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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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Chapter 3: With Italian Voice and Soul: Political Involvement in the Translation of Films


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With Italian Voice and Soul: Political Involvement in the Translation of Films

Scholarship in Italy and abroad has amply documented and discussed Mussolini’s administration involvement in the film industry (e.g. Quaglietti, 1974; Gili, 1981; Mancini, 1981; Hay, 1987; Manetti, 2012). From the late 1920s onwards the fascist government started intervening more consistently and actively to support the Italian film industry, dictating not only compulsory programming of domestically produced films and quotas on foreign film importation (which were generally unsuccessful), but also promoting and allocating funding and incentive schemes for film production (e.g. the Cines-Pittaluga studios, together with the Banca Commerciale Italiana), and for the institution and development of film schools (e.g. the Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia), centres (e.g. LUCE) and festivals (e.g. the Mostra Internazionale di Arte Cinematografica in Venice), etc. In the following pages the focus will be on aspects specifically related to the presence of foreign-language films in Italy (for the vast majority English-language films distributed by United States companies), to conduct a step-by-step analysis of what paved the road for dubbing to become the mainstream mode of film translation in Italy.

The silencing of foreign-language films

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