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Rome, Open City: Examining the legacy after 70 years International Conference

Published: 19 November 2015
International Conference

The conference on “Rome, Open City: Examining the legacy after 70 years” co-organised by Dr. Louis Bayman of the Department of Film Studies at the University of Southampton, alongside Professor Stephen Gundle and Dr. Karl Schoonover, has just been held at the University of Warwick.

The release of Roberto Rossellini’s Rome, Open City in September 1945 is a landmark in cinema and Italian history. The film’s tale of popular resistance in Nazi-occupied Rome brought Italy to international audiences. It announced a new aesthetics of cinema - neorealism - and attracted controversy by asserting the necessary relationship between art and politics. The film is a central reference point, influencing movements from the French New Wave to Brazilian Cinema Novo, British social realism and Dogme 95.


The conference attracted participants from the USA, France, Italy and UK. Keynote speaker Professor David Forgacs spoke of ‘Rome Open City before and after neorealism’, reconstructing the ‘horizon of expectations’ of film viewers on the film’s first release by unearthing its earliest critical responses, and by placing it next to other award-winning and similarly-themed films with which it was initially grouped. Professor Richard Dyer closed the papers with ‘Arrivederci Roma: From open city to dolce vita’, showing the changing image of Rome and Romans from the end of WWII to the start of the 1960s.


The conference sought to foster new scholarly perspectives and to challenge how the film is conventionally understood, with panels devoted to the film’s star Anna Magnani, to ‘Sex and the Open City’, and to tracing the film’s ‘Afterlives’ in television, film and social media, its ‘Critical Politics’, and ‘Reframing’ formal analyses of it. Video essays included oral interviews of memories of watching the film from The Italian Audiences Project, a compilation of early television references to the film, and one on co-star Aldo Fabrizi.


The conference was co-sponsored by Screen, ASMI, the Warwick HRF and Film and Television Studies Department, and will be linked to a special issue of the Journal of Italian Cinema and Media Studies, and the organisers have been invited to Turin to present its findings at the ‘Intorno al neorealismo’ event in December.


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