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2012: 9th edition

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08/09/2012
Three backward glances
"If someone buys the rights to Proust's works and then decides not to publish them, I feel I'm entitled to make copies and publish them myself." Piero Tortolina's logic is flawless, and, applied to the film industry, that logic has meant salvation for many films that would otherwise have been lost. Now Tortolina, the Paduan engineer and film enthusiast who died in 2007, known for being one of the greatest Italian film collectors, comes back to life in a documentary by Marco Segato, L'uomo che amava il cinema. A "pirate" before his time, Tortolina began buying up films on the black market back in the 70s - films that would have been destroyed after a brief stint in the movie theaters: American movies from the 30s and 40s, above all, classic westerns like John Ford's Stagecoach, or musicals starring Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire, or movies by Vincente Minnelli or Billy Wilder. "Piero Tortolina's story is the story of film itself, and not only Italian film, mind you: all seen through the eyes of a cinephile," Segato explains. It certainly is the story of Italy's art houses, which helped themselves to his private collection for their own programming.
 
Meanwhile, history with a capital H' is what emerges from the memoirs of Vincenzo Rabito, another extraordinary figure and the subject of the doc Terramatta; by Costanza Quatriglio. After a lifetime as a semi-illiterate, the Sicilian Rabito made up a language all his own and left an autobiography of over a thousand typed pages, collected in notebooks tied together with string. When it came out in 2007, this corpus became a publishing sensation. The two world wars, the colonial adventure in Africa, the hardships of postwar Italy, and up to the economic boom in the 60s: it's all there in Rabito's retelling, with the immediacy of an uneducated man. "Rabito walks into the great collective events of history armed with his poor grammar and a typewriter," the director says. "And along with history, he describes his own life with the epic vision of a true story-teller."
 
The saga of a powerful political commitment is the focus of Non mi avete convinto by Vincenzo Vendemmiati, devoted to another figure whose career spanned the entire 20th century: Pietro Ingrao, a leading exponent of Italy's long-lived communist party. "Ingrao is perhaps the best-loved of Italian politicians after the war, but also the least powerful," Vendemmiati observes. "To my generation, he stood for the idea of politics as a mission, a constant, utopistic quest for a better world." Ingrao, now 97 years old, gives a first-hand account of events in a long interview. Carefully-selected archive footage, including some unreleased recordings, enrich the documentary. These include Ingrao's speech as Speaker of the Lower House on the occasion of the fifth anniversary of the terrorist bombing in Piazza della Loggia in Brescia, in May 1979: truly a masterclass in history.

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