A Glimpse into Luca Caminati’s Film Studies

A Glimpse into Luca Caminati’s Film Studies
A still image from the set of Roberto Rossellini's film Stromboli (1950) featuring Rossellini with Ingrid Bergman.
A Glimpse into Luca Caminati’s Film Studies
Photograph: Annie Schlechter Luca and Masha during the annual AAR soccer game between the Barbarians and the Romans (a 3-3 tie)

A little over a year ago, Luca Caminati was awarded the Post-Doctoral Paul Mellon/NEH Rome Prize in Modern Italian Studies. Luca was awarded the Rome Prize in order to pursue research on a historical transitional moment of Italian cinema: the shift from fascist to postwar Neorealist cinema (1938–48). In particular, he focused on the relationship between documentary and fiction in the late fascist era and in the early phases of Neorealism, and examined the role that documentary aesthetics played in the formation of a realist cinema. In the field of film studies, it is widely acknowledged that Neorealism shows strong documentary qualities, the exact nature of this relationship (in terms of the history of reception of documentary and mutual influence) had never been fully explored and Luca was offered a year in Rome to investigate this.

Luca conducted his archival research in the “Luigi Chiarini” library of the Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia (CSC, the national film school) at Cinecittà, the celebrated home of Italian cinema. He focused on two aspects of their collection: 1) the late 1930s story-documentaries collection (documentari narrativi), seen as precursors to the post-war neorealist movement; and 2) Roberto Rossellini’s documentary films. In his new book based on this research Luca intends to reassess the Italian pre-war documentary culture and reconnect it to the documentary aspect of Rossellini’s cinema.

After spending numerous days in the library over the past several months, Luca has some practical advice for future fellows in film studies: 1) Don’t get off at the Cinecittà subway stop to get to the archives: get off at Subaugusta and turn left. 2) The large mall on your right (Cinecittà Shopping) is the most abominable piece of architecture you will ever see 3) Enzo, the guy who looks up films for you in the “videoteca” has a very short memory span which 3a) means you have to ask for films a couple of times 3b) you can easily leave without having to pay the 1 euro fee per film that they charge you with.

Ultimately, Luca’s excessive use of the videoteca must have been overlooked judging by the fact that the Fondazione CSC – Quaderni di Bianco e nero (the film school publishing house) offered to publish his new book based on the research conducted in Rome. The working title is Rossellini documentarista.

Luca arrived in Rome with his wife Masha Salazkina, the American Council of Learned Societies Fellow. They both acknowledge that their time in Rome has been incredibly productive. “The AAR has all the things we love,” they say. “Great food, great people, beautiful environment, no student papers to grade, and plenty of time to work. This will indeed be a memorable entry in the book of our life.”

Starting July 1, Luca will be the associate professor of film studies in the Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema at Concordia University in Montreal, Canada.

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