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Reframing Italy: New Trends in Italian Women’s Filmmaking

Bernadette Luciano
Susanna Scarparo
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  • Book Info
    Reframing Italy
    Book Description:

    In recent years, Italian cinema has experienced a quiet revolution: the proliferation of films by women. But their thought-provoking work has not yet received the attention it deserves. Reframing Italy fills this gap. The book introduces readers to films and documentaries by recognized women directors such as Cristina Comencini, Wilma Labate, Alina Marazzi, Antonietta De Lillo, Marina Spada, and Francesca Comencini, as well as to filmmakers whose work has so far been undeservedly ignored. Through a thematically based analysis supported by case studies, Luciano and Scarparo argue that Italian women filmmakers, while not overtly feminist, are producing work that increasingly foregrounds female subjectivity from a variety of social, political, and cultural positions. This book, with its accompanying video interviews, explores the filmmakers’ challenging relationship with a highly patriarchal cinema industry. The incisive readings of individual films demonstrate how women’s rich cinematic production reframes the aesthetic of their cinematic fathers, re-positions relationships between mothers and daughters, functions as a space for remembering women’s (hi)stories, and highlights pressing social issues such as immigration and workplace discrimination. This original and timely study makes an invaluable contribution to film studies and to the study of gender and culture in the early twenty-first century.

    eISBN: 978-1-61249-295-7
    Subjects: Language & Literature, Performing Arts, Film Studies

Table of Contents

  1. Chapter One Introduction
    (pp. 1-22)

    On the eve of International Women’s Day 2010, Kathryn Bigelow became the first woman to win an Oscar for Best Director for her Iraq war dramaThe Hurt Locker. Announcing the winner, Barbra Streisand exclaimed, “the time has come” (qtd. in Quinn 1), implying that women had finally broken through the celluloid ceiling. Only the third woman ever to be nominated for an Oscar in the Best Director category, Bigelow eludes and rejects the designation of woman filmmaker. As a pioneer in the male-dominated world of action movies, she likes to think of herself “as a filmmaker rather than as...

  2. Chapter Two The “Girls” Are Watching Us: Reconsidering the Neorealist Child Protagonist
    (pp. 23-48)

    In the absence of female role models, contemporary Italian women filmmakers have found aesthetic models in the hegemonic cinematic tradition. Francesca Archibugi openly admits that her style has been directly influenced by her cinematic “fathers”: “Mi vedo come la pronipote del neorealismo, la nipote della commedia all’italiana e la figlia dei nuovi anni 70” (“I see myself as the great-granddaughter of neorealism, the granddaughter of Italian comedy and the daughter of the new cinema of the 1970s”) (Levantesi 25). Within the narratives of several of her films she refers to the cinematic tradition (Vigni 170); her latest film,Questione di...

  3. Chapter Three Reconfiguring the Mother–Daughter Relationship
    (pp. 49-80)

    In 1976, Adrienne Rich in her groundbreakingOf Woman Bornrecuperated the mother by focusing on the mother–daughter relationship as crucial to the daughter’s identity (Ingman 186). Since then, a growing number of Anglo-American and Western European feminist critics have been concerned with “rethinking cultural locations for the maternal body” and have focused on the imaginary and symbolic configurations of the maternal legacy (Humm 177). This interest in the maternal legacy has also inspired many women to write about female experiences and to explore and construct their identities in dialogue with their biological and symbolic mothers.¹

    In Italy, in...

  4. Chapter Four Reinventing Our Mothers: Gendering History and Memory
    (pp. 81-116)

    A preoccupation with the past and its portrayal on screen has been a common feature of many Western cinematic traditions. The New German Cinema, the Frenchcinéma de qualité, and much of the so-called New Italian Cinema have turned to the past to reflect on national anxieties generated by social and cultural transformations. In these films, memory and the compelling desire to remember are configured as unresolved national traumas, and the screening of the past becomes a means by which to question national identity and its relationship to official history.

    This is particularly true for the films of the New...

  5. Chapter Five Migration and Transnational Mobility
    (pp. 117-152)

    Since the 1990s, filmmakers have turned their attention to Italy’s dramatic transformation from a nation producing emigrants to an immigrant nation. Recent studies of these films have contributed to the unpacking of the representation of the phenomenon and of its relationship to issues of national identity and Italy’s history while also drawing attention to the complexity and cultural specificity of migration experiences from different locations of origin and at different times.¹

    The representation of immigration in Italian cinema remains problematic. Derek Duncan suggests that films about issues of migration are made by filmmakers who “have uniformly aligned themselves with the...

  6. Chapter Six Women at Work: Negotiating the Contemporary Workplace
    (pp. 153-184)

    The long list of Italian documentaries about work and labor issues reaches back to the early years of cinema.¹ In Italian feature films, however, work has rarely taken center stage. As Mario Verdone writes in his introductory comments to one of the few books dedicated to the representation of work in Italian cinema, work issues have tended to be a pretext for dramatic situations rather than the central preoccupation of films (6). Such issues have often served to highlight moments of social transition or to critique the aspirations of upwardly mobile classes. This was particularly the case in the 1950s...

  7. Conclusion Framing the Film Industry
    (pp. 185-194)

    At the Cinema al femminile forum, which was held on October 21, 2010, at Rome’s Libreria del Cinema, women directors, screenwriters, cinematographers, and editors discussed the position of women in Italian cinema and their relationship to the industry’s creative output. Like many of the filmmakers we interviewed, most of the women contributing to the forum considered themselves to be as capable as their male counterparts and thought that an emphasis on gender neutrality was the best strategy to legitimize their work within their respective professions. The experiences they related about the obstacles they encountered in the industry, however, reveal a...

  8. Appendix A Conversation with Contemporary Italian Women Filmmakers: Online Supplementary Material
    (pp. 195-202)