#22 – United Artists for Italy, a Campaign beyond a Movie
#22 – United Artists for Italy, a Campaign beyond a Movie
For a few days, from October 13 to 23, thanks to Rome Film Festival, the Italian capital city will happen to be a little bit less far from other big film cities, such as Los Angeles or London. It’s about small signs we’re talking about, more will be added in an article concerning this 11th edition to come but, starting from this year, the second one under the direction of Antonio Monda, we’re up to taste a new attention to diversity and particularly to the black, migrant and multicultural soul of cinema. A proof of this new opening is up to come on Friday 14, 11 AM, at Casa del Cinema, when an unprecedented event will take place in the history of Italian film and TV. Gathered by Black Italian filmmaker Fred Kuwornu (his father is a Ghana-born surgeon, his mother a Bolognese woman), the audience of Rome Film Festival will see parading for the very first time so many filmmakers, mostly performers, Italian-born or based but with a migrant origin, who in the recent years have come to appear in the cast of many feature “made in Italy” films, short and TV series: they will be there to attend the premiere of documentary Blaxploitalian – 100 Anni di afrostorie nel cinema italiano, cost over two years of preparation, and the launch of the campaign “United Artists for Italy”.
It will be an important occasion to give some thought to what is still the dominant image of blacks and immigrants in Italian film and TV series and on the real possibilities in the labour market available to actors and actresses often got through the best film and theater schools but forced to accept, except some rare cases we analyzed sometimes in this blog too, a routine of supporting roles, frequently filtered by ominous clichés and generalizing tropes due to a chip sociology of migration. The clip promoting the campaign, out in these days, is populated by so many performers you may have come to know through these pages, from veteran Jonis Bascir and Salvatore Marino to newcomer Tezeta Abraham and Tamara Pizzoli. So clear this piece, fostering concepts and messages borrowed from the relevant speech pronounced by Idris Elba on January 18 at the British Parliament, when talking about diversity, he said accordingly: «Diversity in the modern world is more than just skin colour. It’s gender, age, disability, sexual orientation, social background, and – most important of all, as far as I’m concerned – diversity of thought».
In the latest weeks, we tested concretely the determination, after so many decades of harsh debates, with which United States and United Kingdom particularly are moving to invest on diversity. I’m referring to the turn imposed to the conservative tradition of Academy of Arts and Sciences by President Cheryl Boone Isaacs, through the invitation to join the Academy sent to 683 new members, so many of which black, Hispanic or expression of diversity, from directors such as Melvin Van Peebles, Julie Dash, Haile Gerima, Souleymane Cissé, Mahamat Saleh Haroun, Abdellatif Kechiche, Ryan Coogler, Amma Asante to beloved performers such as Idris Elba, John Boyega, Ice Cube, Damon and Marlon Wayans, Dennis Haysbert, Eva Mendes, Freida Pinto. On the small screen, ABC is up to train again new talents of color also in TV series authors, thanks to specific diversity programs, and to give to them episodes of its main TV series, while Independent Television Service (ITVS) is responding with a new Diverse Development Fund, aimed to implement new programs of different format, created by authors of color. On the other shore of the Atlantic Ocean, the British Film Institute launched this summer Black Star, the biggest initiative never created to celebrate the black creativity in cinema until today, with an entire season, out this autumn, dedicated to the release of new films, to the restoration of classic masterpieces from the past, and a myriad of popular and deepening events, starting from London Film Festival, opened officially with the world premiere of Amma Asante’s A United Kingdom, a love and apartheid history inspired to real events, taking place in 1940s, between a Botswana Prince, at that time Bechuanaland (David Oyelowo) and a young British clerk (Rosamunda Pike).
The launch of Blaxploitalian, to sketch a map on the situation of Black Italian filmmakers, revisiting various moments when blackness became an ingredient over the film genres in the Italian production, from historical epics, to fascist colonial cinema, through sword-and-sandal, erotic exotic exploitation to action movie of the 1980s, will be of great use to show clearly also for the audience less attentive to this phenomenon, how much the Black performers gave in years to Italian film and TV industry, ending up sacrificed in stereotyped roles and mostly damned to the oblivion. Unfortunately, the complicated gestation period of the project of law n. 2287 on film, recently approved at the Senate, stressed alarming cultural delays at all levels of the sector and outside the industry, from the insiders to the very authors of the law. Our hope is that this documentary and this campaign created by Kuwornu, releasing here his third documentary after Inside Buffalo (on the death toll paid by Black American soldiers in the liberation of Italy in the Second World War) and 18 Ius Soli (on the right battle for a new law on citizenship fought by second generation immigrants), may kick-start that process of consciousness that so far was reserved to limited segments of the public opinion.
Symbolic and material rights are always tied up together, not only when filmmakers are concerned but also when it comes to “Italiani Senza Cittadinanza” (Italians Without Citizenship), as the day before, Wednesday 13 October at 3 PM, will try to highlight many young people of migrant origins, born or raised in Italy, ready to take again to the streets in various cities to cry over that the new law on citizenship can’t wait no more and must be approved before the constitutional referendum to come in December. Members of the Italian parliament are called upon to set up the time on the Italy of today, providing it with laws appropriate to run the complexity of present time and of future scenarios, refusing the sirens of a populism soaked in openly racist and discriminatory moods, whether to be concerned is film and audiovisual sector or the access to nationality.
Contributors: Leonardo De Franceschi
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