Young-Roberts was asked by organisers of an Italian film event in Leeds to give an introductory lecture on Italian Neorealism. So what exactly is Italian Neorealism film?
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On some level, Italian Neorealism was a desire to nihilistically forget the previous 20 years of fascist ideology. Never all that popular within Italy, it depended on foreign success to make a profit.
De Sica's Bicycle Thieves One of the first places in the world to take film seriously as an academic pursuit. What are the origins of the genre? What led to its development?
For the most part this resulted in the cinema industry being in an unstable economic situation. Until the Marshall Plan was set in motion in to rehabilitate the economic state, all industries had difficulty with large scale production, and film-making was no exception. The physical destruction inflicted upon the film industry by the war had debilitated production all across Europe. While the French had maintained a decent output of films throughout the war, even under occupation, the film industry was eventually destroyed after Allied bombing and street-fighting in its Capital towards the very end.
Due to their early surrender and unique liberation, Italy found itself with one of the most intact film industries in Western Europe. The psychological impact of the war was devastating, with 21 million people finding themselves as refugees. Nazi atrocities cast a dark shadow across all of Europe, with one Auschwitz survivor German-born philosopher Theodor Adorno asking how could there possibly be any poetry after Auschwitz. When Mussolini seized power in Italian cinema was already struggling, and when sound arrived in only a handful of films were being produced a year.
Appreciating the value cinema could offer as propaganda, the fascist regime eventually founded a national film school in The Centro Sperimentale Della Cinematografia , which was unprecedented outside of the Soviet Union. In addition to this they also created the massive Cinecitta film studios in Rome which comprised of 16 soundstages and , square meters of exteriors.
Within a year they had released over 80 films, which was double the previous year.
Eventually they would also impose restrictions on the importing of foreign films, with American movies being banned completely by The s and early 40s was, in some respects, a golden era for Italian cinema in terms of entertainment. It gave birth to Calligraphism — decorative, pictorial formalism where film adaptations of late 19th century and early 20th century literary fiction works were meticulously photographed. The other pool of talent would emerge from the Fascist propaganda documentary makers.
While Robertis was too much of a devout fascist to join the list of directors of the Neorealism genre directly, he did provide much technical inspiration and served as mentor to Roberto Rossellini, who would go on to become one of its greatest directors. Cinecitta: One of the world's biggest film studios. Bianco e Nero Black and White.
Mussolini's fascist regime helped develop the Italian film industry.
Cesare Zavattini: The Theoretical Founder When it comes to the founding of Neorealism we must not overlook the importance of screenwriter Cesare Zavattini. He is one of the major founders of the Neorealism genre, not only because of his direct involvement in film work but because in , years before the first Neorealism shot had been filmed, he was calling for a change in Italian cinema which outlined the rules for the genre. He proposed that film-makers do away with contrived plot, abandon hiring professional actors and make direct contact with contemporary life by looking to the streets for material.
Rather than the heroic ideals of fascism, he wanted cinema to instead capture the sacredness and dignity of the ordinary people. While it is disputed, the term Neorealism itself was coined 2 years before the first film of the genre was made.
Attacking the reactionary conventions of Italian film, Centro Spermintale lecturer Umberto Barbaro created the term as a reference to what was missing from current cinema, with particular criticism aimed at French Poetic Realism. The term became popular with his intellectual peers and was soon gracing the pages of Bianco e Nero and other film journals with the context of being a rallying call for a revolutionary realistic national cinema.
The great irony here is that while many film critics were writing about Neorealism being an antithesis to French Poetic Realism, many of the artists who would later go on to make Neorealism films were apprenticed in the genre and when Neorealism would finally be produced it would take much of its inspiration from the French influence, particularly with regard to the socialist humanism element. The poetic realism provided an aesthetic and intellectual liberation to many Italians working under a fascist regime, and in this sense Neorealism is the product of a pressure tap finally being released.
Cesare Zavattini right with friend and colleague Vittorio De Sica. What was the first Neorealist film? So what was the first Neorealism film? Conventionally, most people who study film believe Roma, Citta Aperta Rome Open City , to be the first film in the Neorealism genre. Its detractors argue that it lacks the political commitment and historical perspective to be regarded as a bone fide Neorealist film, much of which is due to the fascist government censoring the film and cutting it down to half its length.
Abroad, the film could not be shown at all until as it infringed upon copyright, being an unapproved adaptation of James M. Visconti's Ossessione Ossessione was an unauthorised adaptation of James M. Cain's novel. Sepanta would go on to direct movies such as Ferdowsi the life story of the most celebrated epic poet of Iran , Shirin and Farhad a classic Iranian love story , and Black Eyes the story of Nader Shah 's invasion of India. The present day Iranian film industry owes much of its progress to two industrious personalities, Esmail Koushan and Farrokh Ghaffari.
By establishing the first National Iranian Film Society in at the Iran Bastan Museum and organizing the first Film Week during which English films were exhibited, Ghaffari laid the foundation for alternative and non-commercial films in Iran. Early Persian directors like Abdolhossein Sepanta and Esmail Koushan took advantage of the richness of Persian literature and ancient Persian mythology. In their work, they emphasized ethics and humanity. The majority of production focused on melodrama and thrillers.
From till because of the world economic conditions and then the involvement in World War Two, the motion picture industry in Iran did not produce a single film, but the flow of foreign film to Iran did not stop. In , Esmail Koushan, With the help of some of his colleagues, he established Mitra Films , the first real film company in Tehran, Iran. Through their persistence, local feature film production was born and survived. The movie that really boost the economy of Iranian cinema and initiated a new genre was Ganj-e Qarun Croesus Treasure , made in by Syamak Yasami.
In , Masoud Kimiai made Kaiser. With Kaiser Qeysar , Kimiai depicted the ethics and morals of the romanticized poor working class of the Ganj-e-Qarun genre through his main protagonist, the titular Qeysar.
But Kimiay's film generated another genre in Iranian popular cinema: the tragic action drama. With the screening of the films Shohare Ahoo Khanoom directed by Davoud Mollapour in , and Kaiser and The Cow , directed by Masoud Kimiai and Darius Mehrjui respectively in , alternative film established their status in the film industry. By Iranian cinema entered into its mature stage. Many progressive film co-ops and associations came into existence and there were a few regular film festivals taking place in the country. Attempts to organize a film festival that had begun in within the framework of the Golrizan Festival , bore fruits in the form of the Sepas Film Festival in The first Iranian film festival was held in with Kaiser , The Cow , and Shohare Ahoo Khanoom wining the first, second and third prize for the best pictures respectively.
From to the mid the Iranian film industry grew rapidly. Many studios were established as well as others that entered the Cycle of the film industry independently. There were films produced during this period for By there were 72 movie theatres in Tehran and in other Provinces. Ebrahim Golestan in directed by films of interest Brick and Mirror Bahram Beyzai is the director of one of the ground-breaking films of the Iranian New wave, Ragbar Downpour.
Sohrab Shahid-Saless is auteur director who embodied his original style in his film Still Life. Abbas Kiarostami is now a well-known director of the s who directed one of the last films that screened before the revolution in , Gozaresh The Report. However, following the Revolution in , a few filmmakers and actors went into exile as Khomeini altered the focus in features. Between and , about features were released. In , the annual Fajr Film Festival financed films.
The Farabi Cinema Foundation then stepped in to try and reassemble the disorganized cinema. The following year, the government began to provide financial aid. This change in regime encouraged a whole new generation of filmmakers, which included female directors as well.
With this, the focus shifted to children overcoming obstacles: true stories, lyrical, mystical drama, real-life problems, documentary footage, etc. Post-revolutionary Iranian cinema has been celebrated in many international forums and festivals for its distinct style, themes, authors, idea of nationhood, and cultural references. Starting With Viva Kiarostami, who some critics regard as one of the few great directors in the history of cinema,  planted Iran firmly on the map of world cinema when he won the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival for Taste of Cherry in The continuous presence of Iranian films in prestigious international festivals such as the Cannes Film Festival , the Venice Film Festival , and the Berlin Film Festival attracted world attention to Iranian masterpieces.
In , six Iranian films, of six different styles, represented Iranian cinema at the Berlin Film Festival. Critics considered this a remarkable event in the history of Iranian cinema. An important step was taken in when the Iranian government began to fund ethnic cinema. Since then Iranian Kurdistan has seen the rise of numerous filmmakers.
In particular, the film industry got momentum in Iranian Kurdistan and the region has seen the emergence of filmmakers such as Bahman Ghobadi , actually the entire Ghobadi family, Ali-Reza Rezai, Khosret Ressoul and many other younger filmmakers. There is also movie-documentary production, often critical of the society in the name of the Islamic revolution ideal, like the films directed by Mohammedreza Eslamloo. By the year the number of features produced in Iran rose to 87 from 28, which is the number of films that were produced in , after the fall of the Shah.
The most popular genres were melodramas and historical pageants which seldom went to festivals. In , the newly elected president, Mohammed Khatemi, would eventually come to play a role in helping filmmakers achieve a certain degree of artistic freedom.