Cultural History, Cinema and the Italian Post-War Diaspora in Britain
Chapter 5 Memories and Movies
In this concluding part of the book, I want to specifically address the key role that popular cinema has played in helping to shape a sense of an Italian consciousness, as it was understood by Italian émigrés to Britain.1 In the following chapters, I will be assessing the impact of the films that they saw prior to arriving as bulk recruitment immigrant workers in the 1950s. Importantly, 1955 was the year that saw cinema attendance figures at their highest, with 819 million people going to the cinema in Italy.2 In the same year that my father and many of his paesani3 left a small town in Sicily (Aragona, Province of Agrigento) for reasons of both poverty and unemployment, Italy’s economic miracle happened.4 In part, this miracle was made visible through the huge popularity of the cinematic experi- ence: ‘We had nothing but we could always af ford to go to the cinema.’5 As many were preparing to leave Italy, the cinema acted as a unifying factor in energising the creation of the memories that were to go on to have a significant role in the lives of the Italian diasporic community in Britain. This chapter will explore what some of these films were and will go on to question how one can begin to consider their impact on these migrants. It is a particular intention of this chapter to specifically address the films that were felt to be significant by those Italian émigrés that I interviewed, 1 For...
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