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Bella Ciao: Song Of Rebellion - An exhaustive and rousing doc about the revolutionary anthem
Monday 3 October 2022, by
A 90-minute documentary film about the roots and rise of the most popular revolutionary song in the world. With more than 20 interviews on three continents, this historic documentary traces the cultural history of the song and investigates its international success, using archival film and performances of its different expressions, including the secret of how it became an anthem for the series "Money Heist" as told from the series’ creator, Alex Pina, in Madrid.
The film was screened as part of the Beirut Art Film Festival with a Q and A with the team.
Bella Ciao is a global anthem yet at its best this is a film about Italian history. The first half is by far the most captivating as a series of partisans, historians and archivists describe the Italian anti-fascist movement and Bella Ciao’s role within it. Paolo, a partisan commander, recounts first hearing the song when visiting a medic after a mortar shell injured his foot; he heard it again on his return from Monte San Vicino and again on his way to raid a barracks. Paolo is one of many lively characters who shares his memories of the partisan struggle. Their stories, alongside the many, many, many shots of a map of Italy reveal just how regional the anti-fascist movement was. The wit and warmth of the people interviewed and the depth of their memories save the film from becoming a belaboured list of all the different points in history where Bella Ciao makes an appearance. In musicology context is everything and that is especially true here. After the defeat of Nazism post-war optimism set Bella Ciao in a new direction and a song about the willingness to die became a celebration of the will to live: ‘we sang this Bella Ciao with great enthusiasm, the enthusiasm of freedom. Freedom from war, from Nazism, with the desire to do things, to live…that’s it, to live’. This re-purposing demonstrates just how adaptable the song is, for better and for worse since it has now been co-opted by corporations as much as activists.
Where the film is weakest is in trying to hold onto the vitality of the song as it travels all over the world. Rooted in the history of Italy, from the paddy fields to the partisan struggle, the song and the film are powerful and interesting – spread thinly across the world in universal fights for something called freedom, both lose their dynamism. Despite this weaker ending, the film succeeds on both an emotional and intellectual level and the desire of contemporary musicians and activists to thwart twenty-first fascism is felt keenly in the final third of the film. In any case the story of how Bella Ciao was responsible for the death of Piero Paolo Pasolini makes this a film worth watching.
Get in touch with us if you wish to find out more about the film or get in touch with the team behind it.