The aim of this research project is to map a cultural history of the contemporary Italian cinema of migration since 1990, which we regard as a cinema engagé subverting time and time again genre logics as well as apparent borders of fiction and fact. Hence, our theoretical focus will also comprise fundamental questions of politics, genres and aesthetics, and, last but not least, the role of committed cinema between commerce and art house in times of Neo-Liberalism.
Taking Italy into view means to focus on one of the most pronounced cultures of migration in Europe. While the migration of Italians has long become part of the collective memory, neither post-colonial issues, that is, Italy’s own colonial past, nor the contemporary transnational society are being publicly discussed in an adequately constructive manner. At the same time, Italy being at the geo-political border of Europe, Lampedusa has long since become the ambivalent epitome of flight and Europe as a “fortress”.
In order to trace these developments, our primary starting point is to analyse a corpus of movies since the 1990’s, that is mainly (non-documentary) feature films, eliciting which meanings migration is given by Italian movies and communicated to a general public. Aesthetics are central in this regard. Our project is about the iconography of migration, its location in film history in terms of genres and traditions. Moreover, employing the central parameters of Intersectional Studies, as primarily developed in the fields of sociology and philosophy, we examine the interplay of categories such as ethnicity, gender, and work, which, in turn, are correlated with representations of borders, space, and movement in a transcultural manner. Our fourth and final objective (also driven by theories from Film Studies and Cultural Studies) is to analyse cinematic negotiations of cultural memory, that is, the history of individual migrations and colonialism in general as collectively remembered in film as a popular medium.
The final objective will be an assessment as to whether and how these films live up to their claim of forming a counterculture, i.e. whether the cinema di migrazione may truly be called an “outlandish cinema” (Ponzanesi 2005, 270) in other words, whether it is a kind of cinema which challenges the regime of the gaze and of power in order to show a different and differentiated Italy, off the beaten tracks and stereotypes of film history.