History and Tv in Italy

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by Paola Valentini

Italian television was a state monopoly, from the beginning (1952-1954) until the Seventies. Next to the first channel (Programma nazionale, then RAI 1) came (1961) a second channel (Secondo canale then RAI 2), then (1979° a third (RAI 3). Officially the RAI monopoly should have ended by 1972 but it was never abolished and simply vanished between 1972 and 1983 in front of the growth of dozen of local, commercial and even foreign Italian speaking channels (TeleMontecarlo, Tele Svizzera Italiana, Tele Capodistria). Berlusconi, owner of TeleMilano took advantage of the situation to buy most of the commercial channels creating thus a “duopoly”, with RAI on one side (RAI 1, RAI 2, RAI 3), and Mediaset (Berlusconi’s network, CANALE 5, RETE 4, ITALIA UNO) on the other. A few independent channels (LA7, MTV) have also a national diffusion and are involved in a digitalization process. There are about 100 thematic channel, all part of satellite bouquet “monopolized” by Fox Italian Division, and about one thousand independent and local commercial stations.

1. The most important History Programmes put in the air by the main Television Channels
Public Channels:

History TV programs in Italy are a traditional monopoly of journalists, who, simple news-readers in the first years, became interviewers and were allowed to express opinions, take positions in public debates and mediate with audience. Due to the preponderance of journalists History Programs on public channels were almost exclusively documentaries made wit archive footage (usually bought from the Istituto Luce which made newsreels under Fascism) with a narrator’s voice over. A turning point came the 10th November 1972, when Sergio Zavoli, mixing original footage and interviews with witnesses, journalists and historians, produced Nascita di una dittatura, evocation in six episodes of the Fascist rise to power. The accuracy of the reconstruction and the inventiveness of the treatment were much appreciated, Zavoli applied the same method to La notte della Repubblica (1989), which dealt with the initial period of the Italian Republic. There was thus what can be labeled an “Italian style in History Programs”, still in use in a popular series, La storia siamo noi, which combines a sober, unemotional presentation with a spectacular exhibition of television means (numbers of cameras, set decoration, various use of shooting plans, camera movements and visible editing). The other national turning point in History programs was the experimental films that Roberto Rossellini created for RAI (often in co-production with other European TV channels) during the Sixties (e.g. L’età del ferro, La presa di potere di Luigi XIV with ORTF). Misunderstood by an audience that found them too complicated these broadcast nevertheless represent a prefiguration of the present docudramas.

There is no fix schedule for history programs, they are put in the air in different situations, for instance the same episode of La storia siamo noi, scheduled on RAI satellite in prime time is also broadcast on Rai 2 or Rai 3 early in the morning or late in the evening while La superstoria may be broadcast in prime time or in late evening, according to its subject. When the theme changes the schedule follows, Enigma deals with “mysteries” but the episodes dedicated to biographies are put in the air in prime time and their format wavers from fifty minutes to more than an hour.

Nowadays history is a trademark of RAI 3 which, from that point of view, is almost a thematic channel (38 History programmes in prime time in 2005 and 65 in late evening) and broadcasts documentaries as well as reconstructions historical feature films.

Documentaries are made up of original newsreels bought in various archives, not only at the Istituto Luce, with just a narration voice over to surround the images and to bridge the gaps in the editing. It’s the traditional History programs of public channels, virtually unknown on commercial channels and not modified since the 1970s.

Un minuto di storia by Gianni Bisiach (RAI 1, Monday to Friday) is a modern version of this formula. It’s a one-minute documentary with a voice over inserted in the 8.00 a.m. TV news, and is the only example of History in daytime in RAI 1 or 2. Every morning it has a large audience (from 7.00 to 9.00 Rai 1 is the preferred channel with 27,67% of audience in April 2008).

Passaggio a Nord Ovest (Saturday, 17.45, RAI 1), aimed at young people, privileges ancient history, adventures, archaeological discoveries in accordance with scholarly textbooks. Travels throughout historic places is a pretext for a narration in voice over and for explanations given, on the spot, by the anchorman (for example Rome for gladiators, story of Spartacus, etc.).

La grande storia (from 1997 on RAI 3. First broadcast in prime time, it is now broadcast daily at 8.00 a.m. and twice a week in late evening, with a repetition on RAI SAT [see below]). Since its the beginning the structure of La grande storia has not changed, it consists of newsreels, images shot for the programme, interviews and deals mostly with Italian history between or during the two world wars. The curators do not hesitate to treat twice the same subjects, Casa Savoia (31st August 2007, h. 21.05) had the same author (Nicola Caracciolo), the same historic consultant (Valerio Castronovo), the same theme (the end of monarchy in Italy) that a 1979 documentary (Il Piccolo Re) and Caracciolo declared: “My point of view is the same, what changes is the way I narrate the story”).

Correva l’anno – (RAI 3) with newsreels and narration in voice over has three sections: “Speciale Fascismo” [extra edition Fascism], “Speciale Guerra fredda” [extra edition Cold War] (until 2006), “Biografie parallele” [parallel biographies].

La Superstoria – (Saturday, 20.10 or 23.00, depending upon the subject, RAI 3). Aimed at young people, it updates the documentary formula, the mood is satirical and the attitude is often sarcastic. It’s always a montage film but the rhythm is quick thanks to a very fast editing and a mixing of contemporary music, striking images and visual and audio counterpoints. Subjects are different (from documentaries on the Eighties till history of Italian Television, or history of working conditions). Much attention is paid to micro history, everyday life and different ways of documenting a period (with an attention to the role of cinema, media, literature, music, etc.).

La storia siamo noi – Heading programme, meant to illustrate the “history project” of the RAI, is repeated daily by all RAI channels (daily at 8.05 on RAI 3, Monday h 23.25 on RAI 1 and Wednesday h. 0.45 on RAI 2, and in repetitions on RAI satellite channels). Created and presented by Gianni Minoli it’s a unique experience in Europe with about 240 hours transmitted all year round. It has multiple interests: the secrets of history, men of XX century, “mass autobiography for a memory of the future”. It has a particular audiovisual syntax, interrupts documentary images with “spectacular” shooting from studio, boasts dozen of screens in the studio reduplicating the image of the host and his guests, has recourse to close up, steady cam, etc.

The conception of history in these programs has been strongly influenced by a detective miniseries, La Piovra, and so by the politically commited Italian movies of the Seventies. The same influence is to be found in recent television films, La meglio gioventù (M. T. Giordana, 2003, Rai 1, 4 episodes) which recounts forty years of Italian history seen trough the lives of two young brothers, with scrupulous reconstructions or real documentary segments about crucial moments (the Florence flood, the “Red Brigades”), or Cefalonia (Rai, 2004) in which official documents but also diaries, memories, witness statements help recreate historical events (the struggle of the Italian army against the Germans in the Greek island of Cefalonia the 8th September 1943) in the framework of individual experiences.

Istantanee dal passato [snapshots from the past] gives a historian, professor Alessandro Barbero, a chance to present aspects of everyday life from the Middle Ages to the 19th century, thanks to famous pictures (e.g. Arnolfini by van Eyck for pregnancy and woman condition in the past) and sketches of the well known cartoonist Bruno Bozzetto.

Il caffé (originally a production for RAI International 1, the satellite channel for Italian in the world; repeated daily by RAI 3 h. 6.30). Cinzia Tani presents, with the help of guests, period shorts and interviews, an Italian cultural event of particular importance such as the memory of actress Anna Magnani, novelist alberto Moravia – or even the Shoah.

Voyager. Ai confine della conoscenza (RAI 2, Thuesday, h. 20.30) created and presented by reporter Roberto Giacobbo, who worked also for commercial TV [see below, Stargate] is a traditional talk-show aimed at answering every time a new question (from the Templars to the pyramids or Jack the ripper) with the help of original location shot and witneses. The program is often surprising as in the episode of 25th December 2007 on the history of pyramid, when professors and historians had to talk on the bottom of the Sphinx in Egypt.

Ulisse (Saturday 21.30, RAI 3, originally Ulisse: il piacere della scoperta presented by Piero Angela and from 2007 by his son Alberto Angela). The program, interested in archaeology, art, science organizes a sort of journey to the past. The History is narrated trough fictional images (from international TV movies), the commentary is both is registered in historic places (i.e. for historic reconstruction of Middle Age a castle or a land where took place crucial battles).

Enigma (by Corrado Augias, RAI 3, 23.45) The 2007 edition explored “Il lato oscuro della storia” [the dark side of history] and selected subjects as Hitler and the women, but also the history of starlet Anna Nicole Smith, the Italian defeat in Caporetto or Jesus between faith and history. With often unpublished period shorts and with the support of two guests in studio, journalist Augias, tries to shed light on widespread versions of big and small historic mysteries. Except for interesting newsreel, history is often a pretext for a more general chat: in the first episode “Hitler e le donne” the guests were a criminologist and a psychotherapist.

Blu notte. Misteri italiani (RAI 3, from 2000, Tuesday, h. 23.45), is intermediate between the two examples given above. Narration has a preeminent part (the presenter is the detective stories writer Carlo Lucarelli) but reconstruction is visualized trough real period shootings often borrowed from TV news, and shots taken in location alternate with by fictional scenes. The program has a narrative pattern as a detective movie (with use of suspense, cliff hanger, mystery) and themes are various, from Nazi-fascist massacre until the Genoa G8 conference in which several protesters were seriously injuried by the police.

At last, there is fiction area, very appreciated by the major channels, both public and commercial. The reconstruction of history periods is offered as a romance (Il cuore nel pozzo 2005 RAI 1 fiction on the Foibe massacre) or an original biopic (from Rino Gaetano to Exodus. Il sogno di Ada), great attention is given to scenography, costumes, actor performances and the audiovisual language is typical of a TV movie. These are big money productions, often international, which meet with great success but may also failed entirely. These are broadcast in prime time and are reserved to RAI 1 (and Canale 5).

Except for RAI 3 and its “Progetto storia”, in RAI (and more or less generally in public channels) the “logic of anniversary” is still dominant, especially in occasion of the “giornata della memoria” (27th January), the “memory day” established in 2000 by the Italian Parliament to keep alive the memory of the Jewish extermination, on which are put in the air the movie Exodus, thematic programs and sometimes well known moving picture on Shoah (the strategy preferred by commercial channels).

Commercial Channels:

Fiction predominates in commercial channels, where Italian typical format “mini-series” (series of 2-4 episodes usually in co-production with international partners) is considered the best way to shed light on the past. Romance, hagiography, adventure are predominant, but there are also docu-dramas that reconstruct in a spectacular manner real events (i.e. Totò Riina, Nassyria, Maria Montessori. Una vita per i bambini, Il generale dalla Chiesa etc.), mixing up impressive images typical of commercial TV with pedagogic commentaries akin to those of the public networks. Totò Riina. Capo dei capi (Canale 5, 2007, Thursday) narrates the history of fifty years of Italian mafia. The narration begins when an ancient protagonist evokes his past; in the 6 episodes emphasis is put on the degradation, poverty and ignorance of Italian isolated south lands, real world and history are set-aside. Much attention is paid to the construction of characters: episode 1 presents the death of Placido Rizzotto and a brief encounter with general Dalla Chiesa, but the portrait are totally biased, Rizzotto seems to be a young, naive socialist who helps writing letters and tries to “convert” people to good common sense values, while Dalla Chiesa is a good man who tells young “picciotti” to study. The historic reconstruction is based on stereotyps. The episodes related to historic events like the big battles between State and mafia or the criminals arrests are represented with gangster movie clichés, close ups on newspaper titles, freezed frames, passages from movie to black and white photographs. The series was much criticised for its celebration of the criminal Riina.

Appuntamento con la storia – (RETE 4, 22.30) presents international documentaries devoted to men and facts of 20th century. Before the projection the anchorman interviews historians, specialists, journalists or famous people about facts narrated in the documentaries.

Matrix – (Canale5), news talk show, has specials dedicated to the history of world television – in fact mostly to Italian TV in order to please an audience that likes to see again old programmes and even or TV adverts

Peste e corna e gocce di storia (RETE 4, h 6.20), critical monologue on politic or social matters ended by one minute on events of the past.

Vite straordinarie (RETE 4, Elena Guarnieri) the subjects are uncommon, extraordinary lives and especially their dark side (Maria from Nazareth, Jesus, Madre Teresa or Gianni Agnelli). The goal is to find a “scoop” in the past.

LA7, exception among commercial TV, boasts its cultural and political autonomy (some think that it embodies the real spirit of public service television), and uses history in experimental TV programmes.

Atlantide (daily, h 16.30, adapted from a well known USA programme) is an afternoon TV magazine with a strong interest in history. It uses international TV movie and spectacular historic reconstructions but avoids the “actualization” of the past and deals more with remote periods (i.e. Maya history or crusades). In each episode appear two themes different but interconnected (for example Isle of Pascua and myth of Atlantis but also Mussolini and Hitler).

Stargate. Linea di confine (from 2000). In 2003, when former host Giacobbo changed TV channel, [see above Voyager], the programme changed his format; from science-fiction it moved to history and archeology and it left the studios for location shots. Nowadays it is presented by archeologist and best-seller writer Valerio Manfredi.

Altra storia (from 2002, 13.00, Sunday). Pierluigi Battista presents in every edition a main theme of the XX century analyzed with images, shorts, interviews. some themes were the Eighties, the end of the Italian “Prima Repubblica”, “L’Italia e gli italiani in tv” [Italy and Italians in TV].

Il sergente (30th October 2007) was born as a theatrical performance and preserves this character, with a live performance in front of a real public, without commercial interruptions. It is not just a show registered by television but really a television event on history the fictional narration is dominant but photographs, the set decoration, special shootings made for the performance help recreate a historical episode.

Channels specialized in history programs.

There is no Italian channel specialized in history, the programs on Satellite Television and DTV are subsidiaries of The History Channel or National geographic managed by Fox International Channels Italy S.r.l., and distributed together in “bouquet” by Murdoch’s Sky. The programs are international productions (by BBC, ARTE, …) dubbed in Italian with a few Italian productions about Italy in the 20th century.

History Channel, built around thematic evenings, has regular appointments, biographies, documentaries and fictions (Storia viva / living history). Documentaries, dealing mostly with the Italian past, are old-stock programs bought to the Istituto Luce, but also new films like Documenti per la nostra memoria – La strage di Bologna which used the takes of two amateurs who arrived to the Bologna station immediately 1981 the August massacre, Lambretta, study of the ascent and decline of an Italian factory, Storia proibita del ‘900 italiano (Friday, 22.00), “journey into the intimate Italian history of the 20th century”. Each episode is a two hour program about unknown aspect of great Italians (Mussolini’s hobbies, D’Annunzio and the age of pleasure). Commentaries are given by voice over, there are newsreels, fictional scenes, interviews with historians. Luci e ombre sulla storia (Friday, 21.00), one of the original films produced by History Channel Italia, is extremely traditional, the journalist talks with an historian (Giovanni Sabbatucci, Andrea D’Onofrio) about the subject of the evening (for example Goebbels, but also the conquest of K2 or Argentinian dictators), shows a documentary or a fiction, and talks about the event and his controversial sides.

RAI satellite TV, RAI Sat Extra programs and RAI Sat Premium broadcast a selection of “the best RAI programs the day after” (La superstoria, Enigma and La grande storia) and offer international cult programs or fictions (from Dallas to Mujeres).

National Geographic, Nat Geo Music, Nat Geo Adventure deal with past adventures and mysteries (Stonehenge: il mistero svelato).

Most important History Programs.

Dieci anni di Costituzione (Ugo Zatterin, 1958) – typical example of the first period of history programs usually associated with anniversaries and made of archival takes commented by journalists.

Vent’anni di Repubblica (Hombert Bianchi, 4 episodes, 1966), with interviews and repertory documentaries, reveals the influence of contemporary debates in the press.

I giorni della storia (1968) one of the first examples of crossover between historical documents and contemporary re-enactement (the model is the American You were there).

Nascita di una dittatura (1972) and La notte della Repubblica (1989) by Sergio Zavoli [see above]

Mixer – Monarchia o Repubblica? (5th February 1990, RAI 2) was a turning point in history programs, Gianni Minoli presenting a program about the constitutional referendum of the 2nd June 1946, which gave birth to the Italian Republicd demonstrate that it was the monarchy, not the republic that had won. The following week, Minoli declared that all his evidences were faked but he had unleashed a violent debate in the country.

Combat film (1994, RAI 1) used the films shot by the “Combat Camera Unit” during WWII.

La grande storia in prima serata (1997, RAI Tre, see above). The first episodes (Galeazzo Ciano. Una tragedia fascista and Hitler e Mussolini: gli anni degli incontri) met with an unexpected success. In many cases the commentary was given into the care of historians (Nicola Caracciolo or Sabbatucci).

La storia siamo noi by Giovanni Minoli [see above]

The “nature” of history on Italian television channels.

There are, basically two main manners of dealing with the past:

  • the inquiry, historic programs akin to television news,

  • the travel into the past, in which history is something that must be investigate, brought to light, because it is one of the mysteries of (human) nature that viewers are invited to visit.

In both case what maters is the search of hidden facts, the disclosure of the truth, but the way of looking at the past is quite different. The “Travels into past” make use of spectacular resources, locations shots, fictional reconstructions, digital effects, recourse to post production to recreate ancient ruins or mythological figures. In “inquiries” what matters is the document, the archive, the direct evidence; the inquiry often focuses only on a letter, a secret paper, a misunderstood photograph likely to unveil the secrets of history. In TV studio, which is the centre of inquiry programs, wallpaper screens often reduplicate the words of the witnesses, the documents exhibited as evidences, the details of a photograph. Spectacular resources are used, but in a more “conceptual” way, in a superficial demonstration of the way historians re-interpret evidences.

In Nazismo esoterico (Esoteric Nazism), a section ofr the series Voyager: ai confini della conoscenza (Rai2, 16/03/2008) the anchorman really travels into time and space. Exploring in ten minutes the power of the myth of the Holy Grail in Nazism, he walks in Germany, in front of the Wewelsburg Nazist Castle, then in a crowded place in Munich, a few seconds later in Monseguro (France) just to show a plaque commemorating the Cathar massacre and the theory of Otto Rahn, then back to the castle, at last in Egypt, in front of the Pyramids. The program uses a wide range of spectacular resources, images pass from black and white to colors, at times the anchorman suddenly disappears, the musical score, at the beginning is the main theme of Schindler’s list, with no evident reference to the massacre of the Jews massacre.

In La storia siamo noi – Il caso Mattei (Rai2) everything everything is buit around an audio recording of the “black box” found where statesman Mattei died the 27th October 1962 in an air crach. The opening sequence shows a series of giant writings (the line of the dialogue, the date of the disaster), the image of Enrico Mattei is reduplicated by camera, the conversation between the pilot and the air control interfers with the voice over of the anchorman, Gianni Minoli, who is not present, the half-lit studio is full of widescreens, monitors, cameras, the point of view changes constantly as if the camera was kin on displaying all its potential (ralenti, travelling, wide shot, close up).

In both historic formats mentioned above, the past is equally something close to our times, never ending, that we have to always take into account although it is rather obscure. In Il caso Mattei analyzed above, the information contained in the “black box” is ambiguous and inconsistent, heard again and again the recording reveals emotional but not relevant details, like the voice of the dead pilot, the sudden silence, the rumble of the storm. After an hour part of the mystery is partially unveiled, but not thanks to the evidence given during the program, an expert reveals that Mattei’s gold ring recently analyzed with new technologies proves that there was a bomb on board. The answer is of limited interest: who put the bomb and why? A mysterious plot is always the most attractive “solution” for Italian historic programs.

This distinction between two conceptions of the past ideally results in the building of typical characters represented by two pairs: guilty and innocent (“inquiry”) or constructive and destructive powers (“travel into past”). The typical characters are ambiguous and reflect an ill-defined, slippery conception of historic events. The cinematic portrait of Giulio Andreotti in the film Il divo is much indebted to television standards, the man is at the same time an hero and a loser, a leader who favoured Italian economic growth and a failure, which suggests that there is a universe to investigate and a secret land to visit. Characters, in television history, are pieces in a game whose rules change constantly. Emphasis on individual cases reveals a clear preference for biographies more or less fictionalised. The images selected to speak, for instance of Nazism or Fascism, are often repetitive and centred on know people, Hitler means Berlin or Germany, Mussolini speaking form from the balcony of Piazza Venezia is synonymous of Rome during 30s. The accent is always put on the everyday life of VIPs (Mussolini and the women of his life, for instance) or exceptional cases (Enzo Tortora the well-known show man arrested for the perjury of a former mafia member), individual lives look more significant to understand Italy of the past (or of the present) than public and collective events.

Another example is offered by Blu notte. Misteri italiani, a program whose main purpose is to deliver a coherent, linear reconstruction of an event. Even the interviews serve only to make the narration go forward. The role of individual characters is crucial, the anchorman speaks while moving around giant photographs of the people mentioned in the programs, the silhouette are there to remind us that history is made of individual destinies.

La storia siamo noi gives sometimes the impression that the manner of re-presenting the past is more important than the past itself. La storia siamo noi offers countless examples of rewriting, some episodes are mere reruns of previous episodes, at times very old – a way of illustrating the persistence of mysteries which opens the way to other inquiries on the same topic. The anniversary of terrorist attempt which, in Milan, provoked a slaughter the 12th December 1969, La notte della repubblica: piazza Fontana, episode created in 1989 by Sergio Zavoli in his historic program, was broadcast the 12 December 2003 and again the 10 December 2004. This was one of the most dramatic terrorist attempts, and a turning point in Italian history itself for the institutional crisis it caused as well as for the enduring suspicion regarding obscure, dangerous forces it provoked. Despite new inquiries and a series of trials (seven, the last in 2005) La storia siamo noi goes on presenting the same old program, with at the end a long caption mentioning the verdicts passed after 1989. One possible explanation is that the traditional presentation of the story appeals to many spectators.

The will to leave “open” the conclusion is obvious in Correva l’anno, where a five minute speech delivered by the anchorman corrects what has been previously shown by mentioning the latest results of historical research. In Il caso Rosselli devoted to the killing by Fascists of the Rosselli brothers, adversaries of Mussolini, the presenter, at the end, explains that one of the hypothesis evoked in the film, the involvement of Italian Communists in the attempt, is totally false. Something similar happens in Appuntamento con la storia where the projection of a documentary (usually a History Channel or Luce documentary) is followed by a chat between the anchorman and an historian who try, in a couple of minutes, to expose the present state of the research. Blu notte. Misteri italiani begins usually in the present time, then returns to the past, Storia della mafia shows at first the killing of Falcone and Borsellino, two judges presiding the struggle against mafia in the 1990s, then goes backwards; Storia delle Brigate rosse starts with the arrest in 2003 of Nadia Lioce, member of a new terrorist group, then goes back to the 1970s. The flash-forward anticipates the “end” and makes it useless to offer any deep analysis of the events.

Audience’s response.

Historical programs are categorized as “educational”, La storia siamo noi is broadcast under the label Rai educational, so that the channels do not care much of viewers’ opinion, Satellite TV had no audience survey before April 2007 and the specialized history channels are content with a general (not minute by minute) survey. History is usually scheduled on early morning, Saturday afternoon and in some case late at night. But, due to the great success of the “travel to past” formula, some travel programs aimed at a little demanding audience are scheduled in prime time on Rete 4, one of Berlusconi’s channels.

Here are the most successful programs during the eight last years:

Il sergente by Marco Paolini is one of the greatest surprise, the 3 November 2007 it registered one million 200.000 spectators (5,5% of the shares), an extraordinary result for a history broadcast in prime time. There are many reasons for such success. The broadcast itself was cleverly advertised in the press and on television announcement with an emphasis not only on the historic relevance of the event but on the originality of the experience clean any no advertisement and programmed for a long term. Paolini is a well known, much admired playwright, his play took place in cold caves near Vicenza, spectators were seated around the actor, they felt cold and recreated the gloomy atmosphere of the Italian retreat from Russia, in January 1943, when 30.000 people died,.

Fiorello is the episodes of La storia siamo noi that attracted the maximum of spectators, from a means of 5%, normal for a program put in the air at 10.30 p.m., it jumped to 14,64% the 11 February 2008 (more than one million and half spectators) while the rerun interested the record audience of three millions spectators (more than 15% share). The program was a return to the euphoria of the 1980s, it stressed the growth of local televisions and the strange sense of freedom it provoked, the drugs, the awareness of the power of media (symbolized by a live television karaoke in city squares that caused disorder and incredulity when the streets where flooded by over 1 million people who wanted to sing). Audience figures are not enough, Internet provides important data about people’s but (especially young people) reactions. On You tube, for instance, we find extracts of the broadcast of the Bologna slaughter which show that the film had a strong impact on public opinion.

It is also useful to ponder some big fiascos as was the case of Il cuore nel pozzo, a controversial series on the Foibe slaughter of Italians by Yugoslavian partisans. This fiction was strongly supported by the then right government but the biased historical interpretation and the rough reconstruction of places and people (it not shoot on location) annoyed the audience.

Looking at the future.

– On Italian channels the past itself is not only an amount of unsolved enigmas but also something mysterious and confused, an attractive fog which explains or at least legitimates the present state of confusion. Emblematic titles concern blue, night, mystery, the narration indulges in coup de theatre, and prefers a “cliff-hanger”, an appointment with a future episode to a clear conclusion.

– emphasis on individual cases reveals a constant difficulty of speaking in collective terms.

– “multifarious and diversified information” makes it difficult even for a conscious viewer to get a clear notion of the event, there is no red thread, only an accumulation of data.

– internet plays a crucial role not only for the information it provides and for its interaction with television as shows the history section of You tube always full of new images; the web site of La storia siamo noi is like an enormous and multimedia hypertext where extracts of all the broadcasts from 2003 are available with synopsis of different episodes, photographs and bibliographies.

– Yet, with the exception of Fascism, mafia and the 1960s-70s Italian terrorism, Italy is not the centre of the world and surprisingly (If we consider the indifference of television and of the press for foreign questions) the recent past of other countries is often evoked, even when there is no evident connection with Italian context with for instance programs on Rommel, DDay, Lady D, the 09/11.

Given Italian habits, European history should be dealt with indirectly throughout:

  • biography. A possibility would be to single out personalities interesting various European countries (for example Guglielmo Marconi in twenty century’s first decade). Parallel biographies presented in Correva l’anno are much appreciated: in a given year what was happening day by day in different countries, to different statesmen? The efficiency of this form is strictly connected to the accuracy of the montage which can create conflicts or resonances between the frames. Another solution is a fictional format, something like La meglio gioventù, directed by Marco Tullio Giordana for Rai, which, following two brothers in the third quarter of the 20th century, recreates the people, events and dramas that marked the period.

  • crossover subjects connected at the same time to social history and everyday life as terrorist attempts in Europe, reactions on the 09/11 in different countries, role of European music in social changes, birth of big European metropolis, “golden age” of each European nation.

In both case I think would be useful to put great attention to three things:

  • narration. The telling of a story is crucial in the Italian way of making television history. The experimentation, from La storia siamo noi to Correva l’anno, has to do with the difficulty of bringing to life single individuals without sacrificing the accuracy of the historic reconstruction. Debates, talk shows look out-of-date, the best solution seems to establish connections with the present days, but in such case the past is often absorbed by the present.

  • real locations. A journey into the most famous places of European history could be more attractive for Italian audience than the reconstruction of great battles. Italian spectators are fond of travelling in time and space. Location shots can be used in different ways, from the pure exhibition (a sort of “exotic” option) to useful comparison (the juxtaposition of places “now and before”). The crescent interest in architecture, the fame of “archistars” demonstrate that changes in urban landscape could enlightrn the historical evolution characteristic of each European countries.

  • archival footage: the fact that spectators are not borred with a new presentation of exactly the same frames proves how attractive “true” images are. An example is Il caso Rosselli: witnesses are interviewed in the places where the events took place, the film sticks to the biography of the characters without betraying historic accuracy and invites the viewer to react by juxtaposing different points of view on the same story.

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