Promoting a Military Enterprise

Tra le pinete di Rodi
R: Unknown. P: Savoia film. It 1912
Print: EYE

“Short Italian propaganda film about Rhodes. Idyllic shots of a couple in love in the woods and by the sea are followed by images of Italian naval ships that ‘cross the waters around their new occupation’. Finally, there is a staged shot of a cannon firing a shot, with the Italian tricolor and the coat of arms of the company Savoia appearing over the statue. The island of Rhodes, which had been part of the Ottoman Empire since 1522, was conquered by the Italians in 1912.”

“‘Tripoli, beautiful land of love…’ is how the refrain of A Tripoli! begins, a song of propaganda written by the journalist Giovanni Corvino of ‘La Stampa’ in the wake of the 1911 Italo-Turkish war. The Italian government’s decision to send a military envoy and take over the Turkish territory of Tripolitania was met with general, overall enthusiasm. The conviction that the colonial conquest would legitimate Italy as a world power, the idea that territories abroad could absorb growing emigration, the illusion that control of Tripolitania and Cyrenaica would become the passport to a greater influence over the trade routes of the Mediterranean were a few of the debatable geo-political reasons propelling nearly all the political parties and movements to demand (nationalists first of all) or at least support the reckless enterprise.(…) 1911 was the ideal year for a media campaign of this kind: the lavish commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Unification of Italy and the nationalist celebrations of the Risorgimento battles were the perfect stage for promoting a new military enterprise. The special rhetorical emphasis placed on the Risorgimento by newspapers and consumer publications was reused to support the African expedition, and film would play an important part in the manipulation of the collective Italian imagination. Between 1911 and 1912 all the important Italian production studios undertook to validate the reasons for the military intervention by producing various types of films that all more or less explicitly supported the war underway. (…)

Moreover, the Italian film industry did not fail to emphasize the cruelty of the Ottomans, making films about historical events that demonstrated the eternal conflict between the Christian West and the Turkish Empire: films like I cavalieri di Rodi (Ambrosio 1912), Hussein il pirata (Vesuvio Films, 1912), Gulnara (Una storia dell’indipendenza greca 1820-1830) (Ambrosio 1911). When later on in the conflict several Arab tribes of Tripolitania and Cyrenaica began to support the Turkish army, the idea of justifying the war as an inevitable epilogue of an ancestral clash of civilizations solidified even further. (…) If fictional war films were decisive for building popular consent for the war, documentary films made in the war zone by a few Italian production companies would become increasingly important in this direction. In October 1911 Cines began the production of a series of documentaries, 150 m. each, which were distributed weekly to theaters in order to informer moviegoers about the latest events of the military campaign. Reassuring images scientifically studied to tranquilize the soldiers’ families back home. In addition to the infinite correspondence filmed by Cines (over 80 films) between 1911 and 1912, dozens of documentaries about war events were also made by Ambrosio of Turin, by Itala Film, by Giovanni Pettine’s company and Luca Comerio of Milan, one of the most active cameraman in the war zone.”
Giovanni Lasi
Il Cinema Ritrovato

>>> Italy’s Colonial Wars – 1

>>> Italy’s Colonial Wars – 2

>>> Italia: Il Risorgimento