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Monday, January 25, 2021

Criterion Channel Marks 30 Years of Martin Scorsese's Film Foundation

Ten shorts by the Sicilian documentary filmmaker Vittorio De Seta are now  available on The Criterion Channel in recognition of 30 years since Martin Scorsese founded The Film Foundation, an organization dedicated to preserving cinema. 


"Salvatore Giuliano"

In addition to the films by De Seta, The Criterion Channel is releasing a number of films during the year-long celebration that have been saved and restored thanks to this initiative. Among the Italian films in the first batch of releases are Luchino Visconti’s 1954 “Senso,” Francesco Rosi’s 1962 “Salvatore Giuliano” and 1972 “The Mattei Affair” and Sergio Leone’s 1968 “Once Upon a Time in the West.” Also included is Sicilian-born American director Frank Capra’s “It Happened One Night.”


The 10 shorts by Vittorio De Seta are: 

The Age of Swordfish (1954)

Islands of Fire (1954)

Solfatara (1954) 

Easter in Sicily (1954)

Sea Countrymen (1954)

Golden Parable (1954)

Fishing Boats (1958)

Orgosolo’s Shepherds (1958)

A Day in Barbagia (1959)

The Forgotten (1959)


De Seta’s work is not for the faint of heart. His films are anthropological in nature and show the authentic struggles of the people of rural Sicily, Sardinia and Calabria. His films are visually stunning and will stay with you. 


In 2014, I spoke with contemporary documentary filmmaker Salvo Cuccia about his homage to his Sicilian predecessor. “Détour De Seta” was presented by Cuccia and Scorsese at the 2005 Tribeca Film Festival and has earned its share of praise from audiences around the globe. 


De Seta was a huge influence on Cuccia, who appreciated the master’s "great depth of vision that is evident in his way of telling a story." Cuccia was always impressed by the eternal message in De Seta's images and how he used those compelling images to reveal the stories of workers in the South and how the poor struggled to get through each day. Cuccia considers De Seta, "a great teacher." 


To mark this momentous release, I reached out to Cuccia via Zoom for his thoughts on the series and De Seta’s films. He was articulate and generous in the recollections he shared. We talked about several of the master documentarian’s works including the “The Age of Swordfish,” “Islands of Fire” and “A Day in Barbagia.”  All three of these are available to stream on the Criterion Channel. Click below to watch our interview on YouTube.. 

Click here to watch “Détour De Seta” online. I highly recommend watching it before seeing De Seta’s documentaries. Click here for the Criterion Channel's series. 

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