A NEW ITALIAN POLITICAL CINEMA?
A New Italian Political Cinema? is a project supported by an award made by the Arts and Humanities Research Council’s Research Networking Scheme (www.ahrc.ac.uk). It is co-ordinated by the University of Salford, GB, with assistance from: Queen Mary, University of London; Flinders University, Australia; Middlesex University, GB; Sabanci University, Turkey; and the Partito di Alternativa Comunista (PdAC), Italy: www.alternativacomunista.it
The initial phase of the project will focus on the organization of workshops in London (November 27th, 2010), Adelaide, Australia (April 29th, 2011) and Cremona, Italy (July 9th, 2011) and on the construction of a dedicated website – online from November 2010 – to house workshop presentations and other material. The second phase of the project will feature a conference in Manchester, GB (January 2012) and the publication of volumes of working papers, a collection of essays, and a monograph.
In new millennium Italian cinema, political and socio-economic realities underpin many films. The phenomenon of workplace fatalities has been depicted in Mimmo Calopresti’s La fabbrica dei tedeschi (2008) and the marginalization of trade unions and exploitation of workers in Paolo Virzì’s Tutta la vita davanti (2008). Italian state brutality during the G8 protests in Genoa forms the basis of Francesca Comencini’s documentary Carlo Giuliani, ragazzo (2002). The role of political corruption and organized crime in causing environmental disasters has been explored in Matteo Garrone’s Gomorra (2008). The vulnerability of immigrants in Italy has been highlighted in films such as Marco Tullio Giordana’s Quando sei nato non puoi più nasconderti (2005) and Giuseppe Tornatore’s La sconosciuta (2006). Marco Bellocchio’s Buongiorno notte (2003) and Guido Chiesa’s Lavorare con lentezza (2004) are indicative of a cinematic tendency to revisit Italy’s troubled political past. At a macro level, the corrupt, repressive nature of Silvio Berlusconi’s administrations has been analysed in Nanni Moretti’s Il caimano (2006). Italian cinema has also vividly represented the global effects of capitalism in films such as Gianni Amelio’s La stella che non c’è (2006).
Media distortions and untruths have influenced public perceptions of Italy’s socio-economic realities, creating a contradiction with the stark representations of the country’s problems sometimes found in contemporary Italian cinema. However, many film directors are also culpable of sidelining the sources of macro-level social conflict initially highlighted in films, with storylines often narrowing towards personalized solutions for individual characters and towards structured, genre-specific denouements. This leaves them susceptible to the accusation that certain forms of art continue to use symbolic, personalized solutions to smooth over profound social antagonisms.
A New Italian Political Cinema? is a cross-disciplinary project to examine the nature of the politicization of Italian cinema in the 21st century, to establish patterns within filmic representations of socio-economic and political issues in Italy and – by implication – in other Western European countries, and also to identify the factors affecting the attempts of film-makers to explore societal problems in their work.
While some scholars have published essays on cinematic representations of specific socio-economic issues, so far no research programme has systematically analysed this phenomenon. A New Italian Political Cinema? is based on interaction between scholars and professionals working outside academia in fields – such as trade unionism and immigrant welfare – that are directly linked to the issues portrayed in Italian films. The network will combine the expertise of cinema scholars, directors, representatives of the political party Partito di Alternativa Comunista (PdAC), and members of Italy’s immigrant communities, trade unions, and environmental groups. Its rationale is to create a uniquely interactive forum – based on workshops, screenings of documentaries commissioned by the PdAC, a conference, and a website – for a genuinely interdisciplinary range of academics, professionals, and political activists to exchange ideas.
The research project will benefit scholars across the discipline of film studies by identifying patterns in the representation of social, economic and political issues on screen and analysing the factors that facilitate or obstruct the production of film projects that could be classed as ‘radical’. The testimonies of individuals such as members of Italy’s immigrant communities, trade unionists, and political activists during the workshops and conference will give the project’s publications a solid, empirical basis.
A New Italian Political Cinema? will also be relevant to scholars in areas such as politics and media studies, in terms of identifying the nature and frequency with which socio-economic and political questions are articulated within the mainstream medium of Italian cinema, and ascertaining how government policy and influence can impact upon such projects (e.g. via the attribution/withholding of state subsidies, the concession/withholding of finance via public/private television film broadcasting rights). The research will constitute a theoretical advance by linking film studies to tangible, empirical socio-economic and political evidence.
The results of the research project will be disseminated via a dedicated website and via three publication outlets, in order to maximize linguistic access to the research findings:
a) the established University of Salford Working Papers series (refereed publications with individual ISBN numbers) containing conference papers and workshop presentations.
b) a published volume of selected essays in Italian
c) a monograph in English
AIMS AND OBJECTIVES
- Explore the growing significance and implications of cinematic representations of political and socio-economic problems in Italy through academic, interdisciplinary and practical perspectives;
- Evaluate the differences between filmic representations of Italy’s political and socio-economic problems and the testimonies of the research network’s professional participants. Are directors’ depictions of society merely motivated by a desire for fresh appearance forms and stark local colour, or by a radical impulse for change?
- Inaugurate a critical approach towards film scholarship that is based on empirical personal testimony and statistical data, as well as on theoretical argument;
- Revisit the writings of Terry Eagleton and Fredric Jameson and consider whether Italian cinema is a locus where the ideological and political hegemony of dominant socio-economic groups is realistically depicted and challenged. Conversely, have films from the past twenty years merely produced imaginary narrative resolutions to the social antagonisms that they portray?
- Investigate the factors that condition the production and diffusion of radical films in Italy and evaluate their impact on film-makers;
- Establish criteria for the successful creation of radical film-making and for a more sensitized critical reception of politicized film-making;
- Enable young researchers and professionals outside academia to participate in Film Studies and shape its future;
- Foster new perspectives through interdisciplinary, practical, and international collaboration.
The co-ordinator of A New Italian Political Cinema? is Dr William Hope (Salford). He can be contacted at: W.Hope@salford.ac.uk