Hospitality, Humanity and the Detention Camp: Envisioning Migration in Contemporary Italian Cinema

Prof. Aine O'Healy
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This paper will explore how the figure of the alien or the foreigner is articulated in the Italian cinematic imaginary at the present historical juncture. Over the past 15 years, as Italy changed its status from emigrant nation to destination country for millions of aspiring immigrants, a handful of Italian directors have countered the often alarmist and occasionally racist response of the national media with thoughtful, challenging films addressing this epochal transformation.

The point of departure for this study is an analysis of the recent film Quando sei nato non puoi piú nasconderti (Once You’re Born You Can No Longer Hide), directed by Marco Tullio Giordana in 2005, which offers a vivid presentation of the political and ethical dilemmas posed by mass migration and particularly by clandestine border crossings. Though the film is a work of fiction, it raises several crucial issues emblematic of the current historical juncture: the transnational trafficking in humans, the dangerous conditions of clandestine sea crossings, the vulnerability of migrant women transported across borders for prostitution, the arrest of clandestine migrants by the Italian coastguard and their detention in overcrowded, under-equipped facilities, the establishing of deportation criteria, and the divergent responses of Italians to the demands placed on their society by rapidly changing demographic realities.

This paper will approach the film from the interdisciplinary perspective of cultural studies, offering not only a close textual analysis of the film itself, but also a teasing out of the social, political, ethical and juridical questions raised by the filmmaker by drawing on a variety of sources that specifically address issues of alterity, citizenship, and multiculturalism.

Keywords: Italy, Cinema, Immigration, Detention Camps
Stream: Media, Film Studies, Theatre, Communication
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: Hospitality, Humanity and the Detention Camp

Prof. Aine O'Healy

Professor of Italian, Department of Modern Languages and Literatures, Loyola Marymount University
Los Angeles, CA, USA

Author of a monograph on Cesare Pavese and numerous articles on Italian cinema, literature, and cultural studies, O'Healy is currently coediting a collection of essays provisionally titled 'Transnational Feminism in Film and Media' with Aniko' Imre and Katarzyna Marciniak. She is also completing a monograph on the representation of gender, race and ethnicity in Italian cinema since the 1980s.

Ref: H06P0586