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Thursday, April 25, 2019

Luca Guadagnino's 'The Staggering Girl' to Premiere at Cannes

Julianne Moore in a scene from The Staggering Girl
Luca Guadagnino's new project, The Staggering Girl will premiere at 2019 Cannes Film Festival. The international star studded cast includes Julianne Moore, Mia Goth, KiKi Layne, Alba Rohrwacher, Marthe Keller and Kyle MacLachlan.

According to Variety, the short film portrays different chapters in a woman’s life through the prism of her relationship with her mother. Julianne Moore plays Francesca, an Italian-American writer who lives in New York and must return to Rome – and, by extension, her childhood – to retrieve her aging mother, a painter played at different ages by Keller and Goth. Layne plays the spark that triggers the stream of consciousness in Francesca, while Rohrwacher plays a grande dame at a party.

The film will be shown in the program, Quinzaine des Réalisateurs - Courts & Moyens Métrages. The  Cannes Film Festival runs May 14th - 25th, 2019. Click here for more information.

Monday, April 22, 2019

Destination Monte Vulture

Wine to Love

Monte Vulture is a magnificent dormant volcano, which houses two small lakes. Surrounded by towns known for their vineyards and olive groves, the rich soil of Vulture produces high-quality local products.

The surrounding land is home to the highly regarded wine, Aglianico del Vulture, which was awarded the DOC quality assurance label in 1971 and the Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG) status in 2011. The ancient origins of Aglianico del Vulture date back to the 6th century BC.  

Among the towns that produce Aglianico del Vulture are Barile, Lagopesole, Melfi, Rapolla, Rionero in Vulture, Ripacandida and Venosa. Each town is unique for its own cuisine, customs and ornate churches and monuments. Lagopesole and Melfi are home to famous medieval castles while Venosa is home to ancient Roman baths and Jewish catacombs.

Numerous films have been shot in the area, including Domenico Fortunato’s 2018 Wine to Love starring Ornella Muti. A romantic comedy, the film sheds light on winemakers in Basilicata balancing the traditions of their ancient land while keeping up with a global, contemporary market.

If you enjoy food, wine and history, this part of Basilicata is not to be missed. Check out this short video I made from shots I took while driving towards Rionero in Vulture..

Monday, April 15, 2019

A Look at the Sacred Architecture of the Sassi of Matera

To mark the beginning of Holy Week, I made a video highlighting the sacred architecture of the Sassi of Matera, the 2019 European Capital of Culture and natural set for numerous films, including the next James Bond film.

The video shows the the Sassi of Matera and the Park of the Rupestrian Churches. Below is my script, which I put together as a result of my research on various websites including UNESCO. Most of the pictures were taken by me during my trips to Matera. I grabbed a few extras on Wikipedia to fill the five minute running time of the video.

According to UNESCO, the Sassi of Matera and the Park of the Rupestrian Churches is the most outstanding, intact example of a troglodyte settlement in the Mediterranean region. Located in the southern Italian region of Basilicata, The Sassi and the Park of the Rupestrian Churches of Matera consists of a complex of houses, churches, monasteries and hermitages built into natural caves. The area was first occupied during the Palaeolithic period and shows evidence of continuous human occupation through several millennia until the present day, and is harmoniously integrated into the natural terrain and ecosystem.

Church of Santa Maria de Idris and San Giovanni in Monterrone
The Church of Santa Maria de Idris and San Giovanni in Monterrone are connected to one another, located on a rocky outcrop called Monterrone.

The Church of Santa Maria de Idris dates from the 14th and 15th centuries.

Santa Maria de Idris, connects to the Crypt of San Giovanni in Monterrone through a passage. There are delicate frescoes in the crypt which were created during the 12th - 17th centuries. (Photos are not allowed to be taken in the crypt. I downloaded the photos in the video from the UNESCO world heritage and Oltre Arte Matera, a coop dedicated to art in the city of Matera.)

The Cathedral of the Madonna della Bruna and St. Eustace (Duomo of Matera) was dedicated to the Virgin Mary under the designation of the Madonna della Bruna and to Saint Eustace.

Cathedral of the Madonna della Bruna and St. Eustace (highest point of Matera) 

The cathedral was built in the 13th century on the ridge that forms the highest point of the city of Matera.

San Pietro Caveoso
San Pietro Caveoso is also known as Saint Peter and Saint Paul Church.

It was originally built in 1300. The front is in baroque style and presents three portals. Over each portal there is a statue. They show the Madonna of Mercy, St. Peter and St. Paul.

San Pietro Caveoso is situated at the edge of a ravine with a view of the old cave dwellings.

Below is a view of the Sasso Caveoso (neighborhood) looking east. The church of the Madonna de Idris is on top of the rock in the centre.

The church of San Pietro Caveoso is on the edge of the cliff directly in front.

St. Francis of Assisi was built in the thirteenth century but the famous Baroque façade was constructed in the eighteenth century.

The church underwent several changes before taking on its present-day appearance.

It is situated in a very popular part of the city- at the end of Via del Corso and the beginning of Via Ridola, the entrance to a large and busy piazza.

The ornate interior consists of a single nave with two side chapels.

Click here to watch the video on YouTube. Enjoy!

Thursday, April 11, 2019

The History Behind a Key Scene in Francesco Rosi's 'Christ Stopped at Eboli'

(Andate sotto per leggere la nostra intervista in Italiano)

In Part Two of our series on the release of Francesco's Rosi's complete uncut version of Christ Stopped at Eboli, we are looking into a key scene in which Carlo Levi talks with Gagliano's mayor about the briganti freedom fighters and the peasants' never-ending struggles with red tape and government. He referenced the Siege of Melfi where he believes it all began, because up to that point, the region of Basilicata or the South for that matter had its own wealth. He went on to explain that the battle had a far-reaching effect on Lucania because not only were the riches taken and the city of Melfi destroyed, but the people were also killed. How does a culture recover when much of the population is wiped out? Today, when we speak of poverty in the South of Italy, it is worth noting that even though it was a few hundred years ago, the Siege of Melfi forever changed the region of Basilicata and impacted the mass immigration of the early to mid 1900s when our own descendants fled for American shores. 

Rafaella Sacco
It is difficult to find information in English about the siege, which took place in the 1500s. There is information about the conquest of the Normans in 1053, but very little about the devastation that took place in the Middle Ages. So, I turned to Raffaella Sacco, a Matera native and avid history buff with endless knowledge about the history of her land. She received her doctorate in Architecture and Engineering at the University of Pisa. She left her region of Basilicata to study in the North because she felt that she could get a better education with less politics and red tape. When she arrived there, she found that many of her professors were of southern origins, validating her feelings. She told me that after earning her degree, she returned to the south because she believes in its redemption. "If all the best minds continue to go away, how is it possible to redeem it? I am from Matera and my city is the emblem of this desire for change. It is the third oldest city in the world with man continually living there since prehistoric times. It is a wonderful city- ancient and sacred. It is the city from which the redemption of southern Italy will start again. I am sure of it!" 

It's important to mention that Monte Vulture, a now dormant volcano with two small recreational lakes, is a point of reference on this topic because the towns surrounding it are in very close proximity to each other. These days, there is a friendly community of young winemakers who are building the local economy and tourism sector. Wines made from the area's renowned Aglianico grape, are distributed throughout the world, putting Basilicata on the map as one of Italy's quality wine producers. 

What was southern Italy, Basilicata in particular, like before the siege?
Southern Italy was known as the Kingdom of Naples. Its wealth was due to various European rulers. At the end of the 14th century, Basilicata was involved in the bloody battles for the succession to the throne between Louis I of Hungary and Charles of Durazzo (who became Charles III King of Naples), with the looting of the Vulture area by the Hungarians.
In the second half of the fifteenth century, there was a general economic recovery: signs of an increase in commercial activities occurred in well-connected centers such as Venosa and Matera and substantial population growth was recorded. The latter had to contribute to the immigration of the refugees from Constantinople following the fall of the city under Ottoman rule. Between 1450 and 1480, numerous groups of Greek and, above all, Albanian exiles arrived at the Ionian coasts following Giorgio Castriota Scanderbeg  the leader who had fought on the side of Ferdinand II of Aragona. These new communities mainly repopulated the Vulture area (Barile, Rionero, Maschito) and then settled in San Chirico Nuovo, Ruoti and Brindisi Montagna.  In Matera, instead, the Schiavone (slaves) founded a neighborhood, digging the dwellings in the part of the Sassi still known as 'Casalnuovo'.

What can you tell me about the actual siege?
France and Spain had been competing for some decades against both the Duchy of Milan (northern Italy) and the Kingdom of Naples (southern Italy; in the center of Italy there was the reign of the Pope). This conflict turned a large part of Italy into a battlefield. After the discovery of America in 1492, the Spaniards and the French continued their expansion activity in both the Americas and in Europe, focusing on the Italian peninsula for its great wealth. They inflicted a crushing defeat on the French in Pavia (northern Italy) in 1525. Leaving aside the French, at least temporarily, Charles V thought it was time to punish the Pope, Clement VII, for his pro-French policy, which led to the formation of the Cognac League, which ultimately resulted in the sack of Rome (May 1527). The horror of the Lanzi's atrocities (but the Spanish soldiers, however catholic, were no exception) and for the sacrilege inflicted on Rome shakes the whole of Europe. Carlo - king of the very Catholic Spain, as well as emperor - whose events may have gotten out of hand, is forced, politically, on the defensive. The French think it is a good opportunity to justify a new descent in Italy, in search of a rematch, and to denounce definitively the harsh conditions (Treaty of Madrid) that they had to accept after the Pavia debacle. With strong English economic support, they send a strong army into Italy under the command of the Lautrec. Just one year later, they advance towards the South. The Siege of Melfi began in the wake of the dismay caused throughout Europe by the brutal conquest of the Eternal City and the imprisonment of the Pope by the troops of Charles V. The Siege of Melfi was probably the most bloody massacre in the history of the city as it was considered a strong economic and military market. The Melfitan resistance fought back but it was short lived. The French artillery massacred the Melfi defenders and caused fires along the walls. Although rapid, the battle was bloody and caused huge losses.

An illustration of Southern Italy's Battle of Civitate during the 1050s

What happened after the siege?
The decision to attack Melfi decisively influenced the final outcome of the war. In fact, after setting Melfi on fire, the French were able to reach Naples in an orderly manner and organize an effective defense, so much so that the siege of the city was transformed (in truth for many reasons) into a disaster for the French army. Once again, Charles V, king of Naples, defeated the French, whose attempt to conquer Naples, put under siege after the Sacco Melfi, also failed because of a serious pestilence that spread among the troops and the Odet de Foix himself. He therefore punished the Caracciolos for this betrayal by giving Melfi to the Genoese Doria- decisive and unexpected allies of the emperor in this last battle. The event had serious consequences on the life and economy of the city of Melfi so that in the years immediately following it had to proceed to the issuance of special measures to favor its repopulation. In particular, the citizens of Melfi were exempt from paying taxes.

In the film, there is a lot of talk about the briganti. Were the briganti born of this war or did they exist before? 
The official historiography tends to give a negativity to the term briganti. More accurate studies tend to identify this name by valiant citizens who stood up against foreign domination, a bit like it happened with the Siege of Melfi. The term "Briganti" was coined by the French to define those southern rebels who opposed the French invasion. The Lucanian brigandi, on the other hand, were those who carried out the city's resistance to the Savoy invasion (Piedmontese) in the nineteenth century. The official historiography tells the story of 1000 brave volunteers headed by Garibaldi who reached southern Italy to implement the unification of the boot. The true story is very different. The Piedmontese, after having occupied Sardinia, aim to also take the south of Italy, above all its riches. They were assisted in this occupation by the British who could thus see the elimination of a strong antagonist state. The Bourbon kingdom of Southern Italy was the third world power, resting on a large gold reserve and an advanced industry. Garibaldi was chosen precisely because, after having participated in the Mazzinian attempt to invade the Kingdom of Sardinia, he set himself first to be a pirate in the wake of the Bey of Tunis and then was forced to flee to South America to avoid being hanged. So he was involved first in the theft of horses in Peru and then he practiced piracy for the Asian slave trade- certainly not the saint he was claimed to be by Renaissance history. And if it was true, how would a small group of thousands of volunteers outperform such a strong state? On the same day, 20 October 1860, the dictator, who exiled bishops, archbishops and cardinals, pardoned all those sentenced to life imprisonment and jail for common crimes. Garibaldi made those criminals officers, magistrates, aristocrats, priests and friars. As for the land, it certainly was not in the hands of the peasants, towards whom he showed contempt (he considered them "servants of the priests" because they did not associate themselves with his mad red shirts), but of the Piedmontese State, of the aristocracy and of the southern land bourgeoisie, who immediately understood, as Tommasi di Lampedusa tells us in his Il Gattopardo, that it could very well change everything, even putting on a red shirt, without changing anything, or perhaps, gaining even more. It is no coincidence that after the conquest of Sicily, Garibaldi found more friends in Turin and in London than in the South.

A scene from Christ Stopped at Eboli
(For as much as I have always wanted to completely understand and appreciated Carlo Levi's contribution to the South, I've always felt that his writings did lasting damage to the region's reputation in the history books. Sacco validated those concerns in her response to my next question.)

In the film, Levi said that the South was never able to recover from this war. Do you agree?
Carlo levi was born in Turin in 1902 and completed his training between northern Italy and Paris. He knew almost nothing of southern Italy except when he was sent into exile for his anti-fascist activity, to Grassano first and then to Aliano. For this reason, his discovery of Basilicata becomes a bit the global representation of the southern Italy. The Siege of Melfi therefore becomes the emblem of the subjection of Basilicata, plundered by foreign peoples. Until then, however, the Vulture-Melfese had experienced great splendor as is visible from the fact that Frederick II, one of the most important figures of the Middle Ages, had his castle built in Melfi from which he promulgated in 1231 the famous laws "Costitutiones Augustales", the first written text of organic laws of the medieval period. He also built the Lagopesole castle as a hunting estate. He was also able to have the Castle of Lavello and San Gervasio built, confirming that these places experienced a period of great splendor until the sixteenth century.
In the seventeenth century, there was the Spanish domination which for a long time was accused by historiography of being the cause of the subsequent southern poverty. Personally, however, I believe that the moment of real crisis came precisely with the unification of Italy and therefore this question could not be affirmed precisely by a Piedmontese like Levi who, in exile, fell in love with Basilicata and told his tormenting charm. His visit to Matera highlighted the contrasts between scenic beauty and social poverty. The Sassi of Matera are today decanted as one of the greatest worldwide examples of Bio-architecture as for centuries it has been built with full respect for the environment. Matera rises on a side of canyons whose side walls have been carved out of the tuff mass by the corrosive action of the Gravina stream. Here, men have made homes by digging directly into the tuff material of the canyon, creating caves. These dwellings were built according to the orientation of the cardinal points and taking advantage of the difference in radiation between summer and winter, moreover inventing an ingenious rainwater collection system (which is why Matera is part of the Unesco heritage). For millennia, the population has lived in this perfectly integrated system except from the beginning of the twentieth century when a housing surplus forced the inhabitants of Matera to occupy churches and stables to respond to a cogent housing problem. This is the Matera described by Carlo Levi, whose tales reached Parliament and decided to start depopulating the Sassi. The Italian State confiscated all the houses putting them in the state heritage and built the first modern city thanks to the contribution of the greatest Italian and foreign architects and engineers.

How can people learn more about the plight of the briganti? Can you recommend books with more information on these battles that shaped southern Italy?
The brigandage has been rediscovered above all in the last thirty years. Since the early 2000s, the Basilicata region has had an open-air theater built in Brindisi di Montagna, located in the province of Potenza, in a spectacular natural setting in which every summer, as many as 300-400 actors appear on a natural scenic area. Among the resources utilized to create a multi-media event are twenty-five thousand square meters of land with over 600 light projectors, 45,000 watts of power, a broadcast quality sound system, dynamic projections of large images, water screens, and evocative scenographic settings. Combined, they give life each year to a unique type of live movie called, La Storia Bandita (The Story of the briganti). Led by the charismatic Carmine Crocco, the briganti fight against the Piedmontese soldiers of the Kingdom of Savoy. It's an extraordinary artistic performance enhanced by incredible special effects and the well-known voices of Michele Placido, Lina Sastri, Paolo Ferrari and Orso Maria Guerrini. This show, which I saw for the first time in 2001 and then two more times in the following years, always leaves me breathless. It inspired me to study the true southern story that I studied in depth thanks to Pino Aprile's books: Terroni. Tutto quello che è stato fatto perché gli italiani del Sud diventassero meridionali (Milano, Piemme, 2010). Two others that I can recommend are
Giù al Sud. Perché i terroni salveranno l'Italia, (Milano, Piemme, 2011) and Il Sud puzza. Storia di vergogna e d'orgoglio, (Milano, Piemme, 2013).

Recommended books on Amazon for reading about the history of Basilicata:


L'intervista originale completa (In Italian) 

Raccontami questa guerra..
Francia e Spagna si contendono da qualche decennio sia il Ducato di Milano (nord italia) che il Regno di Napoli (sud Italia; al centro Italia c'era il regno del Papa). Questo conflitto fa di larga parte d'Italia un campo di battaglia, cui prendono parte anche gli stati italiani, con alleanze oscillanti, appoggiando ora uno ora l'altro dei due grandi contendenti. Dopo la scoperta dell'America del 1492, gli Spagnoli e i Francesi continuano la loro attività espansiva sia nelle Americhe che in Europa, puntando sulla penisola italiana per la sua grande ricchezza. Infliggono a Pavia (nord Italia), nel 1525, una cocente sconfitta ai Francesi. Tolti di mezzo, almeno temporaneamente, i Francesi, Carlo V pensa sia giunto il momento di punire il papa, Clemente VII, per la sua politica filo-francese, che ha portato alla formazione della Lega di Cognac. I mercenari luterani al soldo dell'imperatore cattolico – i famigerati Lanzichenecchi – non chiedono di meglio. È il sacco di Roma (maggio 1527). L'orrore per le atrocità dei Lanzi (ma le soldatesche spagnole, per quanto cattoliche, non furono da meno) e per il sacrilegio inflitto all’Urbe scuote l'intera Europa. Carlo – re della cattolicissima Spagna, oltre che imperatore - cui forse gli eventi sono sfuggiti di mano, è costretto, politicamente, sulla difensiva. I Francesi pensano sia una buona occasione per giustificare una nuova calata in Italia, alla ricerca di una rivincita, e per denunciare definitivamente le dure condizioni (trattato di Madrid) che hanno dovuto accettare dopo la debacle di Pavia. Forti anche dell'appoggio economico inglese inviano in Italia un forte esercito al comando del Lautrec. Un solo anno dopo, per continuare ad avanzare lungo lo stivale italiano, verso sud, avvenne l'Assedio di Melfi quando l'esercito francese, al comando di Odet de Foix, Maresciallo di Francia e conte di Lautrec e Comminges, fu inviato in Italia proprio sull'onda dello sgomento causato in tutta Europa dalla brutale espugnazione della Città Eterna e dall'imprigionamento dello stesso Pontefice ad opera delle truppe di Carlo V. L'assedio di Melfi fu probabilmente la strage più sanguinaria della storia della città in quanto considerata una forte piazza economica e militare. La resistenza melfitana è accesa, ma breve. Le artiglierie francesi fanno strage dei difensori e scatenano incendi lungo le mura. Un primo assalto è respinto, ma infine gli assedianti passano. Benché rapida, la battaglia è cruenta: le fonti riferiscono di ingenti perdite - si parla di cinquecento uomini - anche dalla parte francese (sessanta sarebbero stati i caduti tra i militi delle Bande Nere), alcuni periti per fuoco amico sotto il violento tiro di artiglieria ordinato dal Navarro.

Spiegami come era il sud, Lucania in particolare, prima del assedio di Melfi?  
"Il sud Italia era conosciuto come il Regno di Napoli. Per le sue ricchezze fece sempre gola ai vari regnanti europei. Alla fine del XIV secolo la Basilicata fu coinvolta nelle sanguinose lotte per la successione al trono fra Luigi I d'Ungheria e Carlo di Durazzo (che divenne Carlo III re di Napoli), con il saccheggio della zona del Vulture da parte degli Ungheresi. Nel 1405 a Saponara la strenua difesa opposta all'avanzata delle forze reali, convinse Ladislao d'Angiò a concedere al popolo un indulto (firmato il 14 aprile), che garantiva un'esenzione fiscale e l'impegno del re a non infeudare il comune, che divenne "città regia". Sergianni Caracciolo, napoletano e ministro della regina Giovanna II D'Angiò-Durazzo di Napoli, ottenne nel 1416 la signoria su Melfi e il territorio del Vulture, estendendo poi i domini della casata fino al Melandro e, per qualche tempo, anche su Marsico e Miglionico. La Basilicata in questo secolo fu teatro della famosa Congiura dei baroni (ricordata a Miglionico con una rappresentazione teatrale nel suo castello) ordita nel 1485 dal principe di Salerno Antonello II dei Sanseverino consigliato da Antonello Petrucci e Francesco Coppola, ai danni del re di Napoli Ferdinando I di Napoli che coinvolse molte famiglie feudatarie di signori e baroni del regno della fazione guelfa favorevoli agli angioini (francesi), tra cui oltre i Sanseverino si ricordano i Caracciolo principi di Melfi, i Gesualdo marchesi di Caggiano, gli Orsini Del Balzo principi di Altamura e di Venosa, i Guevara principi di Teramo, i Senerchia conti di S.Andrea e Rapone, che si riunirono nel Castello di Miglionico (detto del Malconsiglio o della congiura dei Baroni).
Nella seconda metà del XV secolo si ebbe una generale ripresa economica: segnali di un incremento delle attività commerciali si ebbero soprattutto in centri ben collegati come Venosa e Matera e si registrò una sostanziale crescita demografica. A quest'ultima dovette contribuire l'immigrazione dei profughi costantinopolitani in seguito alla caduta della città sotto il dominio ottomano. Tra il 1450 e il 1480 approdarono alle coste ioniche numerosi gruppi di esuli greci e, soprattutto, albanesi giunti al seguito di Giorgio Castriota Scanderbeg, il condottiero che aveva combattuto dalla parte di Ferdinando II di Aragona. Queste nuove comunità ripopolarono soprattutto la zona del Vulture (Barile, Rionero, Maschito) e poi si stabilirono a San Chirico Nuovo, Ruoti e Brindisi Montagna. A Matera, invece, gli Schiavoni fondarono un vero e proprio quartiere, scavando le abitazioni nella massa tufacea di quella parte dei Sassi a tutt'oggi nota con il nome di "Casalnuovo"."

E dopo? 
"La decisione di attaccare Melfi influì decisivamente sull'esito finale della guerra. Infatti dopo aver messo Melfi a ferro e fuoco, i Francesi ebbero modo di raggiungere ordinatamente Napoli e di organizzare un'efficace difesa, tanto che l'assedio della città si trasformò (in verità per molteplici concause) in un disastro per l'armata francese. Carlo V, re di Napoli, sconfisse anche questa volta, i Francesi, il cui tentativo di espugnare Napoli, messa sotto assedio dopo il Sacco Melfi, fallisce anche a causa di una grave pestilenza che si diffonde tra le truppe e che miete la vita dello stesso Odet de Foix,. Egli dunque punirà i Caracciolo per questo tradimento dando Melfi in feudo ai genovesi Doria, decisivi ed inattesi alleati dell'imperatore in quest'ultima battaglia. L'evento ebbe gravi conseguenze sulla vita e sull'economia della città di Melfi tanto che negli anni immediatamente successivi si dovette procedere all'emanazione di provvedimenti speciali per favorirne il ripopolamento. In particolare, la cittadinanza di Melfi, città dichiarata “fedelissima”a Napoli, con editto imperiale, venne per un lungo periodo esentata dal pagamento delle tasse."

Questo "Assedio di Melfi" fu' l evento che cambiò il sud?
"Nella lotta tra Francia e Spagna per il dominio sull'Italia, apertasi nel 1516, la Basilicata subì nuove distruzioni. Con il dominio dell'Italia meridionale l'imperatore Carlo V di Spagna tolse i loro domini ai feudatari precedenti, tra i quali i Caracciolo; i feudi di Melfi, Candela, Forenza e Lagopesole andarono così ad Andrea Doria "in soddisfazione della rendita annua di 6.000 ducati" e in cambio dei servigi resi alla corona, nel momento di massima ricchezza e splendore del condottiero genovese(Giovanni Simeone) e della sua città.
I feudi dei Sanseverino furono divisi fra le famiglie dei Carafa (principi di Stigliano), Revertera, Pignatelli e Colonna. In questo contesto si inserisce la tragica vicenda della poetessa Isabella di Morra.
La Basilicata fu in gran parte sottoposta alla giurisdizione di Salerno (Campania), mentre Matera e la Murgia facevano ancora parte della Terra d'Otranto (attuale Puglia). Con l'avvento della nuova classe dirigente, estranea al territorio di cui godeva il possesso, e con lo spostamento dei traffici commerciali dal Mediterraneo all'Atlantico, i feudi lucani furono considerati pura fonte di reddito e i nuovi baroni prestarono scarsissimo interesse al miglioramento delle condizioni economiche e sociali dei propri possedimenti. Vi furono anche casi di rivolta contro gli abusi dei baroni: a Matera, ad esempio, i cittadini sfiniti dalle esose contribuzioni richieste dal nuovo signore assegnato dal re, il banchiere napoletano Giovan Carlo Tramontano, nella notte di Natale del 1514 gli tesero un agguato e lo uccisero, non consentendogli di ultimare il suo imponente castello. I mercati dei centri urbani riuscivano in qualche modo a garantire un certo vigore economico, mentre le campagne agricole si basavano sull'autoconsumo delle famiglie e ben poco del prodotto poteva essere destinato ai mercati esterni. Nel 1528, i lanzichenecchi, dopo il sacco di Roma portano nuove distruzioni, in particolare a Melfi."

Nel film, hanno parlato molto di "Briganti". Nacquero in questa guerra? O esistevano prima? 
"La storiografia ufficiale tende a dare una eccezione negativa al termine brigante, diversamente dopo studi più accurati si è teso ad identificare questo nome semplicemente cittadini valorosi che si rivoltavano alla dominazione straniera, un po' come avvenne col Sacco di Melfi. Il termine “Brigante” fu coniato proprio dai francesi per definire quei ribelli meridionali che si opponevano all’invasione francese. I briganti lucani, invece, furono coloro che attuarono nell'Ottocento la resistenza cittadina all'invasione Sabauda (piemontese).  La storiografia ufficiale ci racconta la favola di 1000 valorosi volontari che capeggiati da Garibaldi giunsero al sud Italia per attuare l'unificazione dello stivale. La storia vera è ben diversa, i Piemontesi dopo aver occupato la Sardegna mirano a prendere anche il sud Italia mirando soprattutto alle sue ricchezze. Furono aiutati in quest'occupazione dagli Inglesi che così potevano vedere l'eliminazione di uno Stato forte antagonista. Il regno borbonico del Sud Italia era la terza potenza mondiale, poggiante su una grossa riserva aurea e un'industria avanzata. Fu scelto Garibaldi proprio perchè, dopo aver partecipato al tentativo mazziniano di invasione del Regno di Sardegna, si mise dapprima a fare il pirata al seguito del bey di Tunisi e poi fu costretto a fuggire in Sudamerica per non finire impiccato. Quindi si coinvolse prima nel furto di cavalli in Perù (dove gli vennero tagliati i padiglioni degli orecchi), e poi praticò la pirateria per il commercio degli schiavi asiatici, non certo un santo come poi fu decantato dalla storia rinascimentale. E se fosse stato vero come avrebbe uno sparuto stuolo di mille volontari (?) sbaragliare uno stato così forte? "Lo stesso giorno 20 ottobre (1860) il Dittatore, il quale esiliava vescovi, arcivescovi e cardinali, fece grazia a tutti i condannati all’ergastolo e alla galera per delitti comuni. Garibaldi sbarazzava le carceri di quei malfattori, per mettervi ufficiali, magistrati, aristocratici, preti e frati. E così si faceva l’Italia" scriverà lo scrittore contemporaneo siciliano, Carlo Alianello. Quanto alle terre promesse dal Nizzardo ai meno abbienti, esse finirono non certo nelle mani dei contadini, verso cui dimostrava disprezzo (li considerava “servi dei preti”, perché non si associavano alle sue scalmanate camice rosse), ma dello Stato piemontese, dell’ aristocrazia e della borghesia fondiaria meridionale, che capirono subito, come ci dice Tommasi di Lampedusa nel suo “Il gattopardo”, che si poteva benissimo cambiare tutto, anche mettendo la camicia rossa, senza cambiare nulla, o forse, guadagnandoci ancora di più (Tommasi di Lampedusa accenna infatti allo spartizione, da parte dei nuovi vincitori, delle terre comuni e di quelle della Chiesa, che sino ad allora servivano invece, molto spesso, al sostentamento delle classi più povere). Non è un caso che dopo la conquista della Sicilia, Garibaldi abbia trovato più amici a Torino e a Londra che in Meridione. Qui infatti il mito di Garibaldi, già di per sé circoscritto, era durato poco più dello spazio di un mattino. Infatti, come testimonia Giuseppe La Farina, braccio destro di Cavour nella organizzazione della spedizione dei Mille, le cui lettere sono state pubblicate sempre da Angela Pellicciari, Garibaldi e i suoi avventurieri si erano subito rivelati per quello che erano: saccheggiatori di ogni ricchezza, pubblica e privata, nelle orge e nel dispotismo. Durante l'assedio piemontese al sud italia dunque ci furono moti di rivolta alla conquista avvenuta con fucilazioni, depredazioni, incendi e stupri. Nacquero gruppi di rivolta definiti dalla storia ufficiale Briganti, altro non erano che gli uomini che non accettarono l'occupazione passiva delle proprie terre. Il 15 aprile 1861, Melfi (come tutta la zona del Vulture) fu protetta dalle bande capeggiate da Carmine Crocco, che sbaragliò le guarnigioni sabaude in poco tempo e fu ovviamente accolto trionfalmente dalla popolazione locale."

Nel film, Levi diceva che il Sud non è mai stato in grado di riprendersi da questa guerra. In base alla tua conoscenza della storia, ritieni che questa sia una valutazione equa?
"Carlo levi nacque a Torino nel 1902 e compì la sua formazione tra il nord Italia e Parigi. Non conosceva quasi nulla del sud Italia se non quando fu mandato in esilio, per la sua attività antifascista, a Grassano prima ed ad Aliano poi. Per questo la sua scoperta della Basilicata diviene un po' la rappresentazione globale del meridione del Bel Paese. Il Sacco di Melfi dunque diventa emblema della sudditanza della Basilicata, depredata da popoli stranieri. Fino ad allora invece, il vulture-melfese aveva vissuto grandi splendori come è visibile dal fatto che Federico II, uno dei personaggi più importanti del medioevo, fece costruire il proprio castello a Melfi dal quale promulgò nel 1231 le famose leggi "Costitutiones Augustales", il primo testo scritto di leggi organiche del periodo medievale. Fece inoltre costruire il castello di Lagopesole  come tenuta di caccia. Riuscì a far edificare inoltre anche il Castello di Lavello e di San Gervasio a conferma che questi luoghi vissero fino al Cinquecento un periodo di grande splendore.
Nel Seicento ci fu la dominazione spagnola che a lungo, fu accusata dalla storiografia, essere le causa della successiva povertà meridionale. Personalmente invece credo che il momento di reale crisi si è avuta proprio con l'Unità d'Italia e quindi questa questione non poteva essere affermata proprio da un piemontese come Levi che però, in esilio, si innamorò della Basilicata raccontandone il suo struggente fascino. La sua visita a Matera evidenziò i contrasti tra la bellezza paesaggistica e la povertà sociale. I Sassi di Matera sono oggi decantati come uno dei massimi esempi mondiali di Bioarchitettura in quanto per secoli si è costruito nel pieno rispetto dell'ambiente. Matera sorge su un lato di canyon le cui pareti laterali sono state scavate nella massa tufacea dall'azione corrosiva del torrente Gravina. Qui gli uomini hanno realizzato delle abitazioni scavando direttamente nel materiale tufaceo del canyon realizzando grotte che poi venivano tamponate col materiale di risulta. Queste abitazioni vennero realizzate secondo l'orientamento dei punti cardinali e sfruttando la differenza di irraggiamento tra estate ed inverno, per di più inventando un ingegnosissimo sistema di raccolta delle acque piovane (motivo per cui Matera rientra nei beni Unesco). Per millenni la popolazione ha vissuto in questo sistema perfettamente integrato tranne dall'inizio del Novecento quando, un surplus abitativo, costrinse gli abitanti di Matera ad occupare chiese e stalle per rispondere ad un cogente problema abitativo. E' questa la Matera che vede e descrive Carlo Levi, i cui racconti giunsero fino in Parlamento e si decise di avviare lo spopolamento dei Sassi. Lo Stato Italiano confiscò tutte le abitazioni mettendole nel patrimonio statale e realizzò la prima città moderna grazie all'apporto dei più grandi architetti e ingegneri italiani ed esteri."

Puoi consigliare libri che le persone possano leggere per saperne di più su questo periodo? 
"Il brigantaggio è stato riscoperto soprattutto nell'ultimo trentennio. La regione basilicata già dai primi anni del 2000 ha fatto realizzare a Brindisi di Montagna (pz), in un luogo naturale spettacolare, un teatro all'aperto in cui, ogni estate ben 300/400 attori figuranti, su un’area scenica naturale di 25000 mq con oltre 600 proiettori luce, 45000 watt di potenza per un sistema audio multidiffusione, proiezioni dinamiche di grandi immagini, schermi ad acqua, e suggestive ambientazioni scenografiche danno vita ogni anno ad un “film dal vivo” unico nel suo genere, La Storia Bandita, con protagonisti i briganti lucani guidati dal carismatico Carmine Crocco, in lotta contro i soldati piemontesi del Regno Sabaudo. Una straordinaria performance artistica impreziosita da incredibili effetti speciali e dalle ben note voci di Michele Placido, Lina Sastri, Paolo Ferrari e Orso Maria Guerrini. Questo spettacolo, che vidi per la prima volta nel 2001 e rividi altre due volte negli anni a seguire lasciandomi sempre a bocca aperta, aprì dentro me la necessità di studiare la vera storia meridionale che ho approfondito grazie ai libri di Pino Aprile: -"Terroni. Tutto quello che è stato fatto perché gli italiani del Sud diventassero meridionali" Milano, Piemme, 2010."

C'è altro che vorresti aggiungere? 
"Durante il mio periodo universitario a Pisa sono stata, per due mandati, consigliere dell'Associazione Lucani a Pisa e già allora cercai di organizzare un evento per invitare lo scrittore pugliese Pino Aprile in modo da organizzare una serata per la conoscenza e la diffusione della vera storia meridionale prenunitaria e post unitaria. Centocinquanta anni di menzogne necessitano che la verità diventi storia e spazzi le versioni imposte negli anni dai poteri forti e dalla massoneria. Nel 2017 sono stata socia dell'Associazione Granosalus che portava avanti la necessità della valorizzazione dell'ottimo grano italiano (soprattutto dell'Italia meridionale) purtroppo non protetto dalla classe politica, soprattutto europea che ha permetto l'arrivo in Italia di ingenti quantità di grano canadese (di quarto livello, quello usato come mengime per gli animali in nord america, ricco di sostanze tossiche come il glifosato e il don (muffe) dovuto al trasporto in container) da mischiare con l'ottimo grano meridionale in modo da mantenere comunque il livello minimo di tossicità prevista per legge su livelli accettabili. In quel tempo conobbi altre persone appassionate come me della vera storia meridionale. Questa necessità di riscoprire le vere origini ha generato nel sud italia addiruttura l'eliminazione di alcuni nomi famosi nella storia d'Italia risorgimentale dalla toponomastica di strade e piazze meridionali. Questo perchè deve essere fatta luce anche sulla deportazione dei meridionali da parte dei Piemontesi nel leger di Fenestrelle e delle barbarie subite dai meridionali in nome di un'inferiorità etnica che alcuni studiosi del nord dell'epoca millantavano come Lombroso. Da questa parte di storia taciuta nacque la povertà meridionale del Novecento da cui seguì l'emigrazione in tanti Paesi del Mondo, alla ricerca di fortuna, compresi gli Stati Uniti d'America."

I libri di Pino Aprile disponibili sul Amazon:


Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Dustin Hoffman and Toni Servillo Shooting a film at Cinecittà Studios in Rome

Two contemporary classics are teaming up for an upcoming Italian film. Dustin Hoffman and Toni Servillo are currently in Rome shooting Donato Carrisi's L'uomo del labirinto (Into the Labyrinth), the follow up to his successful 2017 feature debut, La ragazza nella nebbia (The Girl in the Fog). Shooting began on March 18 and is expected to last for seven weeks.

The story has been described as centering on a young woman, played by actress Valentina Bellè, who wakes up in a hospital bed. She has a broken leg, she is also disoriented and can’t remember anything. The room she is in has no windows, only a huge mirror lining one wall, although she can’t see her reflection in it. With her is a man who introduces himself as a criminal profiler. He explains to the girl that her name is Samantha, that she has been kidnapped and kept prisoner, but managed to escape, and that his job is to find the kidnapper. However, the hunt will not take place in the outside world, but in Samantha’s mind.vHe reveals to Samantha that she is no longer thirteen, which was her age when she was kidnapped, but twenty-eight. With his help, she gradually starts to recall certain episodes from her captivity. In a city overcome by a ferocious heatwave, where the people have taken to sleeping during the day and leaving their homes only at night, a private detective called Bruno Genko, who has spent years investigating Samantha’s disappearance, learns of her liberation. Now, stricken with a heart disease, the detective has only two months to live, but nonetheless, he takes up the hunt once more.

The film is being produced by Colorado Film and will be distributed by Medusa. It is slated for a 2019 release.

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Matteo Garrone's 'Dogman' Opening in Theaters Across America

Edoardo Pesce (left) and Marcello Fonte in a scene from Dogman

Marcello (Marcello Fonte) is an animal lover who runs a neighborhood dog grooming business. He adores his pre-teen daughter and takes her on scuba diving expeditions. The two dream of going to exotic places like the Red Sea, Hawaii and the Maldives. Marcello also has a frailty about him and sometimes seems to feel inferior. He doesn't speak up on his own behalf and people take advantage of him, especially the local bully, Simone (Edoardo Pesce). Marcello goes along with Simone's antics and even saves his life after he was hit during a drive by shooting. However, things start spiraling out of control and Simone makes a demand that Marcello strongly opposes. After Simone roughs him up and makes it clear that he won't take no for an answer, Marcello caves and ends up taking the fall for Simone. When he finishes doing time for the crime he didn't commit, he finds himself a changed man. Prison opened his eyes and he no longer tolerates being bullied. Simone, more evil than ever, doesn't acknowledge what Marcello did for him and blows him off. That was Marcello's last straw and he vows to get revenge. What follows are some of the most suspenseful, tense moments in the history of filmmaking. Matteo Garrone's direction of his talented cast is second to none. The combination of Garrone, Fonte and Pesce results in a perfect cinematic storm. If Dogman is playing near you, do not miss it.

Check out the trailer..

April 12th
New York: Film Forum and Film Society of Lincoln Center 
West Los Angeles, CA: Landmark’s NuArt Theatre

April 19th
Santa Barbara, CA: Riviera
Glendale, CA: Laemmle Glendale
North Hollywood, CA: Laemmle NoHo 7
Pasadena, CA: Laemmle Playhouse 7

April 26th
Albuquerque, NM: Guild Cinema
Hollywood, CA:  Arena Cinelounge
Chicago IL: Gene Siskel Film Center
Berkeley, CA: Landmark’s Shattuck Cinemas 10
San Francisco, CA: Landmark’s Opera Plaza Cinemas
Scottsdale, AZ: Shea 14 Theatre

April 30th
Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Cinema

May 3rd
Portland, OR: Living Room 6
Seattle, WA: Grand Illusion Cinema
Cambridge, MA: Landmark’s Kendall Square Cinema
Philadelphia, PA: Landmark’s Ritz at the Bourse
Washington, DC: Landmark’s E Street Cinema

May 10th
Miami, FL: Miami Dade College Tower Theater
Charlottesville, VA: Violet Crown Charlottesville
Columbus, OH: Gateway Film Center

May 17th
Rochester, NY: Dryden Theatere
Houston, TX: The Museum of Fine Arts
Buffalo, NY: North Park Theatre
Tallahassee, FL: Tallahassee Film Society / All Saints Cinema

May 31st
Baltimore, MD: The Parkway Theatre

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Four-Part, Uncut Version of 'Christ Stopped at Eboli' Opens in New York

The story and landscape of Lucania are in the spotlight during the month of April. A rare, uncut version of Francesco Rosi’s 1979 film Christ Stopped at Eboli is being shown at the Film Forum in New York City’s West Village. The screenplay was adapted from the book by Carlo Levi, a doctor, writer and painter from Torino who was exiled to the southern region of Lucania (today, Basilicata) because of his political beliefs.The year was 1935 and Benito Mussolini's Fascist Party was in power. Levi was forced into exile due to the silencing of those who spoke out against fascism. 

The uncut version is divided into four parts and lasts approximately four hours. The most striking difference from the two hour version is the visual decadence. The cinematographer, Pasquale De Santis, brother of director Giuseppe De Santis (Bitter Rice) was a longtime collaborator of Francesco Rosi. It's obvious from the composition of the shots and the long pans of the unique Lucanian landscape that much research and location scouting was done prior to filming. Francesco Rosi had a clear talent for expressing the human spirit and the plight of the underdog as he also did in films like Salvatore Giuliano, Tre Fratelli and Lucky Luciano. He could show the beauty of a people and culture without glamorizing them.. and their hardship without demoralizing them. He so eloquently achieved this in Christ Stopped at Eboli. The richness of the lighting gives allure to the impoverished surroundings and the striking natural landscape accented with olive trees and wild flowers gives a sense of affluence and abundance.

Christ Stopped at Eboli begins with Levi (Gian Maria Volontè) years after returning home. Lost in his nostalgia for the peasant culture he grew to love, he gazes at the portraits he created. This moment of reminiscing turns into a flashback of his first day arriving in southern Italy. The tale begins at the rail station in Eboli, a town located in Basilicata’s neighboring region of Campania. As Levi decends from the locomotive, he sees an abandoned dog with a sign around his neck asking whoever finds him to take care of him. Unbeknownst to Levi, the dog follows him and Levi decides to keep him, naming him Barone.

As Levi transfers to a small bus in the town of Pisticci, we see a shot of a calanchi mountain range, which is a signature part of the sprawling landscape of this part of Basilicata. The shot eventually widens to show the details of the magnificent calanchi situated upon the rugged terrain. Consisting of clay, and formed by erosion due to wind and rain, the literal translation of calanchi is "badlands." In Basilicata, they've often been described as resembling the surface of the moon.

As the vehicle approaches the hilltop town, Levi is visibly shocked and saddened to see the extreme poverty and desolation of the region. After spending an afternoon walking through his new town, Gagliano, the differences from the North are immediately apparent. They are not just physical differences, but also differences in behavior and culture. It's worth mentioning that the actual town in which the film was shot is Aliano. Gagliano is a fictional name.

The second part opens with a bird flying eloquently along the calanchi. Making use of the spectacular  natural set that is Basilicata, Rosi does not hold back. The region is nicknamed “Land of Cinema” because so many directors have shot there through the decades and clearly Rosi's creativity ran rampant among the infinite wilderness and ancient stone structures. Levi spends his time trying to ease the culture shock by exploring his new surroundings and talking with the inhabitants of the town, asking them many questions. Although he has not practiced medicine, he earned his degree and as far as they're concerned, that qualifies him to treat them whenever they fall ill, which turns out to be quite often.

In the third part of the film, Levi's affection for his new friends grows stronger as does his appreciation for the plight of the peasant. He reads about the centuries of battles that hardened their hearts and broke their spirits. However, as tragic as the story is, there is an underlying humor. This is a strong characteristic of the lucani. No matter how bad things get, they always maintain their sense of humor and sense of hope. Anyone who has spent time in the region will notice this quality right away. As one of those people, the most powerful line for me came when Levi was sending his sister off after a visit. “Truth is I’ve always felt like I lived here.” There is something so warm and welcoming about the people of Lucania, they make you feel like you've known them all your life. 

As the film winds down in the last part, Levi's affection for the peasants turns into a strong bond that forever changes him. Perhaps the most moving scene in the film comes as he departs in the rain and his dear friends and their children follow the car on foot reaching in through the open window to shake his hand and wish him well. This is where Gian Maria Volontè the actor metamorphoses into Carlo Levi. It's as if Volontè himself became attached to the lucani while he was shooting the film and empathizes with Levi's heartbreak in leaving them. 

Levi's infamous book was published in 1945, nearly a decade after his departure. Although he promised his friends in Aliano that he would one day return, it is said that he never did make it back there during his life. He did, however, in death. The Aliano cemetery that we see him visit in the film is his eternal resting place, and his paintings are on display at the Museo di Palazzo Lanfranchi in nearby Matera. In the film, his sister described the Sassi (Stone City) of Matera as a "crater full of caves" with "20,000 men and animals crammed together" and "a city destroyed by the plague." That stone city today is the 2019 European Capital of Culture and the region of Basilicata was #3 on the New York Times list of 52 places to visit in 2018

Veteran documentary filmmaker Luigi Di Gianni, who shot his films upon the very ground that Levi once walked, told me in a 2016 interview, “That world of peasants was marvelous. It was a world of extreme poverty but with values and with an unparalleled beauty and wonder that is no longer found.” This is the essence of Rosi’s film- an accurate and moving interpretation of Levi’s book, which expresses his love, admiration and respect for a people that endured centuries of hardships. 

Carlo Levi's Lucania 61 on display at the Museo di Palazzo Lanfranchi in Matera

Click here to read my interview with a young scholar from Lucania about the Siege of Melfi which Levi talked about in the film and the lasting effect the 16th century battle had on the South of Italy. Then, young people from Basilicata talk about Carlo Levi's legacy and how Lucania has changed with the times to become a contemporary society. For more information on the social economic evolution of Lucania, I invite you to watch my documentary, "Return to Lucania," a finalist in the 2018 Russo Brothers Italian American Film Forum.

Click here to purchase a 2K restoration of the film that just became available by the Criterion Collection.

Click on the link below to purchase the book, which I recommend reading before seeing the film.


Here is a link to purchase the original 2-hour release on DVD, which can be interesting to see prior to seeing the 4-hour, uncut version..

- Jeannine Guilyard

Follow this link to read about a permanent exhibit at Rome's Biblioteca Nazionale (National Central Library)..


Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Springtime in New York- The Place to be for Italian Cinema

Grab a prosecco and celebrate! It's shaping up to be an epic season for Italian cinema in the city. From contemporary cinema to timeless classics, there is something for everyone. Here is a list of films you won't want to miss.

Christ Stopped at Eboli
Francesco Rosi
Film Forum
April 3-18

Christ Stopped at Eboli by Francesco Rosi

Matteo Garrone
Lincoln Center

Dogman by Matteo Garrone

Stop the Pounding Heart
Roberto Minervini
Part of the Italian Documentaries series at the Italian Cultural Institute

Stop the Pounding Heart by Roberto Minervini

Flesh Out
Michela Occipinti
Tribeca Film Festival
April 27/29, May 4

Flesh Out by Michela Occhipinti

Abel Ferrara Unrated
May 1–31
The Museum of Modern Art

Piazza Vittoria by Abel Ferrara

Open Roads: New Italian Cinema
Lincoln Center
June 6-12

Ermanno Olmi Film Retrospective
Lincoln Center
June 14-27

Ermanno Olmi
Plan accordingly!

In Conversation with Director Cecilia Pignocchi

Filmmakers Arthur Couvat and  Cecilia Pignocchi It’s unusual for a first-time filmmaker to be recognized by a high-profile, international fi...