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Cinema Junkie Podcast 204: Fascism Through The Lens Of Italian Cinema

Examining Italian films about the rise of fascism in the 1930s, 1940s

Photo credit: Films sans Frontières

Anna Magnani's look says just about all you need to know about her feelings in Roberto Rosselini's "Rome, Open City" (1945).

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Can films help us remember history so that we don't repeat it? That's the question Cinema Junkie poses to Kimber Quinney, professor of history at Cal State San Marcos, and Antonio Iannotta, artistic director of the San Diego Italian Film Festival. We look at the rise of fascism in Italy in the 1920s, 30s and 40s to see what lessons ... Read more →

Aired: October 17, 2020 | Transcript

The writer-philosopher George Santayana is credited with the phrase: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Cinema Junkie takes a look at Italian films that explore the history of fascism in Italy in the 1930s and '40s in order to see if there are any lessons to be learned.

While surfing the Internet one day I came across an article titled "Donald Trump Is No Mussolini But Liberal Democracy Could Still Be In Danger." I was intrigued because it was written in 2016 and the author, Kimber Quinney, teaches history at Cal State University, San Marcos, which is near me.

I have always felt that people pay too little attention to history and what it can teach. But I also feel that pop culture and film specifically can help us remember history in ways that can be more effective because it uses narrative to engage us in the lessons of history. People may resist learning about the dates and historical significance of important treaties or wars but mainstream audiences have embraced narrative films such as "Schindler's List," "Saving Private Ryan," and "12 Years a Slave," which all explore aspects of history through personal stories.

So, as someone who is currently experiencing concerns and anxiety over the future of democracy in the U.S., I wanted to talk to Quinney about what she thought Italy in the 1930s and '40s might be able to teach us today, and what films might help us appreciate those lessons. I have also invited Antonio Iannotta, artistic director of the San Diego Italian Film Festival to weigh in from both a historic and artistic assessment of the films.

Photo credit: Lopert Films

Aldo Piscitello (Umberto Spadaro), a minor government clerk, is forced in 1934 to join the Fascist party in Luigi Zampa's "Anni Difficilli" (1948).

The recommended viewing for this podcast includes: "Rome, Open City" (1945), "Anni Difficilli" (1948), "The Garden of the Finzi-Continis" (1970), "Amarcord" (1973), "Christ Stopped at Eboli" (1979), "Red Land" (2018).

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Beth Accomando
Arts & Culture Reporter

opening quote marksclosing quote marksI cover arts and culture, from Comic-Con to opera, from pop entertainment to fine art, from zombies to Shakespeare. I am interested in going behind the scenes to explore the creative process; seeing how pop culture reflects social issues; and providing a context for art and entertainment.

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