New Beginnings #3: Looking Backwards to Start Anew: Migration and Contemporary Cinema in Italy

fire-at-sea
‘Fuocoammare’ (Fire at Sea) by Gianfranco Rosi, 2016. Attribution: Film Poster, non-free image posted under fair dealings rationale for research purposes only, IMDb, 2016.

A memorable scene of 1917 Charlie Chaplin’s silent comedy short The Immigrant denounces the brutal mistreatment of newly arrived immigrants – many of which were Italian nationals – in New York by local public officials. Unsurprisingly, the sharp antithesis between the temporarily captive status of migrants and the caption ‘The arrival in the country of freedom’ did not please the state film censorship, which accused the comic actor of outrageously disseminating anti-Americanist sentiments. More than 80 years later, in 1998, The Immigrant was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry as being ‘culturally, historically, and aesthetically significant’.

Numerically speaking Italians count as one the most significant migrant communities of the twentieth century; nevertheless, the artistic portrayal of such mass phenomenon within the national borders has blossomed only recently. With the beginning of the new millennium, a fascination with past Italian migration captivated filmmakers, journalists and novelists. In Emmanuele Crialese’s 2006 drama film Nuovomondo (New World), the arrival of a poverty-stricken Sicilian family at Ellis Island on a foggy winter morning impeding the view of the Statue of Liberty is a subtle, photographically exquisite reference to Chaplin’s groundbreaking production. The parallelism between the two works is self-evident in the sequences following the disembarkation, in which the camera focuses upon the humiliating physical and psychological examinations undergone by migrants. Continue reading

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The Currency of Fieldwork

Interviews, receipts, recordings. This is the currency of fieldwork.

Sam Miles image

I interview gay men who use the digital apps Grindr and Scruff to understand how technology affects people’s everyday practice in London.

I knew my interviews would be fascinating – sex, after all, is fascinating. But what I was unprepared for is how rich the stories would be. Young or old, shy or outspoken: the men I interview pour out their stories. They talk and talk.

I understand for the first time what it means to be an active listener. I hear their stories and wind them into a bigger narrative: a narrative which presents their experience to audiences who might not normally listen.

Sam is a second year Geography PhD student at Queen Mary, University of London. His research combines sexuality and space studies with digital technology to understand the impact of GPS media on queer space-making practices. @sammiles87

WANTED: Poet

If you have time for deep scientific knowledge, and want to use your poetic skills to express that knowledge to people – this post is a request for your help. I am working on a short documentary about viruses, and I would like to consult you on the script.

Some documentaries exist for rather impersonal reasons: to make people feel worried about ‘flu, guilty about HIV, or impressed by people in white coats. I don’t want to do those things – I want to give people beautiful and powerful insights into the natural world.

We have images, experiments, histories and visualizations that are going into this documentary. But I am not a poet – I’m not skilled at using diction to send shivers down people’s spines, so I worry that my script will not have the impact I hope for. That’s where you come in.

I’m Hamish Todd, and I made this:

I work on simulations of biological things, and I care about profundity. I like maths a lot, for example, but only when it is profound. Continue reading