Benito Mussolini’s Stage 5 at Rome’s Cinecittàmovie studios played an important role in the creation of fascist propaganda. Now it is a bastion of free expression by Italy’s robust film community.
A huge hanger, Stage 5 was also used by the Nazis to house more than 5,000 displaced persons, including Jews who fled from concentration camps. Italians from Montecassino and Rome who lost their homes from Allied bombs were sent to Stage 5. Makeshift cardboard partitions with curtains sectioned off in Stage 5 were used as living quarters.
Associate Professor Marco Bertozzi, an Italian documentary film director on the faculty of Arts and Design for the Istituto Universitario di Architettura Venezia, came to the Museum of Photographic Arts (MOPA) to screen his new documentary “Profunghi” (Displaced Persons).
“I did my research using La Croce Rossa (The Red Cross) and matched names with telephone numbers,” Bertozzi said. “Survivors of Stage 5 told about their existence at Cinecittà from before 1944 to 1950.”
Bertozzi said Rome’s Cinecittà was Italy’s dream town known throughout Europe. He and writer Noa Steimatsky used archival footage of LUCE (L’Unione Cinematografica Educativa/Cinematographic Educative Union) from Mussolini’s fascist regime and personal memoirs and photos of survivors. Bertozzi said neorealist filmmakers Roberto Rossellin’s Roma la città aperta and Luchino Visconti’s Riso Amaro looked for their stories outside on the streets and used locals as actors and actresses.
Two Ostrini sisters said there was a stigma for those who lived at Cinecittà. Italians saw these young women as “easy girls” and were not respected, although they were not at Cinecittà.
UCSD Italian Literature Professor Pasquale Verdicchio moderated a roundtable discussion after the film with Bertozzi, MOPA executive director Deborah Klochko, SDSU Italian Language Programs Director Clarissa Clò and USD Italian Studies Director Loredana Di Martino. Klochko said film archives were left at Cinecittà for propaganda by Americans who liberated Rome and by the fascists.
“Documentary films are important for historical reasons but also relevant documents of archival materials which speak about the past and the present,” said Clò.
Klochko said it was traumatic being a displaced person and living in those awful conditions.
“This film makes you ask questions and does not answer any,” she said.
Di Martino said the reality of life in Cinecittà was too negative.
Bertozzi agreed it was a hard life at Cinecittà, especially for children.
Brian Torreon, an SDSU English major, said he was at MOPA to immerse himself in the Italian culture.
“Every film is a cultural program,” noted Bertozzi.
“One thing strikes me, there were no extras in Bertozzi’s displaced persons’ documentary,” said Verdicchio. “We see that the displaced persons have the voice. The narratives were the survivors retelling their stories at Cinecittà, which were structured. There is only a single voice because these refugees were the documentary’s subjects and not the objects of the story.”
Verdicchio said film has great power.
“Differently from some of the divisive forces at work in the country, the young filmmakers engage documentary as a visual counter-discourse through which to reveal the extant energies
that could potentially generate a progressive development and open a different, less cynical and more generous vision for the country.”