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Early Epics, Silent Divas: Italian Cinema 1909–1925

Oct. 15: Inferno (F. Bertolini, A. Padovan, and G. de Liguoro, 1911; 66 minutes)
Preceded by the short Il diavolo zoppo - The Crippled Devil (1909, 15 minutes)
Introduced by Elizabeth Leake (Columbia University)
Oct. 22: Diva Dolorosa (Peter Delpeut, 1999; 70 minutes)
Preceded by Lea and the Ball of Wool (Cines, 1913; 4 minutes) and Miracle Waters (Eleuterio Rodolfi, 1914; 9 minutes)
Introduced by Angela Dalle Vacche (Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta)

Oct. 29: Maciste (Vincenzo Denizot, Luigi Romano Borgnetto, 1915; 67 minutes
Preceded by sequences from Maciste all’inferno (1925, 9 minutes)
Introduced by Jacqueline Reich (Fordham University)

Curated by Jane Gaines and Greta Nordio (Columbia University)

The Italian Academy for Advanced Studies and the Cinetopia Film Society of Columbia University’s Film Department present a program of rare Italian silent feature films and shorts recently restored by La Cineteca di Bologna. The films, curated by Jane Gaines and Greta Nordio (both of Columbia University), will be screened on Tuesday evenings on October 15, 22, and 29 at 7:00 pm in the Teatro of the Italian Academy for Advanced Studies at Columbia University. Each screening will be preceded by a brief talk on silent film. Admission is free. For further information and to reserve, please visit

The films
The longest and most expensive Italian film ever produced up to 1911, Inferno is a cinematic adaptation of the first section of Dante’s Divine Comedy. It was created to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the unification of Italy. Compared to Gustave Doré’s famous paintings of the Divine Comedy, the film enjoyed huge success both in Italy and overseas, partly thanks to its faithful rendering of Dante’s masterpiece.

Diva Dolorosa: As an ode to the Italian divas of the silent era, video artist Peter Delpeut (Lyrical Nitrate) has created a romantic drama using a collage of clips of silent Italian melodrama films produced between1914 and 1920. Featuring stars such as Lyda Borelli and Pina Menichelli, the film captures the spirit of the World War One-era cinema diva creating a narrative of tempted fate and self-torment in which the heroines teeter dangerously between defiant indulgence in sexual passion and hysterical remorse at their own cruelties.

Maciste is the first of a long series of successful films about the character, Maciste, the good, strong man played by Bartolomeo Pagano who has become mythical in Italian culture. In this film, a young girl hides from her enemies in a cinema where she watches the famous film Cabiria. Fascinated by the film’s hero, Maciste, she goes looking for him. From then on, Maciste helps her overcome her enemies and the two embark on a series of dangerous and exciting adventures.


Angela Dalle Vacche was born in Venice, Italy and came to the USA in 1978. Before joining the Georgia Institute of Technology, she taught at Vassar College and Yale University. Her books are: The Body in the Mirror: Shapes of History in Italian Cinema, Princeton 1992; Cinema and Painting, Texas 1996; Diva: Defiance and Passion in Early Italian Cinema, Texas 2008; she has also edited two anthologies: The Visual Turn: Classical Film Theory and Art History, Rutgers 2002; Film, Art, New Media: Museum without Walls, Palgrave 2012; with Brian Price, she has co-edited Color in Film: A Reader, Routledge 2004. Dalle Vacche is currently writing a book on Andre Bazin’s Cinema: Art, Religion, Science. Dalle Vacche is the Founding Director of IFS (Italian Film Studies), a documentary film-making and film studies Summer program in Gorizia based on an agreement between the University of Udine and the Georgia Institute of Technology.

Jane Gaines is Professor of Film at Columbia University. Author of two award-winning books, Contested Culture: The Image, the Voice, and the Law, and Fire and Desire: Mixed Race Movies in the Silent Era, she is completing a third with the working title: Pink-Slipped: What Happened to Women in the Silent Film Industries? She publishes on silent cinema, intellectual property, documentary, feminist film theory and, most recently, the critique of the “historical turn” in cinema and media studies.

Elizabeth Leake is professor and Director of Graduate Studies in the Italian Department at Columbia. Her research interests include Twentieth Century narrative and theatre, psychoanalytic, ideological, and disability studies in Italian literature, fascist Italy, Italian cinema, and early Danish cinema. She is a recipient of the Modern Language Association Aldo and Jeanne Scaglione Publication Award for a Manuscript in Italian Literary Studies for her book The Reinvention of Ignazio Silone (2003) and The National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship for College Teachers and Independent Scholars 2001. Her latest book, After Words: Suicide and Authorship in Twentieth Century Italy, was published in February 2011. Her current research project is a comparative study of representations of cognitive disability among American, Danish, and Italian poets; she is also co-authoring a book on Italian \Confino.

Greta Nordio is a second year student of the MA in Film Studies at Columbia University. Born in Venice, Italy, she graduated in English Literature and Film Studies at the University of Dundee, Scotland and is currently writing her graduate thesis on the criminal representation of Venice in film Gialli set there. Her research focuses mostly on national identity, spaces’ representation and political implications in Italian and European cinema.

Jacqueline Reich
is newly-appointed Professor and Chair of the Department of Communication and Media Studies at Fordham University. Her areas of expertise include star studies, masculinity, film history and theory, fashion studies, and Italian and Italian American cinema. She is the author of Beyond the Latin Lover: Marcello Mastroianni, Masculinity, and Italian Cinema (Bloomington: Indiana UP, 2004) and co-editor of Re-viewing Fascism: Italian Cinema, 1922-1942 (Bloomington: Indiana UP, 2002). She also curates the book series New Directions in National Cinemas for Indiana University Press. In addition, she has published and lectured widely on Italian American film, fashion and Italian cinema, and early twentieth-century physical culture in the United States and Italy. At present she is working on two book projects: The Maciste Films of Italian Silent Cinema (Forthcoming, Indiana UP), in collaboration with the National Film Museum in Turin, and a study of Italian masculinity and stardom (Forthcoming, Il Castoro). In Fall 2011 she was awarded a mid-career fellowship from the Howard Foundation at Brown University.

About the institutions
Since its opening in 1963, la Cineteca di Bologna has become one of the leading institutions in the restoration, preservation, promotion and distribution of films. Their series Il Cinema Ritrovato (literally “rediscovered cinema”), which takes the name of the renowned festival organized by the Cineteca each summer in Bologna, offers a chance to see rare films restored to their original glory, among which are many gems of Italian silent cinema.
Cinetopia is the official Columbia University Film Society, organized by faculty and students of the Film Department aiming to bring together film lovers and introduce the whole community to great films.

Event Date 
Tue, Oct 15, 2013, 7:00 pm to Tue, Oct 29, 2013, 7:00 pm