Quando il Po e dolce."
According to Renzi's account, he and his collaborators sought to avoid censorship and so did not include more graphic misery, sexual practices of pederasty, promiscuity, incest, teen age sex condoned or encouraged by parents and so on (63). But apparently, what was included in the film was enough to condemn it as "deprimente" (64) and therefore unfit to be shown in a film festival. These critiques prompted Renzi to equate the new central government's attitude with the "mentalita borbonica" (67) and the practices of the fascist regime that could not tolerate "la rivelazione che le colonie le abbiamo in Italia e che non e necessario Ual-Ual per andarle a conquistare" (65).
Renzi's African and colonial analogy is carried forth with no less pungency also in a 1969 essay entitled "Viaggio neorealista verso la storia di Ferrara":
Quando l'Italia, non socialista, ma "sociale," si mise a fare riforme, proponendo di rosicchiare terre morte ai latifondi o di prosciugare valli ricche d'anguille, tutti scoprimmo d'un colpo che l'Africa cercata cantando Faccetta nera l'avevamo gia in casa: qui al Nord, bastava imboccare Porta Mare per trovarla a trenta chilometri da Ferrara. Non dimentichero mai l'avventura coloniale che, per mesi, frequentando le terre del Delta veneto e ferrarese con Enzo Biagi, Giobatta Cavallaro e Sergio Zavoli, mi tocco di correre, in preparazione dei nostri documentari. Si viveva in un doppio sentimento: da un lato, l'ammirazione per il paesaggio spettacoloso; dall'altro, il turbamento per la condizione miserevole delle popolazioni. Spesso la grandiosita del paesaggio distruggeva l'interesse per gli uomini: o, almeno, ne colorava l'immagine in modo da creare una sorta di esaltazione, quasi che la miseria, sullo sfondo di quello scenario, potesse diventare anch'essa un fatto estetico, capace di annullare la nostra reazione morale. E cosi, del resto, che, talvolta, la poverta crea una sorta di atroce bisogno di mantenerla, per poterla cantare o descrivere, come un'esperienza lussuosa e barocca della nostra morte.
Given the prominence that this documentary has been given in both Celati's and Bertolucci's recent documentaries, the relevance of Quando il Po e dolce for a reconfiguration of the terms of the "Southern Question" as a national question, and of the history of documentary filmmaking in Italy, does not just belong to the past. On the contrary, the film is positioned as part of an ongoing conversation about local cultural geography and regional identity engaged in larger national and international debates in which its repressed content is brought to bear on contemporary multicultural issues and new social subjects.
Emilia-Romagna: "Terra di mezzo e di frontiera"
In Giuseppe Bertolucci's Segni particolari: appunti per un film sull'Emilia-Romagna (2003), Carlo Lucarelli, (20) one of the narrators in this "sketched" film about several "queer" people--i.e., a young woman fascinated by old movies, a transsexual, a blind woman, an opera-loving truck driver, a young African girl, a band of "vitelloni" playing "sballo liscio"--and their intersecting stories, offers a characterization of the region and its inhabitants that opens up multiple possibilities for identification with other places and realities, from both North and South. Facing the camera, Lucarelli claims:
La gente di questa terra, le persone che stanno su questa terra, sono differenti l'una dall'altra. Qui ci sono tanti volti, tanti colori, tante cadenze, tante inflessioni, tante voci. Questo perche questa terra sembra una terra di mezzo, nel senso che sta al centro, nel cuore dell'Italia. Ma in realta e una terra di mezzo perche e una terra di passaggio. E una terra di frontiera. Questa e una zona di frontiera tra l'Emilia e la Romagna, tra il nord e il sud d'Italia, tra l'Europa e l'Africa, tra il nord e il sud del mondo. Come in tutte le zone di frontiera, la gente ci passa attraverso. Prende qualcosa o lascia qualcosa, e se invece questa zona le piace, se ci si trova bene, allora ci si ferma.
Significantly, his definition of the region is interspersed with the narrative of the other characters' "adventures," to indicate that as a "terra di mezzo," it contains, with all its contradictions, many different and irreducible life experiences, all co-existing and crisscrossing in a territory which is never "uguale a se stess[o]." The film is tellingly prefaced by a short poem by Giorgio Caproni, "Errata Corrige": "Non sai mai dove sei/Non sei mai dove sai," which in its brevity and wit precedes the playful language adopted by the characters of the film, often speaking, like those of Alice in Wonderland, in riddles and rhymes, a nonsense which makes a lot of sense in the end. (21) In this way, a transsexual with a strong Southern accent announces that "Ho molto sofferto, al chiuso come pure all'aperto [...]. Ho sognato molti sogni, al cinema, a teatro, come pure al circo Togni." Her path in the film crosses with an astute African girl with a local accent with whom she exchanges gazes of recognition and misrecognition. The African girl, a black Alice of sorts, intrigued at the site of sexual ambivalence remarks: "E questa qui da dove vien fuori, fante di picche o regina di cuori?." Both are in-between people in a "terra di mezzo" where "anche la superficie del corpo e una zona di frontiera; e come tutte le zone di frontiera e contraddittoria," to paraphrase Lucarelli.
Film watching, film loving and, in general, the power of films to shape identity is prevalent throughout Segni particolari. Earlier on a young tomboy-ish woman enters a film storage, selects a few old movies and while watching them she exhorts:
Lasciatevi alle spalle tutti i capolavori, e andate dritti al segno. I piccoli maestri, le opere minori, i film dimenticati, i frammenti dispersi, le parti per il tutto. I piaceri perversi dell'inquadratura imperfetta. No, non avere fretta. Lascia che tra le dita ti scorra il rosario dei film sconosciuti, dove ogni giorno si compie il miracolo dell'ordinario. No, non avere fretta, abbandonati alla quiete delle visioni desuete. Alla gioia senza pari delle immagini elementari.
Notably, among the "film[s] dimenticati," she screens Renzi's Quando il Po e dolce. Of the other older films she watches, one portrays a pseudo-Lombrosian 1910 "frammento" of "Tipi caratteristici del luogo"; another one, titled Piccola Arena Casartelli (1960) by Aglauco Casadio, follows a local family of acrobats traveling with their circus across the Po Valley, an image that will be evoked also in Nello Ferrieri and Raffaele Rago's Mozambico dove va il cinema.
Lest we interpret all this cinematic material as nostalgic remembrance of "the way we were," the scenes from these older films are often dissolved in cross-fades with modern day shots. In Bertolucci's film an entire sequence is set in a shopping mall where writer Simona Vinci reads from her book In tutti i sensi come l'amore commenting on the pervasiveness of material "things" ["le cose"] with which nowadays most people clutter their lives. In case we understand this film simply as a celebration of regional identity, these intermingled sequences entail a clear condemnation of the contemporary living habits of many Italians who all but ignore the repressed past of their region, and ultimately of their country, as much as the new identities of those who live among them. Therefore, the regional in these contemporary documentaries becomes the meter of a larger national and international question where, as in the debates of the 1950s, "provincia e un punto di partenza e non di arrivo" (Bernagozzi, Il cinema corto 50).
Going Global to Bring it All Back Home
It is precisely from one of the region's provinces that the authors of what became Mozambico dove va il cinema departed. Between August and October of 2001, an Italian troupe of self-defined "saltimbanchi" from Ravenna toured Mozambique south to north from Maputo to Pemba, with a project called Cinemovel, Portuguese for "mobile cinema," screening Mozambican, European and American movies, silent films and animated cartoons to enthusiastic audiences. They visited urban centers and remote rural villages, believing in film's capacity to communicate, educate, and socialize, especially among the younger generations. The documentary Mozambico dove va il cinema (2002), directed by filmmakers Nello Ferrieri and Raffaele Rago, based on a screenplay by Ferrieri and Elisabetta Antognoni, collected the record of this original experience. (22)
In its opening scenes, the film already establishes its major Leitmotifs, many reminiscent of the other contemporary regional films discussed above: the road, the journey, the rural landscape, the people who inhabit it, and the arrival of cinema. Similarly to the documentaries by Celati, Ferrario, and Bertolucci, Mozambico dove va il cinema must be positioned within a translocal context in which collaborations among Italians and other communities have emerged in the past few decades as a result of several global epochal shifts, including decolonization, industrialization, post-industrialization and mass migration. The film clarifies the interdependence of local and global identities and recasts the terms of Gramsci's Southern Question in an international framework that, as Pasquale Verdicchio has argued, "requires us to envision a potential redrawing of alliances" (Introduction to The Southern Question 9). Mozambique was selected over other African countries because of its outstanding filmic tradition and postcolonial cultural history, (23) but also because of less known ties with Emilia-Romagna that illuminate the complexity and unevenness of contemporary societies. Drawing from the once thriving Mozambican practice of locally produced educational documentaries, or "kuxa kenema," Cinemovel inserted itself in a rich line of international cooperation and constructed an ideal dialogue between different and divided zones of the country linked by their own travel and film screenings. As other similar projects carried out in Italy and Europe in a not-so-distant past (Frabotta 24), "kuxa kunema" circulated weekly by mobile units in urban and rural areas in the 1970s and 1980s. Likewise, the production and international circulation of the film Mozambico dove va il cinema intended to bring into conversation areas of the world often kept separate by mainstream media discourse, (24) even when this entailed a confrontation with the asymmetry of such encounter. (25)
The film is a montage of various lived and cinematic histories. It is concurrently the documentation of the "profilmic" experience of Cinemovel, i.e., the pre-filmic and the time of shooting (Russell 6); a reflection on the status of Mozambican and global cinema; and a representation of the everyday life and struggle of ordinary Mozambicans. It pays homage to the great tradition of cinema in both its entertaining and social function and valorizes the potential of regional cinema to be appreciated by the audience it supposedly addresses. (26) Yet, bringing cinema to villages in Mozambique meant more than just registering the enchantment of children's first encounter with the medium, an anthropologically "risky" image that recurs in the film. As in the previous documentaries, it is through metacinematic techniques that the film "turns the camera around" and succeeds in implicating Western viewers in the narrative as well, for we are forced to compare the enthusiasm of these children and the world-changing imaginative potentials of cinema side by side with an extremely economically impoverished country. Far from casting Mozambicans as backward and impressionable, the film insists on their creative resilience and encourages us to draw connections between their experience in the Global South and ours in the First World.
These connections can be better appreciated when we interpret Cinemovel's work, alongside that of Celati, Ferrario and Bertolucci and in conjunction with Italian national and regional cultures, by tracing the inspirational sources and material circumstances that made this project possible in the first place. It is through this type of operation that the "ex-centric" (and eccentric) inter-national collaborations that Cinemovel encodes are fully revealed. (27) Such relations among diverse people and locations, positioned differently in structures of power, manifest the complexities and the contradictions of the contemporary world system and its uneven distribution of resources, but attest also to similarities in the historical experience of only apparently distant cultures. These similarities include, for instance, the legacies of past and present agricultural civilizations as well as the ideological affinities established by the "resistance" struggles of the respective populations. (28)
These are relevant, if often ignored, aspects concerning the material and aesthetic conditions of emergence of art that have been shared by other cultural producers from the same region who have also participated in remarkable multiethnic experiences: from Teatro delle Albe and their Afro-Romagnolo theatre in Ravenna and Dakar (Picarazzi), to writer Gianni Celati's "adventures in Africa," to other local music bands, like CCCP-CSI and Modena City Ramblers, whose interests have ranged from Mongolia to Ireland, Africa, and Latin America, in a restless necessity to physically leave their native land and explore other realities in order to better understand the transformation of their own. (29) Like these artists' work, Cinemovel's film produces surprising effects of de-familiarization of Italian local culture while making "other" realities seem strangely familiar. In this respect, Cinemovel performs an important bridging function between so-called First and Third Worlds or Global South, Italy and Mozambique, Ravenna and Maputo, while also inscribing in an international framework the discrepancies and the potential commonalities and alliances between North and South of the world that Antonio Gramsci first envisioned at the national level in The Southern Question.
Echoes of the Italian "Southern Question" return heuristically in the sources that helped to conceptualize the film. Confronted with the challenge of representing their encounter with Africans in a more productive way than just documenting their mobile cinema project, and aware of the ethnocentric dangers involved in making a film in and about Africa and Africans, (30) Cinemovel's directors looked for guidance in the ethnographic work of the Italian anthropologist Ernesto De Martino. Particular inspiration was provided by I viaggi nel sud di Ernesto De Martino, edited by Clara Gallini and Francesco Faeta. The book consists of a rich apparatus of photographs by Arturo Zavattini, Franco Pinna and Ando Gilardi, who followed the ethnographer in his "expeditions" in Lucania in the 1950s. De Martino's journey to the South of Italy influenced Cinemovel in literally "framing" its own travels in Mozambique. It was De Martino's "visual anthropology" and the cinematic quality of the images of Southern Italian peasants that Cinemovel recognized as part of a past that was also shared in Romagna and found to be "suggestive" when juxtaposed to Mozambican rural life, as well as to the disavowed peasant world of the Northern Po Valley. (31)
Five decades later, De Martino's challenge to "the primacy of Western [rational] culture" (Torriglia 124) acquires renewed meaning in light of Cinemovel's project in the film Mozambico dove va il cinema, which can be read as an attempt to apply his lesson to the situation of contemporary Mozambique, while simultaneously retaining the trace of its origin and relevance in the Italian context. Cinemovel's directors demonstrate De Martino's predicament in the film by interspersing the experience of the mobile cinema with sequences dedicated to ordinary villagers' everyday life and chores, and capturing the dances and rituals of local performers. (32)
Therefore, the film could be read as a displaced comment on Italy's quick liquidation of its agricultural societies in the few decades following the postwar period. Like Celati's Visioni di case che crollano, this film becomes a tool to rethink the vicissitudes of an Italian agrarian past erased by an all too fast modernization chasing "il sogno d'essere un altro paese" (Celati, "La veduta frontale" 212), a critique which accompanies Ferrieri and Rago's film even if it is not made explicitly. (33) As Franco La Polla, director of the Cinema section of DAMS at the University of Bologna, has remarked, Mozambico dove va il cinema is "un road movie sull'Africa ma con la Romagna nella testa e nel cuore. Un road movie che [...] guarda alla realta agricola mozambicana con grande simpatia, in una sorta di comunanza con la realta rurale della Romagna, una terra in cui vivono ancora gesti antichi e dove e ancora vivo il ricordo di proiezioni itineranti" (Antognoni 75). With this disorienting strategy, the film produces a different and radical memory of specifically interrelated places and identities brought together by colonial and anti-colonial struggles and ultimately by globalization.
In Mozambico dove va il cinema, as in Celati's, Ferrario's and Bertolucci's films, metacinematic techniques, such as those of people's filming and watching films, simultaneously call attention to the construction and artificiality of filmmaking and to the potential of cinema to alter lives. But cinema in these films also functions as an allegory of our age. Cinema, both in the sense of technology and in the sense of movie theatre, is a constant of Celati's work. In several instances in his writings, the degradation of cinema to porn venues (Narratori 106) or the closing down of movie theatres altogether are annotated as an indication not just of the decay of the rural landscape, but of our loss of imagination. The comment of one of Celati's friends in Verso la foce is emblematic of this shortfall of "capacita visionaria" (Hill 216) that the documentaries discussed here try, instead, to reactivate. (34) After coming across a run down theatre with no sign and window, the friend remarks: "Il cinema era bello una volta soprattutto nei paesini di campagna, li faceva pensare e immaginare molto. Adesso nei paesini tutti i cinema stanno chiudendo, finito l'immaginare, finita la festa" (48).
Cinema as allegory of contemporary postmodern and postcolonial societies signals the disappearance of a certain culture and a certain way of collective socializing, which we have not yet come fully to terms with, but in these regional documentaries, it also represents the potential for seeing and accessing today's reality differently by recognizing the persistence of the past in the present (Russell 9). As Benjamin noted, "allegories are in the realm of thoughts, what ruins are in the realm of things" (qtd. in Russell 9); they insist on the impossibility of "fully giving over to oblivion" (qtd. in Sitney 13), as evidenced by the recuperation of specific "relics" of a documentary past that has still something to teach about cross-regional and trans-national debates about identity, community building, and Global Southern questions. For all the contemporary authors discussed, cinema stands for that part of our life which threatens to become unintelligible and extinct, and at the same time, through the insistence on metacinematic techniques, they remind us that we are not only watching a film, but also participating in it. Watching children enthusiastically watching films should alert us to cinema's utopian, imaginative and enabling possibilities. Perhaps, the most remarkable message to learn from the Mozambican children's wondrous look in front of the screen, one also shared by the young woman in Bertolucci's film, is the radical potential made available through this medium, what Celati, citing artist Alberto Giacometti, referred to as "il sublime [...] nelle facce di quelli che guardano" (Hill 217). Most importantly, it is at the level of a new "politics of representation," "which works with and through difference" and "is able to build those forms of solidarity and identification which make common struggle and resistance possible but without suppressing the real heterogeneities of interests and identities" (Hall 444), that the contribution of these films is relevant for the potential production of new fruitful alliances.
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(1) In addition to the names already mentioned, I am here referring primarily to scholars from the South, working in Italy and in the diaspora. They include those associated with the journal Meridiana: Rivista di Storia e Scienze Sociali (also cited by Moe 7), affiliated with IMES: Istituto Meridionale di Storia e Scienze Sociali, as well as scholars such as Franco Cassano, Berardino Palumbo, and Gianfranco Viesti. I thank Dorothy L. Zinn for bringing the work of these researchers to my attention and for sharing with me her paper presented at the Second Annual Robert Dombroski Italian Conference. For the work of scholars based in the US and Canada, see Pasquale Verdicchio's Bound by Distance. For a feminist perspective on some of these issues see Edvige Giunta's Writing with an Accent.
(2) Significantly this essay, now part of a book to which it lends its title, was published originally in the journal Meridiana 34-35, 1999 (Gavioli 6). On the meaning and definition of "Padania" away from ideological appropriations, see also the Presentazione of the first issue of the journal Padania - storia cultura, istituzioni 1 (1987-88): 3-5 [Rivista semestrale dell'istituto di storia contemporanea founded in Ferrara in 1985], whose objectives included "una diffusione della conoscenza storica della realta locale, mai intesa come chiusa dimensione provincialistica, bensi aperta ai raccordi e ai continui interscambi [...]" (5). See also the journal's website under Padania in the Works Cited.
(3) In this essay I use "ethnography" following Russell's definition of the term as "less of a scientific practice and more like a critical method, a means of 'reading' culture and not transparently representing it" (xvii).
(4) The term "affective" designates a personal relationship of the authors to the object or landscape portrayed, which cannot be simply represented in objective terms but according to one's position and perception in the world. On the collaboration between Ghirri and Celati and their visual representations, see Spunta.
(5) Crumbling Houses is the title of the film in English.
(6) In "Collezioni di spazi," Celati comments on the disorienting and illuminating effects of "affection." He notes that "quelle che parevano cose pacificamente date, le cose che si guardano senza vederle, si trasformano in una serie di moti affettivi, che non possono essere fissati se non con segni di incertezza" (81; qtd. in Spunta 33).
(7) In the film, John Berger, who is the main narrator, comments: "when we approach these ruins, we do not know exactly what to think. We need new concepts to match what we are perceiving."
(8) In the same essay Celati clarifies aspects of Antonioni's cinema that are also applicable to his own approach. He notes that "cio che l'attesa aspetta e lo svelarsi del tempo. Ma il tempo e reso sempre piu occulto dalle moderne visioni del mondo, tutte proiettate in un'altra epoca, e dunque senza piu nozione del tempo che ci costituisce come esistenti, o mortali. Nel film di Antonioni sono appunto i tempi morti, gli sguardi o gesti d'indugio senza meta, la fissita delle vedute frontali, a riaprire per noi questa comprensione. Credo di avere cominciato a pensare a questo tema dell'attesa guardando una foto di Luigi Ghirri, che puo essere considerata un commento o un omaggio ad Antonioni" ("La veduta frontale" 211-12).
(9) "E solo un atteggiamento culturale. Parlano di identita, memoria, radici, perche non sanno cosa dire di queste rovine."
(10) Ferrario's film, along with Giuseppe Bertolucci's Segni particolari: appunti per un film sull'Emilia-Romagna, was part of a series of four movies entitled "Via Emilia," sponsored, among others, by the Emilia-Romagna region and RAI Educational, and produced by Francesco Conversano and Nene Grignaffini for Movie Movie.
(11) For instance, in Cinema e Mezzogiorno Giovanni Scarfo writes: "parallelamente all'autostrada del sole da costruire, si 'progettano' anche i documentari sulla politica del Mezzogiorno, il piu delle volte visto come 'una colonia da conquistare al lavoro, una sorta di deserto libico ancora ostile alla civilta e alla storia redentrice'" (87).
(12) Giampaolo Bernagozzi's pioneering and prematurely interrupted work on the "cinema corto" in Italy and Marco Bertozzi's recent scholarship on this genre constitute the primary references of my discussion about the documentary in the postwar period. Their contribution to mapping the history and vicissitudes of documentary filmmaking in 1950s Italy is fundamental for my argument, for they allow me to extrapolate from their research those connections between North and South that they just suggest but do not pursue in their projects.
(13) Bernagozzi mentions in particular Comacchio (1942) by Fernando Cerchio and Gente di Chioggia (1943) by Basilio Franchina (Il cinema corto 31).
(14) Italian postwar governments made use of cinema for propagandistic purposes in different forms. After the approval of the Marshall Plan, the Italian government developed a center for cinematography under the Presidenza del Consiglio dei Ministri with the explicit purpose of "istruire la popolazione sulle principali questioni di Stato, informarla della ripresa economica nazionale, educarla civicamente alla vita moderna e, soprattutto, propagandare le iniziative governative offrendone un'immagine di alta credibilita" (Bertozzi "L'occhio e la maceria" 17). Moreover, "[i] film governativi vengono diffusi capillarmente, raggiungendo, grazie all'uso di cinemobili, i paesi senza sale fisse" (Bertozzi "L'occhio e la maceria"18). On this topic see also Frabotta. Likewise, with respect to the Settimana Incom (Industria Cortometraggi Milano), a series of documentaries produced by LUCE in the postwar period and screened in theatres before feature films, Augusto Sainati writes that they are "frammenti di un paesaggio multiforme, punteggiato di vistose simpatie e di altrettanto vistose assenze: ci dicono per esempio di un'Italia nobile e di un'Italia dignitosamente povera, ma sorvolano sull'Italia stracciona che pure popola le periferie del dopoguerra. Sono racconti straordinariamente eloquenti per cio che dicono e per cio che tacciono" (qtd. in Bertozzi, "L'occhio e la maceria" 12).
(15) The regional debate and its national implications were very widespread in the 1950s and involved a variety of media. In the first number of the journal Emilia in 1955, Pietro Bonfiglioli wrote an article entitled "Regionalismo e realismo," in which he stated that "la rivista [...] aspira [...] ad elaborare gli strumenti che valgano a definire e a risolvere in senso attivo e moderno i rapporti tra regione e nazione, fondamentali nella trama complessa delle strutture e della cultura italiane. E questo non per inventare una serie improbabile di 'questioni regionali' e moltiplicare secondo il numero delle regioni il problema della questione meridionale, ma per portare alla luce e risolvere nell'unitario problema nazionale tutte le varie discontinuita strutturali e ideologiche, che sotto una patina di equalita artificiosa, costituiscono, di quel problema, la dialettica concretezza. Per noi e chiaro che non si puo ritagliare nel tessuto della questione nazionale una serie autonoma di questioni regionali. La regione piu che la premessa, rappresenta il residuo di una unita nazionale raggiunta attraverso gravi carenze democratiche. Per questi motivi non si puo cercare in essa una mitica preistoria della nazione, per quanto il problema resti quello di definire storicamente la sua particolare autonomia funzionale" (qtd. in Ferrero 60).
(16) See the same statement in a slightly different version also in Bernagozzi's "Note per una storia del documentario in Emilia" (24).
(17) Bernagozzi went as far as saying that "la storia d'Italia [...] la si puo fare anche con i fotogrammi tagliati dai censori, con i film 'sconsigliati', con le pellicole non girate, con i soggetti nei cassetti, con la violenza insinuante dell'autocensura" ("Note sulla storia del documentario in Emilia" 22).
(18) In addition, Bernagozzi lists the following films: Carlo Lizzani's Nel mezzogiono qualcosa e cambiato (1947-48) and I fatti di Modena (1950), Fausto Fornari's Lettere di condannati a morte della Resistenza (1953), the Taviani brothers' S. Miniato '44 (1954) (Il cinema corto 41).
(19) In a 1983 essay entitled "Per una filosofia del cortometraggio: Michelangelo Antonioni," Bernagozzi remarks: "E Renzi e Cavallaro nel 1951 ricordano Antonioni, il suo paesaggio e il suo fiume mentre realizzano quel documentario che verra bocciato a Venezia perche 'denigra l'Italia', per la precisa e tragica e dolorosa immagine di una miseria che solo il Meridione sembrava poterci offrire" (26).
(20) Lucarelli is also the co-creator of the film since the cover of the DVD clearly states that Segni particolari was conceived "da un'idea di Carlo Lucarelli."
(21) The playful language of the characters in the film could be an indirect reference to the 1977 linguistic revolution carried forth by the Bolognese Radio Alice, influenced by the seminar, "Alice disambientata" held at DAMS in those years by Gianni Celati. It should also be noted, with an ironic twist, that Lucarelli's sequences are shot at Mirabilandia, the theme park in Romagna, where eventually all characters in Bertolucci's film will converge.
(22) The project was envisioned by Elisabetta Antognoni and Nello Ferrieri who conceived the idea of a traveling cinema after witnessing the poor conditions of movie theatres in Africa, but also the overwhelming enthusiasm of audiences in the few venues available to them (Antonioni, Ferrieri and CMC 16). Cinemovel can perhaps be best characterized as a multiple and complex series of cultural experiments of which the film is not the sole, albeit the most representative, component. In addition to the film Mozambique Where Film Goes, Cinemovel included a website with a daily online journal ("diario di bordo" available at www.cinemovel.tv), a picture book collecting photos taken throughout the journey, and a CD with the soundtrack of the film by Mozambican musician Chico Antonio, who joined the troupe in their travel. Among the sponsors were the United Nations and UNICEF which participated with an HIV prevention campaign.
(23) Founded in 1976, the National Institute of Cinema (INC) was the first cultural institution to be created after the independence of Mozambique from Portugal in 1975. If in postwar Italy cinema became a tool in the material and imaginative process of national reconstruction, in Mozambique also it was understood as an indispensable weapon for decolonization and the production of an independent imagery that would reflect the needs and desires of the local population. See Taylor's interview with filmmakers Pedro Pimenta and Camilo de Sousa. In 1978 Ruy Guerra, one of the main figures of the Brazilian Cinema Novo influenced by Italian Neorealism, was called to head the Institute. In the following years, Jean-Luc Godard and Jean Rouch, exponents of the French Nouvelle Vague and of Cinema Verite respectively, collaborated with the Institute on the implementation of new video and cinematic techniques in Mozambique (Diawara 93-103; Andrade-Watkins 135-37).
(24) Since its release in 2002 the film has been presented at many film festivals around the world from Zanzibar to Denmark, Germany, South Africa, Mexico, Cuba, Japan, Burkina Faso and the United States.
(25) The majority of Cinemovel's troupe on site was intentionally Mozambican in order to make the project meaningful for the local population. The project may therefore be considered an attempt to enact what Alessandro Portelli has eloquently called "an experiment in equality" in field research. As Portelli explains, "only equality prepares us to accept difference in terms other than hierarchy and subordination; on the other hand, without difference there is no equality--only sameness, which is a much less worthwhile ideal. Only equality makes the interview credible, but only difference makes it relevant. Field work is meaningful as the encounter of two subjects who recognize each other as subjects, and therefore separate, and seek to build their equality upon their difference in order to work together" (43).
(26) The transnational corporations that by and large control film distribution in Third World and Western countries alike often impede the availability of cultural products which would speak more directly to the needs and desires of local populations. Significantly, the film includes interviews with local directors Licinio Azevedo and Joao Ribeiro. In particular, Azevedo pays homage to Pasolini's influence on his filmmaking with the citation of the Italian intellectual's words, "il cinema e stato l'esplosione della realta nella mia vita."
(27) "Ex-centric," because they take place mainly outside metropolitan centers and "eccentric," because they tend to be considered utterly unconventional (if not irrelevant) when they entail the relationship of a Western nation and a developing country.
(28) Some of these ramifications at the material and ideological level become immediately apparent when we consider the intense interest of the regional branches of the Italian Communist Party (PCI) in Emilia-Romagna in anticolonial revolutions in the Third World during the postwar period, once the promise of revolution in Italy envisioned by the partisans' Resistance had definitely faded. Relations between Portuguese colonies fighting for independence in the 1960s and 1970s, the last remaining colonies in Africa, and the Communist administrations of Emilia-Romagna are well documented at the cultural and political levels. These political relations survive today in the form of cooperation projects, like the one between the Comune of Reggio Emila and those of Pemba and Maputo. Significantly, the cities of Reggio Emilia and Pemba have been "gemellate" since 1975. See: <http://www.reggionelmondo.com/reggionelmondo/reggio nelmondo.nsf/pagine/4C95427CD1F1EA64C1256D88002DB593?OpenDocumen>. Perhaps the best-known cultural institution testifying to this ongoing interest is the "Centro Studi Amilcar Cabral" located in Bologna, one of the largest libraries in Italy devoted to Third World Studies, founded in 1975 in honor of the assassinated Guinea Bissau revolutionary. In this context, it might not come as a surprise that the financial capital to sustain Cinemovel's project came in large part from CMC (Cooperativa Muratori e Cementisti), a one-hundred-year-old construction cooperative based in Ravenna, with a remarkable postwar reconstruction record in Italy and a vast international reputation in countries as diverse as Iran, Ethiopia, the Philippines, China, and Mozambique (See http://www.cmc.coop/). The twenty-plus year presence of Ravenna's CMC in Mozambique and its funding of Cinemovel are relevant precisely in light of the regional history just mentioned, a history which links antifascism and anticolonialism in specific ways and constitutes the complex and contradictory material basis for cultural work, where culture is understood, as Lisa Lowe and David Lloyd have argued, "as a terrain in which politics, culture, and the economic form an inseparable dynamic" (1).
(29) On the music of Modena City Ramblers see Minghelli. In Intorno alla via Emilia, Nasi has also noted "una forza 'disorientante'" in the work of these local artists from Emilia-Romagna: "c'e una forza centripeta che li costringe[va] a radicarsi e a sprofondare nel territorio d'origine, ma anche, contemporaneamente, una specie di spinta centrifuga, che li proietta[va] continuamente al di fuori del confine della citta: archeologi di storia locale, che amano il loro lavoro, ma che provano una irrefrenabile urgenza di andare ad aprire scavi anche in altri luoghi" (6-7).
(30) In Experimental Ethnographies, Russell remarks that "the history of ethnographic film is [...] a history of the production of Otherness" (10).
(31) Telephone interview with Nello Ferrieri. It is worth noting that in addition to being one of the first researchers to focus his attention on peasant cultures and to give dignity and subjectivity to his informants, De Martino pioneered in Italy the use of audiovisual technologies, such as photography and cinema in anthropological research. See "Il folklore progressivo emiliano," first published in Emilia in 1951. He also tackled the complex question of realism in film, even challenging Neorealist Italian directors to dig deeper into the peasant world in their films in order to explore its structure and dynamic, its creative mechanisms, its magic and its rituals in relation to material reality. See his "Realismo e folklore nel cinema italiano" in which De Martino inserts the question of realism within a larger national debate, first published in Filmcritica 19, dicembre 1952. On De Martino's influence on the visual culture of his time see Padiglione and Faeta.
(32) This is not to say that Southern Italy, Mozambique and Emilia-Romagna are positioned in a progress-driven developmental continuum; rather it hints at the co-existence and interdependence, including continuities and discontinuities, of all these experiences and temporalities, tied together by a historically aware project.
(33) In this respect the film is also significant in light of the history of the ethnographic and rural documentary in Italy, which, unlike in other countries, did not enjoy much fortune. See Sparti.
(34) In his interview with Sarah Hill, Celati specifies that the "capacita visionaria," typical of documentary filmmaking (from Rossellini to Herzog), entails "riuscire a servirsi delle immagini filmate come se fossero le visioni di qualcun altro, come se venissero da un fondo di visioni anonimo e collettivo in cui ci si innesta" (216).
San Diego State University
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