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Fascism Through The Lens Of Italian Cinema

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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 we might be able to learn that might apply to the U.S. right now. We discuss films such as "Rome, Open City," "Anni Difficilli," "The Garden of the Finzi-Continis," and "Christ Stopped at Eboli."

Speaker 1: 00:00 Excuse me. Oh, I'm sorry. I thought you were my husband. You must be Sergeant angel. Yes, I am. I enjoy scooper. I trust you had a pleasant trip. She just, I beg your pardon system of government characterized by extreme dictatorship. So going across, Oh, I see. It's fascism fascism. Wonderful.

Speaker 2: 00:23 I know today's show is dedicated to a serious topic, but I have to confess that ever since hot fuzz came out, this is what first comes to mind. When I hear the word fascist I'm Beth, a Mondo and welcome to listener supported KPBS Sinema junkie podcast.

Speaker 1: 00:51 [inaudible]

Speaker 2: 00:51 So today's podcast stems in part from seeing a survey that came out last month, stating that two thirds of young American adults don't know that 6 million Jews were killed during the Holocaust. Plus a quarter of respondents, believe that the Holocaust was either a myth or had been exaggerated. The survey was conducted by the conference on Jewish material claims against Germany or the claims conference. So this got me thinking about that old adage. Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. During subsequent surfing on the internet that day, I also came across an article entitled Donald Trump has no Mussolini, but liberal democracy could still be in danger. I was intrigued by that title and by the fact that it was written in 2016 and the author Kimber Quinny teaches history at Cal state university, San Marcos, which is near me. So today Sinema junkie offers a history lesson and takes a look at Italian films that explore fascism in Italy, in the 1920s, thirties, and forties, in order to see if there are any lessons to be learned, I've always felt that people paid too little attention to history and what it can teach us.

Speaker 2: 02:00 But I also feel that pop culture and film specifically can help us discover history in ways that can be effective because they use narrative to engage us. People may resist learning about the dates and historical significance of important treaties or Wars, but mainstream audiences have embraced films, such as judgment at Nuremberg Schindler's list and 12 years of slave, all of which expose us to aspects of history through very personal stories. So as someone who's currently experiencing concerns and anxiety over the future of democracy in the U S I wanted to talk to Quinnie about what she thought Italy in the 1930s and forties might be able to teach us today and what films might help us appreciate those lessons. I've also invited Antonio in Nota artistic director of the San Diego Italian film festival to weigh in on both the historic and artistic assessment of the films. I need to take one quick break, and then I'll be back with my interview with Kimber Quinny from Cal state San Marcos.

Speaker 3: 03:10 I like to look at movies from a point of view where you put them into a context that makes them a little more interesting. So I know that usually I have people on cinema junkie who are film experts or filmmakers, but today I am interested in having a historian, a professor of history at Cal state San Marcos, to talk about Italian films that reflect a certain period of time when fascism was rising in Italy. So Kimber, before we start talking about films, I want people to understand what your particular field of study is.

Speaker 4: 03:48 Sure. Thanks. Thank you, Beth. Thanks for engaging this morning in this conversation, I'm looking very much looking forward to sharing some of my ideas with you. Uh, I am assistant professor of history at Cal state San Marcos, and my field is the history of us foreign relations. So I'm very interested in the ways in which the United States relates to the rest of the world. Obviously at the moment, there's a lot to talk about in that regard, but as an historian, of course, looking at the trajectory of American foreign relations from the start I teach about the history of the presidency as well. So I count myself as a political historian, but my focus is U S Italian relations. That's my doctoral research. And I'm particularly interested in the ways in which Italians resisted fascism, so the resistance movement, but also I listened very carefully to the voices of Italian refugees who were forced to flee fascism. Uh, many of whom came to the United States and, and wrote a lot about the Italian fascist experience. So, so that's my background.

Speaker 3: 04:45 And the reason I came across your name and wanted to invite you on the show is that I found an article on the internet that you had written in 2016, and it was titled Donald Trump is no Mussolini, but liberal democracy could still be in danger. And that really intrigued me. So, first of all, what prompted you to write that article

Speaker 4: 05:03 2016 seems like a long time ago now for all of that stuff. Thanks for asking about it. Let me just point out first and foremost, an as an a story. And I, I'm hesitant to use the word fascism to describe contemporary politics either globally or in the United States. And, and that's because in my mind, the Italian fascism originated in Italy in a specific place in a specific time, 1922. And what became Mussolini's version of fascism was very different to Hitler's version of Nazi-ism. And in my mind to the dictatorial regimes that we're seeing in the 21st century. So I want to be really Frank about that part of it. Um, the scholars that I look at and that I quote in the article, uh, max schooly and [inaudible] warned Americans to be aware of the potential threat of fascism and the conditions that give rise to it. And that sort of more systemic perspective, uh, I think, uh, is relevant. But I also, as I point out in the article, I also want to learn from history obviously, and from the Italian case in particular. And there are some trends in Italy, in the 1920s that gave rise to fascism that resonate. And that's, that's what I focus on in the article.

Speaker 3: 06:13 And now we are four years later facing another election. And I'm just wondering how you feel right now, having written that article and kind of referencing history. And what do you see that maybe we need to be kind of looking at?

Speaker 4: 06:29 Sadly, I think the conditions that the Italians, uh, at the time, the 1930s warned about, um, are, are similar to those that we're experiencing, uh, in 2020. And in particular, one of the messages that the refugee scholars brought with regard to the Italian experience was that, uh, fascism thrives in chaos, fascism thrives in conflict. And so ultimately in the Italian case there, the breaking down of the national community came, uh, in pieces, but resulted in, in the harassment of Italian citizens and in a sense of panic and fear among Italians and, and they were reduced to two craving stability. In other words, the conflict and the divisions became so deep and experienced at such an individual level that ultimately Italians craved, what would to school, he calls quote the fascist piece. And I fear, uh, uh, we're living in this environment where we're feeling bombarded and unsettled and insecurities and divisions are, are increasing daily.

Speaker 4: 07:40 And I fear that that kind of burden, uh, is, is bad for democracy. Italian fascism was not caused by a coup or revolution. And it wasn't as, as some of the scholars that I study, the refugee scholars, I study it, it wasn't reactionary in any regard whatsoever. In fact, it really came into being through bureaucracy through, through democratic legislation that existed in the state in Italy. And so it was implemented through democratic structures. And in fact, the fascist state leveraged laws and took advantage of democracy and Italy in order to push forward a very illiberal undemocratic regime. So Mussolini used democratic tools to empty the nation of democratic goals. And I think that's important to be reminded that the system in which any given ideology is functioning is really important for us to pay attention to.

Speaker 3: 08:38 So one of the refugees that you studied or whose work came up is Max's Scully, and you sent me some notes you had, and he had a really interesting quote, I thought about what he described as the fascist technique. And I wonder if you can elaborate on that. I've been reading a lot Maxim school he's writing.

Speaker 4: 08:56 He was very prolific in his writing. So it's a gift to historians when the voices of those who experience whatever we're looking at left, tell us a lot about it. And so, um, thank you for acknowledging that schooly, uh, Scalia was a Jewish Italian refugee, um, and he describes this technique of intentionally and strategically creating constant social unrest, endless political insecurity. And, and he describes it as quote, the cost of politics. What, what he suggests is that the fascist regime was very, uh, focused in its efforts to break down a sense of national community. And the result is, was panicked individuals feeling harassed, feeling burdened by the divisions between and among them. And ultimately according to a school Italians were reduced to being in conflict. And as a consequence, this cost the cost of politics as he describes, it reached an an unendurable level and ultimately Italians were ready to accept what Sculley called the quote fascist piece to just have stability, to accept mousseline these regulations, those who did accept them, obviously a Scalia and other anti-fascist were forced to flee, but those who stayed in Italy, just, just crave stability, political stability. Ultimately,

Speaker 3: 10:20 Can you talk a little bit about the role that the press played in all this and in the lead up to fascism in Italy, Mussolini was

Speaker 4: 10:28 Journalists. So what's interesting about Muslim's background is that he was very clever and well well versed at using the press to his advantage. And that's not coincidentally, I think in the way in which he managed to do that, authoritarian regimes thrive on falsehoods and conspiracy theories. And we witnessed this in the Italian case. So not only was the press censored, and of course the fascist regime worked very hard to get certain messages out to the Italian people, but it was also skewed. It was also exaggerated. It was also manipulated to create, again, as a school, you would call it the cost or the burden of politics that were multiplied by the messages that the Italian fascist regime put out to the Italian people. Conspiracy theories are a really interesting aspect of fascism. And obviously not only in the Italian case, but as we know, only too well in the case of German, not Susan. And so, again, it's, it's the ways in which, uh, fascism in Italy attempted to break down democracy, hollowed out from the inside, out using democratic regimes and legislation, and not in an illegal way, but finding ways to eliminate democracy piece by piece and the press was a tool for doing that.

Speaker 3: 11:51 One of the things that, uh, Sculley also

Speaker 4: 11:54 Addressed was this notion of that democracy is something that needs to be protected and people need to understand kind of how it works in order to keep it going. It seems so obvious that really the, the necessity to protect and strengthen democracy against fascism, that seems so straight forward, but it's another way of looking at the problem. And so what a school it came to the United States, he, he wrote a lot to warn Americans about the potential vulnerability of even American democracy to fascist tendencies. He toured in the 1930s with Dorothy Thompson around the nation, talking about this very phenomenon that the most formidable enemy to fascism, according to a scolding and others was in fact, a strong democracy. And so he spent a lot of time and effort in his writing public writing to remind Americans that we needed to learn more about democracy and what makes it work in order to fight potential threats, such as fascism as a history professor.

Speaker 4: 12:53 I'm sure you constantly find yourself in the situation of saying like, why can't people learn from history? Why can't we remember history? So what would be a key point looking back at Italy in the 1930s, that you would want to point out to people and say like, Hey, this is something maybe you want to think about now, fascism in Italy did not occur in an international vacuum. And, and this seems we need reminding of this, that there was a goalable environment. The conditions that gave rise to Italian fascism were not limited to the state. Fascism had a direct relationship to political, economic and social conditions. And those were insecurities, economic crises, deep seated divisions politically after the first world war. And so for me, when I remind my students as an historian, I want to remind them that historical conditions can help us appreciate the environment that was created than these conditions that converged to put democracy at risk. And so if we can look not only at strengthening our democratic institutions and voting, when my students to, you know, democracy is a bourbon to vote, but really take a hard look at some of the conditions that are existing globally that are giving rise to an erosion of, of these democratic principles. And yes, we are going to talk about some Italian films that reflect what was going on in Italy at the time, and also films from much later that looked back on this, let's start with Roberto Rossellini's Rome open city. This came in 1945

Speaker 5: 14:39 [inaudible]

Speaker 4: 14:40 Italy's film industry had gone through a real difficult period and had to kind of rebuild itself, uh, after the war. And this is when we have neorealism coming up, but this film in

Speaker 3: 14:52 Particular deals with what it would have felt like to be in Rome, uh, in that time.

Speaker 4: 15:00 Uh, yes, and that's of course, you know, classic near realist perspective. And I'm one of the, for me, in my mind, the value of the film is not so much in the narrative, but in the conditions under which the script was developed in the film was made, as you've just described it. The fact, I, I think it brings as others have observed, I'm not alone in this regard, brings a set a real sense of the experience of what it would have been like in 19 filmed in 1944, but what it would, what it was like. And so that reality or that Neo realistic perspective is really valuable, I think for us, but also because I studied the American liberation of Italy and in August, 1943, and, and it was complicated, right? So the, the Americans go in, they, they liberate Italy and I'm putting literally, he can't see, he put liberate in quotes, but the complicated reality that follows Rome, open city describes these interwoven stories of everyday Italians, trying to struggle under fascist rule. And then when liberation comes, they have different struggles to face. So what I really appreciate about the film is the complexity and the complexity and human behavior in this transition from living having lived under fascism and then German occupation, and then American liberation and, and the relationships that that develop as a consequence.

Speaker 3: 16:17 What kind of things did you see in that film that kind of reflected some of what you were reading from these refugees that you were studying through your history?

Speaker 4: 16:27 The divisions in Italy preceded world war II, and I think have a lot to do with the rise of fascism. So the conditions in Italy, self, I think what the film brings forward, but also the underground resistance groups of world war II, really Italians had to either resist and fight back or flee. And, and in the case of the refugees I studied, that was the choice that they were forced to make. And so I think it's this notion that people, no matter if they're, you know, when backed into a quarter, people behave differently depending on our individual circumstances. And the film really brings this aspect of human behavior to light

Speaker 3: 17:07 Well, Rome open city deals with Italy during the war, but there's a film, hopefully I'm pronouncing it right. Ani facili made in 1948 by Luigi ZAPA. And he has a tendency to look at Italy before the war. So things leading into it. And what about that time period interests you

Speaker 4: 17:28 Only the futility, that's how we pronounce that title. And the film was made in 1948, as you point out again, maybe because of my historical perspective, what I really appreciate about the films objective, the director's objective is to try to get to the origin of fascism to begin. And so part of understanding where we are is understanding where we have been. And I think the film really works hard to unravel some of the, as I suggested earlier, the divisions that existed in Italy, there were major divisions between the North and the South. The Southern part of Italy was notoriously undereducated, impoverished, not industrialized. And so the northerners in Italy looked down on the southerners and that division, those divisions politically, economically, and socially, and culturally were divisions that Mussolini was able to shoot to take advantage of. And I think the film does a good job of looking at those, um, that aspect of Italian life and history is all about choices and people make choices, right? So it's about understanding why people make the choices they make. Um, but I also appreciate that, that it takes more effort to go back. We're already bombarded and dealing with everything that's coming at us from every direction in the moment. And so I'm sort of pausing to look at history, takes diligence. It sort of takes a different kind of rationale and not everyone is prepared or wanting willing to do that. I appreciate why. And do you feel

Speaker 3: 18:55 That film has, uh, maybe has more potential to help people remember history because it presents it in a compelling narrative structure and that may be, this is one way to help kind of keep history alive.

Speaker 4: 19:11 Yes, most definitely. We, you know, there's a field in history, film history, and even those of us who don't call ourselves film historians will use film frequently in the classroom for the reasons you're describing. And also to not really the, the, the story that the director, uh, brings brings to life or a film is based on a memoir or a novel. So the novelists may have already sort of laid out the narrative, but also historians look at the journey itself or production of the film, or in the case of Romo consider, you may be aware of Beth that the path to the U S premiere was also very interesting, historically, the film premiered in New York and in the first part of 1946, but the American release was censored. It resulted in a cut of about 15 minutes. Um, there was sort of controversy about the films. So historians look not only and, and want to share films and discuss them. Um, not only because of the stories that are visually told, but also the history of the filmmaking itself and how, how it came to be

Speaker 3: 20:14 Another film, which was made from a, which was made from a greater historical perspective. 1979 is Christ stopped at a BOLI by Francisco Rossi. And what was it about this film that intrigued you from a historical context?

Speaker 4: 20:28 This film is based on a memoir by Carlo lovey lovey published a novel of the same book, rather of the same title in 1945. Carla lovey was forced into exile because of his antifascist leanings from, so from 1935 to 36, he traveled to a remote, more remote part of Italy. And this is what he describes in his book and what is portrayed in the film. So the film captures as lovey described the deep divisions in Italy that I had referenced earlier, a North versus South industrial versus peasant wealthy versus impoverished. And these conditions are the conditions under which fast fascism thrives. And there's no question about it and love the, and the character in the film come to terms with the different side or different sides of Italy. And, and therefore start to appreciate not in a positive way, but start to understand how in fact fascism came to be in Italy.

Speaker 4: 21:30 And so this is a film that I, I recommend for my students at won a BAFTA in 1983, um, and, and opens our eyes to some of the conditions that gave rise to Italian. Fascism is lovey to describe them. Now, I don't know how reliable a source Wikipedia is, but I did find that, uh, Rossi's father was a cartoonist who had been reprimanded for satirical drawings of muscle Leni, which I find interesting. That is, it is, that's what I mean by looking not only at the films themselves, but the history of the filmmakers. And yeah, I couldn't agree more. It's now another film from the 1970s in which Italian filmmakers look back on this period of, uh, the war and what led up to it is, uh, Victoria to CICA is the garden of Kinsey continued. This one people may be well aware of because it was nominated for an Oscar. And, um, got a, a decent release here in the U S and this is about Jewish persecution in the 1930s. I want to remind your listeners that the Jewish Italian experience really, we don't talk enough about that. Frankly, we obviously discuss a lot the Jewish German experience and other parts of Europe, Eastern Europe, as well, but Jewish families were directly impacted by fascism

Speaker 5: 23:05 [inaudible]

Speaker 4: 23:06 In a very cynical way, shows how wealth was a factor that plays into those who were protected in some ways from fascism. So the fiancee continues or a Jewish Italian family who are very wealthy and they provide shelter from, for a while or other Jewish Italians from Mussolini's antisemitic policies. So, so the filmmakers really pointing to a couple of different things. One is the threat to Jewish Italians, which is important for us to be reminded of by fascism, but also this notion that wealth and privilege seemed to buffer from some of these harsh realities of the regime by 1943, in the film, the film shows that all of the young Jewish youth who had been coming to this state of the fence, he continues to play tennis or whatever they were doing are either arrested or are fighting in the war or have been drawn in. And so, and so the buffer that I described could only last for so long, and I, and I filmed the film really demonstrates this way.

Speaker 3: 24:07 So the sense of looking back on history continues, there's a 2018 film called red land, which looks back to Italy in 1943. How do you look at this in the sense of how history persists for Italian filmmakers and how they continue to revisit it? What do you see in the way they're revisiting it? Are they finding new aspects to the stories from that time? How does a historian do kind of read these more recent films

Speaker 4: 24:35 And red land in particular is a good example of a young director who is looking at the more complicated or complex aspects of Italian fascism. In this particular film, the focus is on a different region of Italy that has maybe not received as much attention as it should read along the Italian Yugoslav border. And the experience that's showed in the film is that it's, can't predict how people are going to respond. And so I think in the case of red land and more recent films about Italian fascism, like any nation Italians are still reconciling that history. It takes a long time, it's a painful process. And, and, and also to more and more aspects of the history become revealed. And then another generation has to manage that, right? So, so it doesn't just belong to the generation of Italians who lived in fascism. It belongs to contemporary Italians right now, and how, how they see their nation and how that history has informed where they are today. So the film does a good job of revealing that in my view, and

Speaker 3: 25:42 Kind of to wrap up, what would you kind of tell people in terms of how to view history? I mean, should we kind of go out of our way to find parallels that existed in the past and how should we kind of read that stuff? Because there do seem to be similarities, but what is it that we should kind of be looking to, and, and what is it that maybe, uh, obscures what the real issues are?

Speaker 4: 26:10 Yeah, no, I, I see what you're asking and I, and I, I would be pretending if I were to say that, you know, the story is do our best to be as objective as possible. We bring our biases in and we, I mean, by objective, you know, we can't possibly be objective entirely. So I, I want to acknowledge that, but there is, there is something called motivated reasoning. I don't know if you've heard that phrase or emotional reasoning and historians work really hard to avoid that. So the concept of motivated or emotional reasoning is that we look for information, that's going to confirm a bias we have, or we're going to give us evidence for a particular outcome that we've already decided is the right outcome. And, and the work of historians is to interrupt, motivated reasoning or emotional reasoning. Because we look at the documents, we look at the people who lived at the time who left a record for us.

Speaker 4: 27:01 And sometimes that can be an artifact, a thing, but most, most, mostly it's it's, it's written or media in some sort of way. And we look at those documents, those voices that are recorded, and we really genuinely do our best to appreciate trying to understand the experience of the people who lived at the time. And so we have to set aside our own biases. We have to set aside our emotional attachments if we really want to do good history and that approach to films or in any, any other, um, um, documents that we're looking at is, is I think valuable for anybody in historians and non historians of life.

Speaker 3: 27:41 So we've talked about max Scully, who is this refugee, who, after speaking to you about him and reading some of the quotes you sent me, I would love to see a film about him.

Speaker 4: 27:53 Yes,

Speaker 3: 27:54 That would be amazing. But one of the, the other quotes that I just wanted to mention before we wrap up is he talked about how democratic governments must be strong governments and that people kind of need to be aware of protecting that.

Speaker 4: 28:11 Yeah. So, so, um, what if a school is thanks for, thanks for mentioning max scholia again, he's kind of, um, I spend a lot of time with him if you, if you know what I mean. And so I really want his, I want more people to be aware of what he said. So thanks back, uh, schooling was frustrated with, with many of the ways, the message, the writings of antifascists who tended to see Italian fascism in a vacuum who tended to be so focused on what happened in Italy, that they didn't see that those conditions that gave rise to a fascist middle league existed internationally. And so a lot of what he wrote about was the ways in which democracy, anywhere in the world, including the United States was vulnerable to fascist tendencies. But here's the thing. He was also very careful to point out that the most formal, the strongest enemy to fascism was a strong democracy. And so a lot of his writings reminded Americans to be more familiar with democratic institutions, to do what we can as Americans to promote those institutions, to protect those institutions and to participate in democracy. And so it seems so obvious, but, uh, the Italian experience really shows us that another way of looking at the problem of fascism is to do whatever we can to defend democracy. All right. Well,

Speaker 3: 29:34 I want to thank you very much for taking some time to talk about Italy and Italian films. And I'm going to leave you with the task of thinking about making a script for Max's school.

Speaker 6: 29:49 I appreciate that. I'm, I'm inspired. You inspire me, Beth. I might have to wait until, you know, the semester is over here, but yeah. Thank you so much. It's been a pleasure. I really have enjoyed this chatting with you today. Thank you. [inaudible]

Speaker 3: 30:10 That was Kimber Quinny who teaches history at Cal state San Marcos. Now I speak with Antonio Iannotta artistic director of the San Diego Italian film festival Antonio. I interviewed Kimber Quinney from Cal state San Marcos, and we talked about an article that she had written in 2016, and we also decided to discuss some films from Italy that deal with not just the time during fascism, but also the years leading up to it. And I just wanted to get your input also because you are the artistic director here of the San Diego Italian film festival. But I want to start with one film that, uh, is just a remarkable film all around. And that's Rome open city

Speaker 6: 31:08 [inaudible] is the starting point, even though we can also talk about that about the new realism, the starting point with a new wave of, uh, not just Italian movies, but movies that deal with reality, what's going on in our lives. What's going on in the life of Italians during world war two and during the last year and a half, when Rome was occupied by the Nazis, along with the fascist, after the peace with the allies after September the eighth, 1943. So Roberto Rossellini that let's not forget the, the several movies during fascism finally had the opportunity to do something that you really wanted to. That was a movie that could move the conscious of an entire nation that was dealing with a dictatorship, was dealing with very hard times and wanted to change and wanted to react and wanted to resist. So of course it's a very incredible and beautiful movie that makes up a different type of techniques. It's a movie with a very important script, even though we're in the street of Rome, we cannot, uh, we couldn't be in the studio so that at that time were used by the Americans, uh, as, as, as, uh, a big, uh, you know, uh, facility, uh, for logistics. So, you know, uh, Rosellini also use professional actors and also people from the streets, um, very realistic stories based on reality, but also a very moving soundtrack [inaudible].

Speaker 6: 33:25 So we have the old developments that play together to create a movie that really needs dealing on what's going on right now at that moment in Italian, in Italy and with the, uh, Italian lives at the moment, you know, it was, uh, it was the reaction to all the entertainment movies, the so-called, the white telephone movies during fascism, and, you know, you and I share a big passion with the inter entertainment and also genre movies, because we believe that, you know, that through genre, we can also tell political stories and stories that are so meaningful and important. Uh, I don't know, star Wars is another movie about resistance if you want, but at that time, 1945, the war was just over. It was really important to try to take a picture at the reality. And in fact, in that movie, uh, we can also see, you know, Rome bomb open city means we cannot touch Rome because it's such an important historical and art city that we should have Bomba Rome. That that is the meaning of open city of one of the meanings, but in fact, Rome was born. And so, you know, it's also an extraordinary document document, uh, about that particular period of time. So for sure, uh, in, in, in, in movies and movies that deal with fascism and the deal with the, uh, parties and resistance, we always should start from room open city.

Speaker 3: 35:12 Now we're all open city deals with Italy during the war and just right after, but a director, Luigi ZAPA did a couple of films that looked back to the twenties and thirties to kind of see what kind of an environment led to the rise of fascism. So what do his films kind of tell us about this time in history? Yeah, that is also very,

Speaker 6: 35:38 Very important, especially with the Annie defeat. Really. I, I don't know if there is an international title, hard, the difficult years deals exactly with the moment that is very, very important. That is 1922. That is the beginning of, uh, of the power by Benito Mussolini and the, and the, and the fascism let's be clear and let's remind ourselves and everybody that, that grab of power legal, huh? The King of Italy asked Mussolini to create a new government and Mussolini said, Oh, thank you very much. I'm going to do it. And then very quickly step by step in a democratic fashion, if you want. He transformed, you know, the kingdom of Italy in a dictatorship that, that is really important to understand because, uh, that process from legality to in illegality or from a democratic process into a fascist dictatorship process, well, it's very admired by Hitler.

Speaker 6: 36:54 And in fact that Hitler did the same 10 years after he won the election. He created the government and then it runs form the government with violence in the same way that Mussolini did into a dictatorship. Why this is important, it's important because that reflects on the everyday life. So of the characters in the movie by damper, these characters need to do need to make a choice. If I don't sign, uh, you know, to belong to the party, I'm going to lose my job. If I lose my job, my family is going to stop. So what I'm going to do, these are the difficult choices, but what is really more relevant, uh, for, for us today is to see that authoritarian governments really can start very democratic process. We shouldn't, we shouldn't forget. Uh huh. We tend to remember yes, Mussolini and Hitler. They were dictators. They, they became dictators. It's different. It was not the coop. It was illegal process. And also the legal law transforming the transformation of the nation in addicts, a it was a gradual process. So these movies are very relevant today, uh, because you know, also our democracy, he's in danger and we see that with so many signs and we always need to remind ourselves that we need to fight the same fights that those characters [inaudible] had to fight.

Speaker 3: 38:46 And how do you think films are able to kind of remind us of this history in a way that can make it kind of relevant to an, to a, a generation that's coming years after these events have happened?

Speaker 6: 39:04 I think through the power of storytelling, uh, we, we, we, don't probably as a species, I don't know. We don't like, uh, to, to, to hope, to clean, gone bad memories. We like to forget. We like to move on. We like to deny, uh, think let's think about what's going on with the pandemic, uh, here in the United States, in Italy, we are now right now in this precise moment, we're dealing with the second way Eva. And, and we just, we forgot what happened in March and April. So I think it's the same process. So the power of stories, the power of storytelling, the fact that through a story, not just through, uh, let me remind you what happened during the fast shoes know through the story and the empathy of the characters and their lives. We can connect emotionally and then rationally on what happened.

Speaker 6: 40:10 This was my way, my personal way. I love his story, but I learned how to log history through movies. I first loved movies. I first loved stories. And then I went back and tried to understand more. But, uh, today still the story of vanity featurely, it's very simple to follow and to create an emotional bond with it, the same with the Rome open city, the same, the same with the great movies. And so, yes, I think it's, it's really, really important. I, I, every time I show these movies with my students, you know, teenagers here in San Diego that at first day they think I'm professor, I don't know what you're talking about, but then when we watch the movie together, then we know, and then I know into their eyes, into their hearts that they care because these are powerful stories that are about humanity. And so, yeah, I think there is a, a very strong role that movies can play even today.

Speaker 3: 41:20 Now these first two films we talked about were made in the forties, but what went on in Italy, in the thirties and the forties is still something that filmmakers decades later were fascinated by. So we a film like the garden

Speaker 7: 41:34 Of Fensy Contini, which was made in the 19 seven, in 1970, which looks back to the 1930s in Jewish persecution.

Speaker 6: 41:43 And yeah, especially during the seventies, I think that the seventies is a decade where we have so many movies dealing with, uh, stories that are important about, uh, about the fascism. Why, because, you know, fascism that point years of dictatorship is still an open wound for talents. It's where we really started as a modern country just after world war two. And just after the fascist, you know, dictatorship fell finally fed. We became a Republic. We were, we were a monarchy before. And so, you know, we became a Republic on the ashes of, of that tragedy. So to reflect above that, uh, it's still relevant today, especially in the seventies, when in the seventies, because the seventies were ERs very, very hard year as well, very difficult year. So, uh, they, they are known as the years have led the [inaudible], there were several, a terrorist organization.

Speaker 6: 42:56 So in the, in the country operating in the country, and again, these may ring a bell for this country. The United States were also were also, there are terrorist organization within the country trying to, you know, to, to, to, to, to, to subvert the establishment. And so during those years, the seventies, we had a band of incredible movies reflecting on that open wound. One of these is yes, [inaudible] by, by the Seca, uh, that, that is especially about a Jewish family and how, uh, and how, you know, they were treated during, during fascism. But we also have, we also have a Christ stop their bully. Another of the movies that are very political by [inaudible] based on the masterpiece of [inaudible]. And also, we also have, we also have a special day by [inaudible] with the [inaudible] and also [inaudible] by Federico Fellini is 1973 that reflects on his childhood,

Speaker 7: 44:20 The 1930s [inaudible]

Speaker 6: 44:56 I can hear either bells ringing in our, in our years, huh. Because, uh, the, the ignorance and the stupidity of a certain type of postures and gestures and policies that the in the moment can be treated very seriously with, you know, certain, this dancer and, uh, Fellini does that beautifully. It's just, you know, a bunch of idiots and we can laugh, you know, our, you know, our heart off because, you know, it's really ridiculous, but we need to have that amount of time to do that. And also the craft man of an artist, like a Fitbit. But yes, I think the seventies are, you know, a very interesting period of time where we can see so many movies dealing with our mother trauma. That was how we are allowed to have a Benito Mussolini as our dictator for 20 years. Uh, and we shouldn't stop asking this question.

Speaker 7: 46:11 And do you feel that there's any film that really kind of gets to the heart of that question that finds some kind of answer to how that happened?

Speaker 6: 46:23 Uh it's it's, it's a difficult question. I wouldn't pick one movie. I would pick a series of movies that can frame the situation from different angles. So for example, a special day that I mentioned before is a very, it's a very dramatic, serious movie rooted in a very specific, uh, moment of our history. The special day of the title is exactly may the third, 1938, when Hitler came to Rome and Mussolini, and the whole country had to, you know, to, to, to, to, to Revere, uh, the, the, the, the man. And so why the big history is happening also a very personal, intimate story unfolds. We are in these, uh, pallets or in this building in Roma where Sophia, Loren portrays this very unglamorous character that she said, or a fascist guy, uh, a wife and a mother of now I can remember six or seven children.

Speaker 6: 47:37 So she, as a woman, she, she she's fitting the, you know, the role that she needs to fake wife and mother and housewife. She can be anything else. And in that day, in a few hours, if French shipper, it's a kind of relationship unfolds, we, these gay liberal radio broadcaster played by [inaudible] and [inaudible] is trying to show Sophia Loren, that she's more than that. She's more than a devout mother of a fascist, the, you know, kids and a wife that has to make love to them, to, to his husband, anytime he wants. She's more than that. And so they try to understand each other. And so why the big East story is happening. This very important story of two human beings that are trying to understand each other and themselves much better is also happening. And so I think, you know, that especial days, one of my favorite movies, uh, that deal with, uh, fascism, because you really understand that that is always about your own choices.

Speaker 6: 49:01 You, if you, if you, um, understand that that is about yourself, that that what's happening at the political level is always about, you know, what can happen in your personal life? Well, you understand that you need to make a choice. You understand that you need to stand up for something, either you go and vote, or you say to your husband enough, I don't want to have another child. I want to have some time for myself. And so, you know, this is really, really important to understand the relationship between the big picture that sometimes he seems so far away from us and our intimate life, that is always more important, right? So we think that our own choices are more important. Yes, they are, but in relationship on what's going on in the big picture. And so, you know, the [inaudible] that by the way, was a collaborator and a very, very close friend of Federico Fellini is real, um, probably a perfect to start, you know, a conversation or a series of movies about, uh, uh, about Italy in that period of time.

Speaker 3: 50:16 Now there's a film from 2018 called red land, which is a young filmmaker. And I believe you also have a film that you're thinking of, of scheduling for the Italian film festival that is a younger director. What are these younger directors looking back on this time finding, are they seeing things with different eyes and, and uncovering different themes or different perspectives?

Speaker 6: 50:38 I believe that there are so many stories that need to be, uh, that they want to tell and need to be told. And these young directors, uh, they want to tell stories that are, that were never told before. And so there is a big potential in that, uh, red land is a movie that I haven't seen yet. Uh, but it sounds very interesting, but the other movie that you were mentioning is a documentary, uh, by, uh, two directors, uh, Gabriela Romano fabrics from 2020. And the title is batchy who batty stolen kisses. And it's about the LGBT, uh, community, or maybe community is not the right word, the LGBT people in Italy during fascist fascism, that they were, uh, of course, you know, they were living their life in a very difficult moment because they were deported. Uh, and so, uh, the stories that are told in the movies are not just about the struggle of their life, because they invented all types of secret moves and secret behavior to still live their life, to still meet with their lovers in, in movie theaters, for example, to still trying to pursue happiness.

Speaker 6: 52:06 So it's a beautiful story told through the voice, the voices of those people, real people that we never heard that before, before now. So it's a very important documentary actually, that I really hope that we can screen a detail and film festival in 2021, hopefully in person and hopefully, you know, sharing some, some cases to each other and some hacks. But it's a very important story because, because it's about happiness, even though people are, um, uh, deported, you can still find a way to, to, to, to live your life, you know, to, to love. Like we see in Rome open city, one of the, uh, in the Roman city, we see Anna Magnani pregnant just the day before she wants to get married. Huh. So you see that also during very difficult times, uh, the power of love and human, you know, and the humanity is still stronger. And so that is the positive and the silver lining also of the situation we're living. Right. Uh, we, we really need to believe that, uh, that, uh, has human beings are stronger than this. And storytelling through movies really teach us that, uh, this is true. We're not just dreamer.

Speaker 3: 53:41 And would there be any other titles that you'd want to add to this list of films that maybe give some insight into that period of time in Italy when fascism did rise,

Speaker 6: 53:52 You mentioned before [inaudible] by Fellini. And I really believe that that is the other title. We should never forget the movies about Fellini's child blue. Let's remember that this year is the Centennial of a, of filling his birth. That didn't fit in. It was, was born 100 years ago, 100 years, the was 1920. So when he was at, when, when he was a young boy, there was fascism. So Fellini was fascist because he was, you know, raised as a young fascist. So in this movie now [inaudible] is recreating his hometown. Rimini in the studios of [inaudible] and thinking about all these childhood memories, the way you was, he was raised. And so, as I said, that he's a very funny satirical portray of that easily through the eyes, all that of a boy. So it's a, it's a, it's a, it's a type of a movie that is completely different from maybe all the others that we mentioned that are all very important.

Speaker 6: 55:03 But I think we shouldn't forget about this masterpiece by filling, because it gives us also the idea of, and it teaches us ways on how we should detach ourselves from the present moment and also see things through the lens of, of history. This is going to be part of the past one day. And so we can, we can still fight. We shouldn't, we shouldn't adjust be pessimistic because, you know, life around us is hard. So, uh, I think, uh, yeah, I think that we have, uh, we have a nice filmography and we sh maybe we should, that we should do something, uh, about it that maybe we should do a film series about, uh, about the Italy and fascism with these titles. Who do you think

Speaker 3: 56:02 I would love to do that? Well, I want to thank you for talking about all these films and inspiring me to want to see a film series like this.

Speaker 6: 56:10 No, thank you. Thank you. It's always a pleasure to talk to you next week. I have a spooky tree. It's a Halloween dare featuring

Speaker 2: 56:24 A pair of short radio dramas written from quarantine and invested with a love of horror cinema by Michael Mizzirani. So I hope you'll take the dare and listen alone in the dark on Halloween. So til our next film, or maybe horror fix I'm Beth Armando, your residence, cinema junkie.

Speaker 1: 59:21 [inaudible].

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Cinema Junkie

Satisfy your celluloid addiction with the Cinema Junkie podcast, where you can mainline film 24/7. This film and entertainment series is run by KPBS Film Critic Beth Accomando. So if you need a film fix, want to hear what filmmakers have to say about their work, or just want to know what's worth seeing this weekend, then you've come to the right place