ITALIAN CINEMA AND FASCIST PROPAGANDA ABROAD IN THE 1930s
Dr. Pierluigi Ercole
During the Fascist era in Italy, the state controlled L’Unione Cinematografica Educativa (Union of Educational Cinematography also known as L.U.C.E.) produced newsreels and documentaries that promoted Mussolini and the regime’s achievements. In this paper, I adopt a new approach to the study of these non-fiction films, which has so far largely centered on aesthetic analyses and production histories that privilege the propagandist’s intentions. Here I make use of a wide range of primary sources not traditionally examined by the film historian, and I refocus the discussion on a grassroots history that explores the actual contexts within which the films were circulated and consumed through a case study of the distribution and reception of L.U.C.E.’s propaganda films in Britain and Ireland in the 1930s. A decade earlier, at the beginning of the 1920s, the Italian Fascist party had begun to promote the formation of Fascist clubs abroad and had encouraged consulates and embassies to proactively seek out the participation of émigrés in their activities. The result was an increased institutional action towards the promotion of cultural propaganda aimed at strengthening patriotic values and a sense of national belonging to the motherland. Topical films produced by the L.U.C.E. were screened to Italian immigrant audiences abroad in order to engage spectators already sympathetic or potentially allied to the Fascist agenda. This case study serves to highlight, however, the series of complex negotiations involved between the propaganda aims of the Italian establishment and the actual consumption of the films by audiences in specific, local and foreign contexts.
Pierluigi Ercole is IRCHSS Postdoctoral Fellow in Film Studies at UCC. His current project is entitled Projecting the Nation: Italian Cinema, Propaganda and Little Fascist Italies in Britain and Ireland. His research on Italian diaspora, film culture and the circulation of Italian films during the silent period has been published in Laboratorio di nuova ricerca: Investigating Gender, Translation and Culture in Italian Studies (M. Boria and L. Risso, 2007), Cinema, Audiences and Modernity: New Perspectives on European Cinema History (R. Maltby, P. Meers and D. Biltereyst, 2011) and Silent Italian Cinema: A Reader (G. Bertellini, forthcoming). Pierluigi has also published on Italian neorealist screenwriter Cesare Zavattini and on US and Italian documentary filmmakers, and has taught at the University of East Anglia and at the University of Sussex.