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The project

What it is

It is an inter-university project, recognized by the Ministry University and Research as a research project of relevant national interest in which the University of Turin, University of Rome “Tor Vergata”, University of Padua, University Iuav of Venice collaborate.

The project is devoted to the Italian landscape of the early 20th century, analysed through the inventory and enhancement of filmic sources preserved in Italian and international archives.

The planned duration is 36 months (2022-2025).

The film corpus

The project includes the analysis of a corpus of films, both fiction and non-fiction, shot in Italy between 1896 and 1922. The work will be carried out by a research group consisting of professionals from diverse backgrounds: film historians, computer scientists, experts in audiovisual education, urban planners, geographers, aestheticians, and audiovisual documentation experts.

To deal with such a corpus, the main Italian film libraries and many important international archives have been involved in the project (Partnership).

The reference period was identified on the basis of the convergence of major historical caesuras. 1896 is the year of the first film shoots on Italian territory, but also the year that marks the industrial take-off of the country. Moreover, it is in the 1890s that a new sensitivity to landscape was formed, as attested, for example, by the foundation of the Italian Touring Club in 1894. 1922 is not only the year of the March on Rome, but also the year of the Croce Law for the protection of the landscape and a key moment in the first great crisis of Italian cinematography.


The aims of the project are:

To enhance the early film images of the Italian territory as sources for historical, social, and urban research, aimed at increasing information about the films and their production context, but also about the territories represented and their modifications over time. This issue has rarely been dealt with in the past, especially considering that the project will also include the parallel analysis of fiction and “from life” films, that are largely missing in the existing literature;

To support an interdisciplinary mode of work that not only includes collaboration between scholars from different backgrounds in the analysis process of the identified corpus of films, but which encourages the contribution of the archives and museums involved, with a view to enhancing their specificity;

To design and promote the reuse and socialization of such films by audiovisual production sectors, cultural stakeholders, museums, educational and training institutions, tourism promotion entities, territorial administrations, social bodies and ‘landscape communities’. This goal is in line as well with the ever-increasing demand for ‘footage’ especially in documentary productions, fiction films, and audiovisual productions for exhibitions;

To elaborate an innovative model of data organization strategy, through the development of a prototypical database, accessible through specialized interfaces, based on georeferenced mapping. In recent years, archives have enormously implemented the online launch of films belonging to their collections. In particular, hundreds of silent films are now easily accessible on the web to enthusiasts and researchers. In order to facilitate the use of such exceptional heritage, however, it is necessary to make integrated access to the different platforms.

Work steps

The first step of the work will be devoted to the collection of the corpus of films to be analyzed and the development of a prototype database aimed at gathering and displaying the information on landscapes and locations collected in the research phase. The idea is to offer a database with an interface optimized for the management of simple or complex searches carried out by different types of users (scholars, teachers, students, archives, communication agencies, production companies, etc.). 

The second phase will be devoted to the analysis of the films, to the targeting of the most relevant sequences with respect to the main topics of the research project, to the identification of locations and elements of architectural, landscape, and anthropological interest which can be singled out and explored. The results of this first phase of research and cataloguing will flow into the database.

Subsequently, interdisciplinary research teams, through the analysis of collected data and the identification of particularly relevant case studies, will identify some “interpretive paths” to be addressed. These include, for example:

  • large urban areas and their transformations;
  • the impact of large modernization works (dams, bridges, roads) on natural spaces;
  • natural disasters: earthquakes, floods, eruptions, volcanoes, war scenarios;
  • the symbolic representation of national identity in order to promote its international image through ideological and aesthetic myths.

The next stages of the project will be devoted to dissemination. In addition to the organization of moments of in-depth study and discussion in academic and archival contexts (conferences, screenings, publications), the project will implement didactic and educational paths based on sources and research data and will outline models designed for their interactive use, in order to engage a widespread audience through web experiences and also through exhibitions and shows.

Research groups