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The Politics of Dubbing

Film Censorship and State Intervention in the Translation of Foreign Cinema in Fascist Italy


Carla Mereu Keating

During the late 1920s and the 1930s, the Italian government sought various commercial and politically oriented solutions to cope with the advent of new sound technologies in cinema. The translation of foreign-language films became a recurrent topic of ongoing debates surrounding the use of the Italian language, the rebirth of the national film industry and cinema’s mass popularity.
Through the analysis of state records and the film trade press, The Politics of Dubbing explores the industrial, ideological and cultural factors that played a role in the government’s support for dubbing. The book outlines the evolution of film censorship regulation in Italy and its interplay with film translation practices, discusses the reactions of Mussolini’s administration to early Italian-language talkies produced abroad and documents the state’s role in initiating and encouraging Italians’ habit of watching dubbed films.
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I was about ten years old when I realised for the first time that the movements of the lips of the actress on the TV screen did not correspond with the voice that came out of the TV speakers. It was an Italian film and its dialogues had been post-synchronised poorly. That bewildering audience experience instilled in me a curiosity which I was able to satisfy several years later by pursuing further studies into the nature, use and meaning of (human) language in cinema and, eventually, by digging into the historical origins of a cultural and commercial practice which attracted my curiosity at such an early age.

My PhD thesis, from which this book originates, owed much to the dedicated guidance and insightful criticism of Christopher Wagstaff, my supervisor at the Department of Modern Languages and European Studies of the University of Reading. I am also indebted to Federico Faloppa, Daniela La Penna, Paola Nasti and the scholarly community in Reading, who have inspired me with their strong commitment to high quality education and research, and to Stephen Gundle (University of Warwick), for his generous and expert postdoctoral mentorship.

Special thanks go to Pier Luigi Raffaelli, for his invaluable help and guidance during my many visits to the archive of the Ministero per i Beni e le Attività Culturali (MiBAC) and to his collaborators at the Italia Taglia project in Rome and in Bologna, and in particular Francesca Meschino and Gabriele Bigonzoni; at the...

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