Film-making during a period of social unrest
05 May 2016
Mapping the importance of Italian popular film traditions during a decade of social unrest is the key aim behind the new research project, ‘Dania Film and Italian Popular Cinema: Industry, Identity and Society in the Anni di Piombo and Beyond’. The project, funded by the University of Brighton’s Rising Star scheme, has Dr Xavier Mendik as its principal investigator. Having already completed nine volumes and five commercially funded documentaries on the subject, Mendik used his knowledge of cult Italian film industry trends to gain exclusive access to Dania Film, one of Europe’s most prolific production and distribution houses from the 1970s and 1980s.
The project considers how Dania Film productions of the 1970s reflected wider social fears and sexual tensions embodied by the Anni di piombo (or terrorist ‘years of lead’), which resulted in Italian popular film patterns fusing themes of violence with morbid erotic desires and pointed political commentary. Iconic Italian director, Sergio Martino, and his brother/producer, Luciano Martino, owned Dania Film, which became the largest popular film company associated with this nihilistic period of modern Italian history.
Dania Film produced 115 influential feature films across contempo- rary genres such as ‘terrorist-threat’ thrillers, ‘rogue cop’ dramas, can- nibal films, sexploitation features and graphic horror cycles, providing extreme entertainment and political critique for regional, national and international audiences alike. This output showcased the creative tal- ents of Sergio Martino, as well as attracting Europe’s leading directors, screenwriters and performers (including Ruggero Deodato, Michele Massimo Tarantini, George Hilton, Edwige Fenech, Umberto Lenzi and Barbara Bouchet) who all contributed to leading Dania productions.
Having gained exclusive access to the organisation’s archives, Dania Film and Italian Popular Cinema: Industry, Identity and Society in the Anni di Piombo and Beyond will disseminate new forms of knowledge on the Italian film industry and society of the 1970s, through two main outputs:
Firstly, the new feature length documentary That’s La Morte: Italian Cult Film and the Years of Lead features all of the key directors, per- formers, screenwriters and musicians from the era discussing their memories of film production and politics during the Anni di Piombo.
The documentary is being directed by Mendik for completion in November 2015 and features exclusive clip-cleared footage from some of Dania’s most iconic cult movies of the 1970s. It is intended that the documentary will receive its UK premiere at the Cine-Excess 2015 film festival, which this year features the tie-in theme: Historical Trauma, Hysterical Texts: Cult Film in Times of Crisis.
Secondly, this project will be followed by a co-authored volume, which will explore the industrial and social significance of Dania to wider Italian society and European film culture. The volume will draw on access to Dania’s film catalogue, related ephemera, press reports and correspondence with Italian government bodies, censorship boards and the Catholic church, to provide a unique snapshot into how these films were positioned within the wider social, political and cultural contexts of the Anni di Piombo.