The Italian cinema under fascism : film culture and public discourse from 1922 to 1943 / by Steven John Ricci.
Previous writing on Italian cinema has tended to dismiss the period between 1922 and 1943 because of its association with fascism. The goal of this dissertation is to correct this historiographic amnesia by examining in detail the relationships between the Italian cinematic institution and fascism. It will argue that the cinema experience was indeed fascist in the manner and the extent to which the regime's intervention into cultural affairs regulated processes of film reading. The fascist regime played a key role in the reconstruction of the film industry after its precipitous decline in the early 1920's. While consolidating its internal political power, the state began a cautious campaign of economic and regulatory support for the cinema. By the early 1930's, that involvement was significantly increased and took the form of the construction of new studio facilities in Rome and favorable tax incentives for film production. In addition, the state assisted the industry in its competition with Hollywood films by mandating the dubbing of all foreign films as well as the deployment of protectionist censorship policies. The cinema also functioned in support of the regime's attempt to set the terms for a specifically fascist national identity. Many of the period's films reenact the forms of spectatorship proposed in fascist mass culture i.e. in state-sponsored sports, travel and leisure time activities. Moreover, the films themselves remove key impediments to a monolithic conceptualization of national identity by effacing the discursive markers of differences (such as class and region) between Italian audiences. The institutional organization of the Italian cinema during this period was characterized by a process of mediation and exchange between two dominant "authorial" agencies: fascism itself and the Hollywood cinema. On the one hand, the regime established a monopoly over non-fiction film production and was therefore able to construct an unmediated and widely-viewed representation of itself. On the other hand, the majority of fiction films shown in Italian cinemas was imported from Hollywood. The contradiction between the regime's desire for both economic self-sufficiency and cultural purity and the domination of the American cinema constitutes a defining character of the cinema under fascism.
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