Network Narrative in Diaz. Don’t Clean Up This Blood

I’ll be presenting this paper at the conference Italian Cinema in the Present Tense: New Narrative Practices from Adaptation to Transmedia and Transnational Cinema. A Seminar in Honor of Millicent Marcus. Friday, Nov. 13 and Sat., Nov. 14, 2015. Franklin and Marshall College, Lancaster, PA.

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Genova illuminata, / notturna, umida, alzata” (Giorgio Caproni,“Litania”).

The communicational experience of the 2001 Genoa G8 protests created an interrogation about the ability of the image to reveal the nature of events. The footage is traumatic because it is visual, but in such a way that the documents invoke the need for an exploration of the concealed driving forces. This study focuses on the film Diaz. Don’t Clean Up This Blood by Daniele Vicari, which to date remains the only docudrama entirely dedicated to the topic. In reconstructing the events that led to the raid on the titular school, Diaz embraces an aesthetic that David Bordwell and Alissa Quart have called “network cinema” or “hyperlink cinema.” This tendency mirrors the changes brought by the multimedia environment and convergence culture, and is characterized by a set of simultaneous narrative forking paths that overlap into each other. In hyperlink films there are several protagonists, but their projects can only be linked in retrospect, through active spectatorship. In this sense, Vicari’s project belongs to the tradition of movies that aim to trace a cognitive mapping of global systems, such as Traffic, City of God, Syriana, Battle in Seattle, Rendition, and Gomorrah.

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The elliptical and episodic structure of Diaz is constructed around the recurring image of a glass bottle thrown by a protester against a patrolling police car, a minor infraction that furnishes a pretext for the authorities clearing out the school. Each one of the protagonists brings a different perspective on the events. Thus, in Diaz the lens of the camera becomes a sort compound eye made up of several individual visual receptors. Each of them functions as an eye in itself, and several of them together create a broad field of vision on what happened the night of the raid. Despite the accusations of inaccuracy that have always accompanied this type of work (from Salvatore Giuliano and Battle of Algiers to Il Divo and Piazza Fontana: The Italian Conspiracy), Diaz delivers the sensation of being in the midst of something that lawyers, journalists and documentarians have narrated numerous times.

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Vicari uses the leitmotiv of the broken bottle to evoke a mosaic effect of assembling together the dispersed pieces of audiovisual evidence, filling the gaps with the use of fictional cinema. The prop is ‘hyperlinked’ to the two Molotov bottles that appear toward the end of the film. These were planted inside the school by the police and were initially used as incriminating evidence against the demonstrators in front of the national press. Thus, Vicari questions the version provided by the authorities by intervening on the raw documents. Diaz examines issues of digital ontology, mediation, and manipulation, questioning the limits of human memory and filmic evidence. A scrutiny of the audiovisual sources remains a defense against the criminalization of the Social Forum. The documents that the film incorporates are revealed to be multivalent fragments that contribute to multiple stories, and allude to the impossibility of telling the whole story.

Selected Bibliography

Agnoletto, Vittorio and Lorenzo Guadagnucci. L’eclisse della democrazia. Le verità nascoste sul G8. Milan: Feltrinelli, 2011.

Bordwell, David. Poetics of Cinema. New York: Routledge, 2008.

Caffarena Fabio and Carlo Stiaccini. “Piazza Carlo Giuliani – G8 Summit, Genoa 2001: Death, Testimony, Memory,” in Magry, Peter Jan and Cristina Sánchez- Carretero, eds. Grassroots Memorials. The Politics of Memorializing Traumatic Death. New York and Oxford: Berghahn Books, 2011; pp. 304–318.

Capelli, Claudia. “From Documentary Truth to Historical Evidence: The Images of the Genoa G8 Protests and the Construction of Public Memory.” Journal of Italian Cinema & Media Studies 3.3 (2015): 319-35.

Diaz. Don’t Clean Up This Blood. Dir. Daniele Vicari. Perf. Elio Germano and Claudio Santamaria. Fandango, 2011.

McDonnell, Duncan. “The Genoa G8 and the Death of Carlo Giuliani,” in Gundle Stephen and Lucia Rinaldi, eds. Assassinations and Murder in Modern Italy: Transformations in Society and Culture. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007; pp.73-85.

Hajek, Andrea. Negotiating Memories of Protest in Western Europe: The Case of Italy. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013.

Niwot, Melody. “Narrating Genoa: Documentaries of the Italian G8 Protests of 2001 and the Persistence and Politics of Memory.” History and Memory 23.2 (2011): 66-89.

Quart, Alissa. “Networked: Don Roos and Happy Endings.” Film Comment 41.4 (2005): 48-51.

Zamperini, Adriano, and Marialuisa Menegatto. “Giving Voice to Silence: A Study of State Violence in Bolzaneto Prison During the Genoa G8 Summit,” in D’Errico, Francesca and Isabella Poggi, eds. Conflict and Multimodal Communication. Zurich: Springer International Publishing, 2015; pp. 185-205.

Pablo Larraín’s No and the Aesthetics of Television

Published on Seismopolite (Vol. 10, May 2015).

I have also presented this paper at the PCA/ACA Annual Meeting. Latin American Film & Media Session.April 1-4, 2014, New Orleans, Louisiana.

 

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Pablo Larraín’s No (2012) is a Janus-faced film, documentation and interpretation. The movie reconstructs the events surrounding the 1988 Chilean referendum through the perspective of René Saavedra (Gael García Bernal), an advertising executive hired to run a television campaign to end General Augusto Pinochet’s rule. By adopting outdated U-matic 3:4 video technology from the period, Larraín gives the impression that the events were recorded as they occurred. The result is what I refer to as “fictionalized documentary,” that is, a film that blends archival television documents and staged scenes that reconstruct the real events in such a way that the end result appears to be a reportage. A movie made by combining contemporary technologies with existing analogue footage from the No campaign would have resulted in an uneven style. Thus, to give his work a creative unity, Larraín produces an “ideal documentary-like footage” that reflects the visual culture at a historical turning point for his country. READ MORE

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One Hundred Steps: Radio Interference on the Neorealist Heritage (Book Chapter)

 

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Abstract

This essay provides a conceptual map of the relationship 
between One Hundred Steps (2000), its precursors and contemporaries, and in doing so
 analyzes the innovative nature of Marco Tullio Giordana’s authorship. Giordana brought
 his crew on location and established a relationship with the citizens of
 Cinisi, Peppino’s friends, mother and brother, interviewing witnesses to
 the events and modifying the screenplay accordingly. In this sense, his film
 displays the legacy of early neorealism (particularly The 
Earth Trembles, Luchino Visconti’s 1948 ethnographic expedition
in Sicily) and that of Francesco Rosi, whose 1963 Hands over
the City is openly evoked. In addition, I claim that in order to understand the film, one needs to take 
into account the American mafia portrayal by directors such as Martin
 Scorsese and Francis Ford Coppola. While Peppino emphasized the difference 
between himself and the mafia in his town by refusing to cross a short 
distance, Peppino’s father travels enormous distances in his attempt to 
reconcile the situation back at home, a subtle indication in the film of both
 the mafia’s global reach and how close family ties do not fade across
 continents. Giordana’s cinematic re-assertion of both Sicilian heritage and
 US film is consistent with the film’s narrative and with his choice to 
demonstrate, retrospectively, how the town of Cinisi’s mafia crime trade
 was an early example of globalization. Not by chance, there is a particular 
emphasis on the new spatial relationships created by the airport and the mode
 of exploitation it represents (in some sequences Peppino fights the
expropriation of the farmers’ land for the construction of the third
 runway). It is in front of such modified spatial relationships that Peppino
 comments upon how such constructions alter the landscape, delivering his 
famous lyrical monologue: “You can find logic for anything once it’s 
done, once it exists…it takes so very little to destroy
 beauty.” One Hundred Steps oscillates
between the two poles of documentary and fiction, creating a new  hybrid aesthetic that reveals to be seminal in the new
millennium.

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Book Chapter in The Cinema of Marco Tullio Giordana (Editore Vecchiarelli, 2015)

 

The work of Italian film director Marco Tullio Giordana has recently become the subject of academic attention. Major scholars in the field of Italian Studies have expressed interest in his work in articles, book chapters and presentations. His films are constantly screened at Italian film festivals. A comprehensive evaluation of Giordana’s work is therefore needed in the field of Italian film studies, if only because his work demonstrates that the claim of a crisis of Italian cinema is not justified. Through the volume we explore and analyze the multifarious nature of Giordana’s cinematic production as well as its critical/crucial role in the representation of Italian cultural history.

 

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Twenty-something years later: Gen-X at the Oscars

 

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They were the underachievers, self-centered and impractical.

Throughout the 1990s, indie filmmakers such as Wes Anderson and Richard Linklater gave voice to the overeducated (but often unemployed) sons of fractured families, paralyzed by social problems. An alternative cinema required alternative stars, and some of the early roles played by Julianne Moore, Patricia Arquette, Edward Norton, Ethan Hawke, Reese Witherspoon, Mark Ruffalo and Laura Dern captured the essence of the era’s anti-traditional bent.

When Birdman director Alejandro González Iñárritu started working within the US industry, he added his intercultural sensibility to the equation in films characterized by a narrative structure comprised of labyrinthine, overlapping paths.

However, there was a sense that Gen-X never flourished, condemned to eternally mourn the loss of River Phoenix, or to age bitterly, like in This is 40 or Greenberg.

Then Beck won at the Grammys, Father John Misty covered Nirvana and what remains of the Miramax-Sundance era had their moment at the Oscars. They were supposed to be having a midlife crisis – but instead they made an aesthetic out of an impending midlife crisis, and produced their most ambitious works. Birdman, The Grand Budapest Hotel and Boyhood are grounded in years of research, and focus on the themes of real time, image composition, and the heritage of the global new waves.

In the words of Kurt Cobain: Here we are now, (keep) entertaining us.

READ MORE at The Conversation 

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Rock Me Amadeus: The Mozart-Salieri Conflict in Drama & Film

I will present this study at Bridges Across CulturesInternational Studies Institute in Florence; Palazzo Rucellai.  Florence, Italy July 2, 2015 – July 5, 2015. 

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The internal confilct of Salieri when confronted with Mozart’s genius has been portrayed starting from Pushkin’s “little tragedy” Mozart and Salieri (1830), to Shaffer’s play Amadeus (1979), which in turn inspired the acclaimed film by Forman (1984). These texts explore the mystery of genius and the theme of envy by juxtaposing different artistic types, which also epitomize the conflict of cultures of that age. On one side is Salieri, the devout courtisan who achieves his art by way of self-abnegation, virtuous in life but not virtuous in music. On the other is the inspired prodigy, sublime in music but dissolute in life who simultanously composes for Joseph II and the theatre of Shikaneder. This study explores how Salieri struggles with the idea that the gift of music is distributed randomly, and this creates in him a metaphysical anger. Salieri’s reaction to Mozart hinders him artistically. He begins to consider his work through the perspective of immortality, and the value of his immediate success is diminished in this light. When he finally comes to realize the dreadful bite of his failures, he whispers his name to us, calling himself the “Patron Saint of Mediocrities.”

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Conference Details

This is the first Bridges Across Culture: An International Conference on Arts and Humanities to be held in Florence. The “Bridges” conference provides an opportunity for academicians and professionals from various arts and humanities-related fields from all over the world to come together and learn from each other. This conference will serve as a place for scholars and experts with cross-disciplinary interests related to arts and humanities to meet and interact with members within and outside of their own particular disciplines.

Genetic Ancestry Project

Over the Spring semester, I started producing a video documenting the “Race, Genetics and Ethnicity: Comparing Categorical and Ancestral Identities” project, interviewing the participants and discussing the issues at stake with the other fellows involved. To be presented at the Spring Humanities Symposium (February 25; Parmer Cinema, 7 : 00 PM).

From the proposal:

“Recent genetic research has begun to reveal the deep histories of human DNA through identifying human haplogroups — that is, groups of human populations sharing single nucleotide polymorphism mutations (SNPs) over generations.  These shared genetic mutations thus reveal a shared a common ancestor. Using this new evidence, we propose to gather and publicly present the results of ancestral DNA research (which identifies our historically deep genetic identity), and then compare these results with our own received understandings of race and ethnicity as traditional foundations for personal and group identity.  We will then compare the insights of hapologroup identities with the more traditional personal and group identities of race, ethnicity, and nationality in an effort to broaden our sense of personal identity and collective history. Along the way we shall be sensitive to the tensions sometimes created by this juxtaposition of genetic haplogroup identity with racial, ethnic, and national personal/group identities, and will make a point of distinguishing between our human differences (racial, ethnic, national) and their historical origins.  Yet we also hope to encourage a reassessment of received/perceived differences in light of the results of genetic haplogroup identities.  Our ultimate interest lies in the comparison of genetic history with our received histories of personal and group identities.”

Aspects that attracted me to the project are the possibility of putting my visual and multicultural expertise to the service of my college, and the interactions between students, faculty members, and staff members the event may generate. I also saw it as an opportunity to work with faculty from other departments on a project involving a digital component.

In collaboration with: Michael Shin (Associate Prof. of Biology), Bernardo Michael (Special Asst. to the President/Provost for Diversity Affairs & Associate Prof. of History), Joseph P. Huffman (Distinguished Prof. of European History).

My JFK Article Mentioned on The Bridge

An article on my scholarship appeared on the Fall 2014 issue of The Bridge.

Film professor publishes article about Zapruder film, a video of the JFK assassination, in Slovenian journal

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Fabrizio Cilento, an assistant professor of film and digital media at Messiah, says he has always been fascinated by technology’s impact on the history of visual culture. This long-time interest is detailed in his recent article about the film footage of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy (JFK), which was published by the Slovenian journal, Teorija in praksa.

The only known recording of the JFK assassination was made possible because of the advent of 8mm home-movie cameras. Abraham Zapruder, a bystander who had planned to film Kennedy’s motorcade as it passed through Dealey Plaza in Dallas, inadvertently captured the historical tragedy on his personal movie camera.

“Because of its low technical quality and being mediated by Zapruder’s limited perspective, the video’s status as historical evidence was ambiguous,” Fabrizio said. “The Zapruder video’s promise, which generates the psychological desire to replay and analyze it, is to reveal what will remain beyond it: the motivations and the causes of the action it depicts.”

Fabrizio’s paper, “The Ontology of Replay: The Zapruder Video and American Conspiracy Films,” is a visual analysis of the assassination video, particularly focused on how replaying it can provide a different way of re-constructing past events.

“The article explores how the communicational experience of Kennedy’s assassination created an epistemological break, an unprecedented interrogation about the ability of the image to reveal the deep nature of events,” Fabrizio explained.

The research process for the article was a rigorous one. Fabrizio spent time tracing the history, legacy and circulation of the images of the assassination.  He also interviewed Albert Maysles, often referred to as the “dean of American documentary,” who provided several insights to working theories.

Teorija in praksa, a journal founded by the faculty of social sciences at the University of Ljubljana in Slovenia, published Cilento’s article as one of five features for its special issue titled “JFK Assassination: The Rise and Fall of Camelot.”

Distilling such a monumental time in U.S. history into one article was a challenge. To meet the journal’s story length requirements, he cut several pages of his original piece. “Overall, I think it required me to really dig down to the essence of the argument,” said Cilento, “which revealed to be a useful exercise.”

-Rose Talbot ’16

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The Power of Simulation: From The Matrix to Avatar

An event that I have organized in collaboration with the Department of Communication and the School of the Humanities.

The Power of Simulation: From The Matrix to Avatar

What do contemporary Science Fiction movies tell us about ourselves? Is there a sense in which these fictions of the future reflect something essential about the reality of the present? In this lecture, Dr. Nidesh Lawtoo (Johns Hopkins University) suggests that The Wachowski Brothers’ The Matrix (1999) and, more recently, James Cameron’s Avatar (2009), hold up a magical mirror that reflects the contemporary fascination for the power of virtual simulations. Informed by a variety of new media—from film to the Internet, computer games to Facebook—these movies make us see how real bodies can be virtually reloaded into digital bodies, human figures into virtual avatars. Rather than looking ahead to a purely futuristic world, or looking back to a primitive, natural world, The Matrix and Avatar reveal how human nature in the “real” world is currently being transformed by digital practices in an increasingly “simulated” world. Neither fully human, nor fully virtual, yet animated by both human and virtual links, the power of simulation transgresses boundaries between human and the non-human as it emerges from the interface where the posthuman self and the digital avatar, nature and technology, meet, clash and, above all, reflect on each other.

 

A Certain Absence in French Cinema

I will present this essay at the Northeast Modern Language Association (NEMLA). Session ~ The Nouvelle Vague at 60: A Reassessment.  Presiding: Jackie Cameron. April 30-May 3 2015. Toronto, Canada

ABSTRACT: This study discusses the repressive double narrative of French modernization and the Algerian war as it emerges in New Wave films. The decolonization and the accelerated socio-economic modernization are not to be considered separate histories but are deeply interrelated, since the war represents a sort of monstrous political doppelganger of the country’s newly omnipresent capitalist culture. The decolonization experience is implicit in some nouvelle vague works of the era like Cléo from 5 to 7 (Agnès Varda, 1961), Le petit soldat (Jean-Luc Godard, 1963), and Muriel, or the Time of Return (Alain Resnais, 1963), and in an example of cinéma-vérité, Chronicle of a Summer (Jean Rouch, 1961). These films express the myths and anxieties of modernization, offering a critique of the official representations of a uniformly prosperous France surging forward into American-style patterns of consumption and mass culture. They also refer to the Algerian War, although it is dealt with either indirectly, as when Varda narrates the story of a soldier returning from the war without making any allusion to the events occurring there. Alternatively, Godard shows the Algerians as torturers and Rouch deals with the actuality of the war in a more direct way but without taking an explicit position on the issue. At a certain level, as analyzed by Kristen Ross in Fast Cars, Clean Bodies, these choices go along with the larger trend in intellectual life of the 1960s, which took refuge in structuralism and in the theorization of “the death of the man” at the very moment when liberation movements in the colonies were announcing the birth of the “new man,” Fanon’s colonized subject in revolt described in The Wretched of the Earth.

PreviewSnapz003Muriel ou Le temps d’un retour (Alain Resnais, 1963)

MailSnapz002La battaglia di Algeri (Gillo Pontecorvo, 1966)

MailSnapz001Black masks ‘coming to life’ during Cléo de 5 à 7 (Agnès Varda, 1962)

SafariSnapz001Algerian members of the FLN torturing Bruno in Le petit soldat (Jean-Luc Godard, 1963) and a French paratrooper torturing an FLN member in La battaglia di Algeri

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