Flavia Laviosa, Wellesley College (USA)

Epochal transformations, such as the collapse of the Berlin Wall in 1989, the events culminating in the “Arab Spring” in 2010,[1] and the political unrest with the subsequent escalation of violence that caused the eruption of a full-scale civil war in Syria in 2011, causing the largest exodus in recent history, have contributed to a need to reassess Italy’s geo-political translocality.

As a result of the gradual and systematic inclusion of member states within the European Union, and the rapid changes in the Arab world, Italy has been for migrants and refugees a destination in search of freedom and opportunity. The country has been for decades the landing stage and a natural passage for the multidirectional routes connecting the peninsula with Africa, Central and Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and Asia.

Within the realm of a pan-European ethnic-economic-political debate, Italy becomes a critical site for a renewed discussion on contemporary translocality in human interactions and for the elaboration of a fresh definition of translationality[2] in the arts and, most importantly, in cinema. The current global scenario inevitably produces a multifaceted Italian cinema that is progressively more perceptive and alert, receptive and responsive, to international influences, transcending ethnic land and sea borders, and moving away from merely celebratory local experiences. In an era marked by more fluid relations between nation-states, Italian cinema must be factored into the evolving mediascape of international co-productions and the increasingly hybrid notion of world cinema. Both established and young Italian filmmakers aspire to appeal to international audiences, commit themselves to narratives that include a kaleidoscope of ethnicities, portray the complexity of the co-existence and the richness in the interaction among diverse people and cultures, and select multiple locations as sets for their stories. Innovative in its view of cinema as a forum of dialectic crossing and dynamic exchange, the Italian film industry forcefully explores a trajectory oriented beyond its geographical national lines, envisions the strengthening of interconnectedness of Italian cinema with other cinemas, and pursues opportunities to engage in co-productions with foreign film industries. Additionally, as I have noted elsewhere:

Italian transnational cinema can also be thought of as a new aesthetic and narrative destination surfacing through the interstices of progressively borderless geographies, and for the proliferation of new stories, myths, and legends. Therefore, the distinctive aesthetic approach of transnational cinema is both the product of cultural hybridity and the expression of a transvergent vision. It resists the homogenizing effects of globalization, foregrounding instead issues of diversity.

(Laviosa 2016, 5)

Recent expressions of the intertwining of Italian and world cinemas, resulting from the 2014 Sino-Italian co-production agreement,[3] are: Cristiano Bortone’s film Caffè (in production),[4] a story around the theme of coffee, set in Italy (Bolzano and Trieste), Belgium and China (Beijin and the Yunnan region); and Maurizio Sciarra’s Everlasting Moments (in production)[5] with a screensplay by Ni Zhen,[6] a story set in 1905 Shanghai and about the impossible love between an Italian photographer and a Chinese girl who is doomed to an arranged marriage. Confronted with work like this, scholars are invited “to remap the interconnectivity between Italian and other cinemas through a critical analysis trespassing circumscribed ‘nation’ theories” (Laviosa 2016:7).

Against the dynamic backdrop of contemporary political events and in light of the historical and artistic influence of Italian cinema on world cinemas, the Journal of Italian Cinema and Media Studies, of which I am editor, aims to shift the critical paradigm outside the inwardly focused field of Italian film studies and to examine how Italian cinema expands beyond the boundaries of its peninsularity. To that effect, the journal has inaugurated a transnational direction in Italian film studies, dedicating two themed issues (Volume II, 1 and 3, 2014) to an examination of the intersections between Italian and Chinese cinema. Other volumes contain essays on the artistic dialogue connecting Italian cinema with Asian, African, European, North American and Latin American cinemas (Volume IV, 1 and 3, 2016), with the intent “to revisit the history of Italian cinema, trace the evidence of its international polysemy and polycentrism, define the extent of its inspirational force and examine other cinemas’ artistic innovations resulting from their osmosis with the Italian film tradition” (Laviosa 2016, 7). Other areas of investigation are already signaled in “Italian Cinema Studies: A Conversation with Peter Bondanella,” which opens this volume.

 

References

Laviosa, F. (2016). “Translational and transnational directions of Italian cinema.” Journal of

         Italian Cinema and Media Studies, 4 (1): 3-7.

 

[1] The revolutionary wave of political demonstrations and civil uprisings to overthrow dictatorial regimes, which started in Tunisia in December 2010 and spread throughout the Middle East and North Africa.

[2] In the domain of the arts, translationality refers to the exchange of cultural forms between or among societies, negotiating between (among other things) similiarity and difference, local and global, familiarity and strangeness, and the power differentials relevant to the origin and transfer of cultural forms.

[3] The Sino-Italian co-production agreement supports films that belong to both countries, not only from a strictly technical perspective, but also as stories involving the two nations.

[4] The film, recognised for cultural interest, is the first official co-production between Italy and China after the signing of the 2014 treaty agreed to by the two countries. Belgium is also joining the project. The film is produced by Orisa Produzioni, the director’s company, together with Rai CinemaSavage Film, Road Pictures, and China Blue.

[5] The filme is produced by the Italian producer Conchita Airoldi for Urania Pictures, and the Chinese producer Stephen Lam for Sil Metropole.

[6] Screenwriter of the Oscar nominated film Raise the Red Lantern/Dà Hóng Denglóng Gaogao Guà (Zhang Yimou, 1991).