Do artists who deal with historical material have an obligation to get the facts right?
This dilemma has recently come to the fore, especially with the recent release of, and critical praise for, films such as Django Unchained (Quentin Tarantino’s revisionist history of the antebellum American South) and Zero Dark Thirty (Kathryn Bigelow’s take on the hunt of Osama Bin Laden). Artists appear to take significant creative liberty with real-world events, even when they claim to show us history, author Neal Gabler said in a piece on the Boston Globe citing both Django Unchained and Zero Dark Thirty as examples of this phenomenon. Also Ty Burr wrote on Boston Globe about consequences of truthiness.
Instead, articles published in the Journal of Italian Cinema and Media Studies (JICMS), founded and edited by Flavia Laviosa from the Department of Italian Studies at Wellesley College and co-sponsored by Wellesley College, are firmly grounded in the real world and its true to life representations in film. This peer-reviewed journal, a new English-language scholarly publication, is also a world forum for theoretical, methodological and critical debate on the artistic features, cultural themes, international influence and the history of Italian film and media as art forms and industries.
The purpose of JICMS is to consider Italy as the unifying geo-cultural site for a contemporary discussion on translocal cinema. For this reason, articles in this new academic publication are far from distorting Italian facts. Undeniably, these essays are going to redefine and change the way researchers analyze the multifaceted definition of Italian cinema, transcending geo-ethnic land and sea borders and moving away from merely celebratory local cinematic experiences.
In the first issue we read articles such as ‘Ksenia Rappoport and transantional stardom in contemporary cinema’ by Giovanna Faleschini-Lenrer, ‘The protest in Milan’s Chinatown and the Chinese immigrants in Italy in the media (2007-2009) by Gaoheng Zhang, ‘Assumed identities: Transgression and desire in Donatella Maiorca’s cinema’ by Claudia Karagoz, ‘Screening the Italian Mafia: Perpetrators, pentite and bystanders’ by Dana Renga, ‘Mediterraneanism and ironic postmodern nostalgia in Sergio Rubini’s Apulia’ by Giovanna De Luca, and the long-standing theme of the trajectory of Italian women in the age of ‘Berlusconismo’ as they moved from being silent to becoming vocal in the streets, which is discussed by Stefania Benini in ‘Televised bodies: Berlusconi and the body of Italian women’. This examination of the circularity of gender politics on Berlusconi’s television networks, similar to Lorella Zanardo’s documentary The Body of Women, is a study about the dangerous influence of the tycoon’s TV channels.
We met with the Editor, Flavia Laviosa, at Wellesley College on April 5, 2013.
Dr. Laviosa, do you think that Italian cinema and media are truthful to facts when they search for it through art, even though they sometimes play with that truthfulness?Cinema is an art form which interprets reality, rather than merely portraying it. The force of great cinema is precisely in its provocative and philosophical perception of the real. Contemporary Italian cinema, except for the best directors, tends to be far too subservient to reality.
What do you mean when you say a cinema is ‘translocal’?
The term translocal profoundly defines the spirit and the goals of JICMS. The journal reflects the new semantics of what constitutes Italian cinema today. Within the realm of a post-national and trans-cultural debate, the purpose of JICMS is to explore Italy’s reconfigured geographical collocation along the reassessed connotation of Italian film and media as portrayed by filmmakers and media practitioners working within and outside the country.
There are certain major factors that have further broadened the semantic definition, descriptive scope and artistic horizons of Italian cinema and media in the past twenty years. When, in 1989, Eastern European ideological borders were demolished, the Italian peninsula was relocated on the cultural map of the Mediterranean Sea, and, unexpectedly, it came to occupy a renewed, centered position. With the end of the twentieth century and first years of the twenty-first, culminating in the ‘Arab Spring’ – the revolutionary wave of political demonstrations and civil uprisings to overthrow dictatorial regimes, which started in Tunisia in December 2010 and has spread throughout the Middle East and North Africa – a new chapter in the history of Italy has begun.
As a result of the shifting of geopolitical and economic axes, the rebuilding of European borders, the redrawing of maps, and the rapid political changes and dramatic efforts to establish new democracies in the Arab world, Italy has became for new migrants the first stretch of a promised land sighted in the distance. The country represents a north-western destination surfacing on the porous Mediterranean shores, a land of opportunities, and the location of hopes and dreams for a better future. The arrival of these immigrants has radically changed the social fabric and the historical role of Italy. The country today is the landing stage and a natural geographical bridge for the multidirectional routes connecting the peninsula with Africa, Central and Eastern Europe, the Middle East and the Far East.
This historical shift in the Euro-Mediterranean atlas has consequently placed Italy in a position to play host to multiple cultures. Such dialectic coexistence has become a remarkable sound-box reverberating in a continuum of identities and resonating in creative contamination and artistic cross-fertilisation. The meeting, transfer and fruitful fusion of diverse traditions epitomise the intrinsic complexity and the joint effort to share the geopolitical space and economic resources of contemporary Italy. These epochal transformations have reassessed Italy’s translocality, and its cinema has become quintessentially global, artistically perceptive and alert, receptive and responsive to international influences. In an era no longer marked by the sharp division between nation-states, Italian cinema and media must be factored into the dynamic and changing mediascape in a post-national global context and increasingly hybrid notion of world cinema.
Seeing that in Italy film production, distribution and exhibition often have to resort to using new media and digital technologies due to limited funding in the film industry, what challenges will you face?
As Editor I am already facing the challenge of finding good scholarship in these new productions. Academia moves slowly, while the arts change and develop novel forms of expression at a much faster pace.
Why are the subject areas of Italian cinema and media often perceived as a sub-domain of literary or cultural studies?
Articles on Italian cinema appear traditionally in literary publications, in some other cases in journals with a cultural studies approach. Therefore, there is a dispersion of publications and an unregulated explosion of hybrids of film studies with many other (un)related academic areas. This diversification has led to a diversification of scholarship in Italian film/media studies while at the same time scattering contributions in a myriad of journals with broad scholarly scopes.
The most reputable journals are 1. The Italianist Annual Film Issue, 2. Studies in European Cinema, 3. Journal of Contemporary European Studies, 4. Italian Culture, 5. Italica, 6. Italian Studies, 7. Modern Italy, 8. Journal of Modern Italian Studies, 9. New Cinemas: Journal of Contemporary Film. The constituency which publications in these journals usually represent emerges from a tradition of film and media studies predominantly rooted in a Humanities-centred model of enquiry. Media studies in particular draw on traditions from both social science and the Humanities. Similarly, Italian cinema and media are subject areas often perceived as a sub-domain of literary or cultural studies. This prevalent and systematic practice leads scholars of literature to write about film within the established canon of the Humanities. By the same token, experts in cinema often adapt their work to the academic principles of literary scholarship, usually conditioned by the expectations of recruitment and research grant or tenure evaluation and promotion.
This pervasive and long-standing situation has fostered hybrids of literary and film/media publications and a plethora of multidisciplinary works blending in with Italian literary criticism. In response to such established traditions, JICMS represents an innovative channel and a more suitable outlet for scholars engaged in the history, theory and criticism of film and media practices in Italy.
The Advisory Board is composed of Peter Bondanella, Indiana University at Bloomington, USA; Marcia Landy, University of Pittsburgh, USA; and Geoffrey Nowell – Smith, Queen Mary University of London, UK. Which tasks does this board have?
The Advisory Board is usually a group of established scholars who act as ambassadors for the journal. They lend their names to the journal in order to bolster its reputation and actively promote it. These three outstanding scholars regularly give me advice and feedback on the direction and general content of the journal. It has been a privilege and an honor to work with such a remarkable group of colleagues and engage in productive exchanges of views as JICMS develops its own unique character and vision.
You are also supported by three Associate Editors: Grace Russo Bullaro, City University of New York, USA; Stephen Gundle, University of Warwick, UK; and Milly Buonanno, La Sapienza in Rome, Italy. What is their contribution to the journal?
This is also a critical group of collaborators. The Associate Editors are normally given a specific role by the editor. Sometimes they are given a sub-domain to manage. For example Professor Milly Buonanno, who is an expert on Media, has been appointed to look after submissions beyond cinema. These colleagues assist the Editor in administrating the journal and act as ambassadors representing the journal at conferences, encouraging submissions, as well as in advising on new journal policies along with the Advisory Board.
Another very important group of colleagues is the Editorial Board. These scholars conduct peer-review of articles submitted to the journal. They provide strong support to the journal as their work ensures the originality and high quality of the journal’s content. They have been rigorously selected from different countries (Australia, Canada, Great Britain, Italy, New Zealand, Switzerland, and United States) for their knowledge and expertise in Italian cinema and media studies. JICMS is an international journal represented by international board members. An international Editorial Board equates to an international readership.
The Editorial Assistants are trained, skilled and bi-lingual students who free the Editor by managing the day-to-day administration of the journal. Their work is paramount and invaluable.
Can you tell us about the Intellect as publisher?
Intellect promotes its image as intellectually stimulating and cutting-edge academic publisher effectively and consistently. The publisher conveys a sense of innovation and vision, and guarantees a sustained level of high standards in content and format. Intellect is sensitive to a variety of approaches and themes, is open to new ideas and editorial projects, and never runs into the risk of becoming academically pedantic or old-fashioned. I have enjoyed working with Intellect staff.
Why have you chosen Intellect?
For a number of very important reasons. First of all, for the outstanding international academic reputation of Intellect as a publishing company. Secondly, for the dynamic spirit, solid professional guidance and inspiring force of the Publisher, Masoud Yazdani. Thirdly, for the remarkable communication skills, both in face-to-face and phone conversations, of the editorial staff at Intellect. Furthermore, the promptness, efficiency, reliability and clarity, high professional competence of the editorial staff have been the critical factors that have guided me from the initial idea of a journal on Italian cinema, conceived at the Screen conference in Glasgow, in July 2010, through the complex and laborious process of founding a new journal. These are the extraordinary attributes that define the success of Intellect and the reasons for choosing to work with them.
The second issue of the first volume of JICMS has just been published. Can you tell us about the articles selected for this second issue?
This second issue features the following excellent articles: ‘Marco Ferreri: The task of cinema and the end of the world’ by Daniele Rugo; ‘Nostalgics, thugs and psycho-killers: Neo-fascists in contemporary Italian cinema’, by Alfio Leotta; ‘Totò e Carolina and the encumbrances of post–war film censorship’ by Christopher B. White; ‘Sardinia in fascist documentary films (1922–1945)’, by Silvio Carta; and ‘Italian university radio: An explorative study’ by Tiziana Cavallo.
The issue also includes reviews of recent books and films:
Perverse Titillation: The Exploitation Cinema of Italy, Spain and France, 1960–1980, Danny Shipka (2011); Popular Italian Cinema. Culture and Politics in a Postwar Society, Flavia Brizio-Skov (ed.) (2011); The New Neapolitan Cinema, Alex Marlow Mann (2011); Postcolonial Cinema Studies, Sandra Ponzanesi and Marguerite Waller (ed.) (2012); Murder Made in Italy: Homicide, Media, and Contemporary Italian Culture, Ellen Nerenberg (2012); Brutal Vision. The Neorealist Body in Postwar Italian Cinema, Karl Schoonover (2012); La maschera, il potere, la solitudine. Il cinema di Paolo Sorrentino, Franco Vigni (2012); and the film Altra Europa/Other Europe, directed by Rossella Schillaci (2011).
Finally, this second issues publishes a new section Notes dedicated to prominent Italian journals on Italian cinema. JICMS is honored to host contributions from ‘Filmcritica: The long journey by the ‘band of outsiders’’ by Daniela Turco; Bianco e Nero; Rivista di Studi Italiani; duellanti and the Bobbio Workshop by Ivan Moliterni.
A note on the Provo.Cult and Gargano Film Festival, 5th Annual Gargano Film Festival, 11–13 August 2012 is also included.
We met also at Wellesley with the two editorial assistants Ljubica Ristovska class 2013 and Sydney Cusack class 2014.
Ljubica is an Economics major at Wellesley College. She has been working as an Editorial Assistant for JICMS since its inception in 2011. Initially she focused on the traditional editing tasks such as reviewing and proofreading articles, but her role started evolving into a more marketing-oriented position. She has been working on reaching out to scholars, inform them about the journal and soliciting submissions, but most importantly she has been promoting the journal through various social media channels. Working as an Editorial Assistant has truly taught me invaluable skills, she said, for managing and marketing a new academic publication and has represented an excellent opportunity to work on a unique publication with brilliant scholars worldwide.
Sydney Cusack is an English major also at Wellesley College. In her role as an Editorial Assistant for JICMS, she reviews articles written by non-native English speakers for grammar, style, and content as well as providing authors with detailed feedback about their work. She primarily focus on updating the semantic, lexicon, and syntactic choices that authors have made and revising their work so that it will be published in its best possible form. In this regard, her background with the Italian language is extremely helpful in both understanding the landscape of Italian cinema, and in understanding the types of errors that frequently occur in translation from a Romance language into English. She has held this role for the past year, and her work during that time has also grown to include some basic translation of publicity materials and other logistical documents for the Journal. Her activities in support of JICMS include participation in several public speaking engagements to promote the Journal and its content both to the Wellesley College community, and the Academic community at large. This summer she will co-present the Journal with Professor Laviosa at the American Association of Teachers of Italian’s (AATI) 6th Annual International Conference in Strasbourg, France.
In conclusion, can you tell us about the future of your journal?
JICMS is visionary in content, trend-setting in approach, groundbreaking in its borderless view of the Italian film art and media industry, the journal is a significant contribution to the development of transnational Italian film and media studies. It is also an excellent resource for scholars and students interested in a broader, more inclusive and comprehensive critical analysis of film and media productions beyond the rigidly canonical framework of literary studies, the historical and classical definitions of film and media and the purely cartographic Italian national lines. The goal of this journal is to take inter-disciplinarity and film/media hybridity to a new level of scholarship, to re-define the field and to change the way researchers analyze Italian cinema and media studies.
In 2014, I will start working on the organization of international conferences that will give greater academic resonance to the journal among scholars and students interested in Italian cinema and media studies.
In the following years, the journal will systematically establish a stronger academic reputation, will occupy a prominent position among publications in film/media studies, and will be viewed as an authoritative journal for scholarship in Italian cinema and media.
In five to ten years, the nature of cinema and media production and distribution will have further developed. JICMS will be alert and perceptive to such rapid transformations. Constant vigilance and flexibility to transitions will be an imperative goal that will guarantee the journal a leading role as a cutting-edge publication.