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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 5: The Dubbing Debate: The Translation of Films, the Press and the Public


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The Dubbing Debate: The Translation of Films, the Press and the Public

As a consequence of the official regulations on film censorship and dubbing implemented by the fascist government during the 1930s, the general public was prevented from choosing the option of watching foreign films in cinemas in their original language version and subtitled if they wished to do so. This chapter will highlight how some Italian critics contemporaries of the regime considered film translation and document the extent to which the government’s imposition of dubbing was subject to public discussion.

My selection of articles sheds some light on historical critical perspectives on film translation theory and practice developed under fascism as well as on broader cultural and artistic issues. A series of articles suggest cultural preferences for film translation modes and strategies and questions of ‘domestication’ and ‘foreignisation’ (Venuti, c.2008), although we shall see expressed in terms of Italians’ ‘culinary preferences’.1 Many articles and editorials are worth attention because they raised the issue of the non-authenticity of dubbed films and the ‘untranslatability’ of cinema questioning the artistic and aesthetic significance of film translation and discussing the best strategy to adopt in adapting a foreign film to a domestic audience. Other articles frequently dealt with the characteristics of the Italian language in dubbed films, emphasising both the incompetence of the film translators and highlighting a whole gamut of evidence of linguistic interference of the ← 109 | 110 → original language in...

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