Lisa Cuklaz (Boston College)


Course description
Italian filmmakers have produced a vast range of important films focusing on the issue of immigration, considering Italy's role as both a source of immigrants to nations such as the United States and Canada, as well as a destination for immigrants fleeing from conditions of poverty and persecution in many countries. In addition, many recent immigrants to Italy have come in pursuit of opportunity rather than as an escape. While Italy has been criticized for limitations in its ability to integrate recent newcomers and for its narrow and traditionalist understanding of Italian identity, immigration films often reveal a depth of empathetic and humanitarian response aimed at breaking down social, political, and ideological barriers to acceptance of new arrivals. This course examines the rich tradition of Italian immigration films, focusing on selected films from the mid-1990s to the present. Both documentary and fiction films will be included. Through the lens of immigration films, the course considers central themes of human rights, cultural identity, gender roles, and explorations of self and other. Historical trajectories of immigration from and to Italy, international responses to immigration and refugee crises, and the economic and political aspects of immigration will be considered. The course will cover immigration to Italy from many countries including Albania, Romania, Senegal, China, Tunisia, Ghana, and Nigeria.
The course is divided into three parts representing chronological periods of immigration film production in Italy. Two films of the 1990s provide historical context and introduce several themes of immigration from and to Italy, particularly questions of national and cultural identity, empathy and accommodation of immigrants. The ability of these earlier films to expose painful aspects of immigrant experiences as well as their objectification and stereotyping of immigrants are examined. Films of the early 2000s expand on these themes and provide opportunities to explore questions of personal, social, and national identity in relation to the "other," as Italian values related to family, work, gender, race and class are challenged, expanded, and strengthened. The most recent films, produced between 2010 and the present, highlight some of the limitations of earlier strategies of representing immigrants, providing an expanded platform for the emergence of immigrant voices while simultaneously highlighting shortcomings of contemporary approaches to immigration and representation. Throughout the course we will interrogate the man techniques that Italian filmmakers have used to represent the immigrant experience, exposing the challenges inherent in daunting contemporary problems of global scale that contribute to the phenomenon of immigration.

No preliminary knowledge is required for this course. Required course assignments will include 30 pages of essay reading per week. We will view and discuss one film per week, and readings will provide related information to help us understand and discuss each film, such as analysis of technical and stylistic elements of film, historical background, and the social and political contexts of film production and reception.

Learning Outcomes
Upon completion of this course, students will be able to:

1. distinguish film styles and techniques in relation representation of immigrants in Italian films
2. identify key directors and films in the Italian immigration film tradition
3. provide thoughtful and informed critique of immigrant representation in historical and political context
4. understand key factors in the contemporary Italian context of immigration

Evaluation methods
Attendance and participation: 15%
Two film reviews (15% each x 2 =) 30%
In-Class presentation: 20%
Final paper: 35%

Lamerica (Gianni Amelio, 1994)
Terra Di Mezzo (Land In Between: Matteo Garrone, 1996)
Saimir (Franceso Munzi, 2004)
Quando Sei Nato, Non Puoi Piu Nasconderti (Once you are born, you can no longer hide: Marco Tullio Giordana, 2005)
Billo: Il Grand Dakhaar (Laura Muscardin, 2007)
Io, L'Altro (I, The Other: Mohsen Melliti, 2007)
Bianco e Nero (Black and White: C. Comencini, 2008)
Io Sono Li (Shun Li and the Poet: Andre Segre, 2011)
Terraferma - (Emanuele Crialese, 2013)
Fuocoammare (Fire At Sea: Gianfranco Rosi, 2016)
Hotel Splendid (Mauro Bucci, 2016)

Allen B. (1997). Revisioning Italy: National Identity and Global Culture. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Angeloni, A. (2016). "Italian Documentaries and Immigration," In Italian Political Cinema: Life, Imaginary, and Identity in Contemporary Italian Film, edited by Giancarlo Lombardi. and Christian Uva. New York: Peter Lang Publishing.
Bianchi, G. (2011). “Italiani nuovi o nuova Italia? Citizenship and Attitudes Towards the Second Generation in Contemporary Italy,” Journal of Modern Italian Studies 16.3, 321-333.
Caminati, L. (2006). “The Return of History: Gianni Amelio’s Lamerica, Memory, and National Identity” Italica 83.3-4.
Colella F. (2017). "The Representation of Migrants in Italian Cinema, from the Stereotypes to the Socio-Political Mission of Present-Day Film Directors," Italian Sociological Review, 7.2, 165-181. Retrieved from undefined [DOI: 10.13136/isr.v7i2.172].
Duncan, Derek. (2008). “Italy’s Postcolonial Cinema and its Histories of Representation,” Italian Studies 63.2, 195-211.
Liu, Xin. (2015). “Rescuing Damsels in Distress: Chinese Women in Contemporary Italian Cinema.” Southeast Review of Asian Studies 37, 50-59.
Luciano, B., and Scarparo, S. Reframing Italy: New Trends in Italian Women's Filmmaking, Chapter. 5: “Migration/Transnational Mobility.” West Lafayette, Indiana: Purdue University Press, 117-152.
Maher, V. (1996). “Immigration and Social Identities,” in. Forgacs and Lumley. (Eds.) Italian Cultural Studies: An Introduction. Oxford: Oxford Unviersity Press.
Montali, Lorenzo, et al. (2013). “The Representation of Migrants in the Italian Press: A Study on the Corriere della sera (1992-2009),” Journal of Language and Politics 12.2, 226-250.
O'Healy, A. (2019). Migrant Anxieties: Italian Cinema in a Transnational Frame. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
Schrader, S., and. Winkler, D. (Eds.) (2013). The Cinemas of Italian Migration: European and Transatlantic Narratives. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Scholars Publishing.
Zhang, Gaoheng. “The Protest in Milan’s Chinatown and the Chinese Immigrants in Italy in the Media (2007-2009),” Journal of Italian Cinema and Media Studies 1.1, 21-37.


Isola di San Servolo
30133 Venice,

phone: +39 041 2719511
fax:+39 041 2719510

VAT: 02928970272