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  • Free Newsreels
  • Cesare Zavattini
    Translated by Giorgio Bertellini and Courtney Ritter

Before even being cinematic practice, free newsreels are meant to be a political practice, a weapon against the country’s current regressive and repressive situation. They represent an instrument that can contribute to breaking up the state monopoly over information.

Free newsreels are intended to gather students, peasants, and intellectuals around a film camera, in villages and cities alike: that is, all those forces who feel the urge to become searchers and creators of public interest news and broadcast it immediately by any means necessary.

Everyone may use the type of camera they find most convenient. Still, the humble 8mm camera is the very symbol of free newsreels because its low cost makes it accessible to many and it enables, at the most basic level, new and concrete forms of collaboration.

Free newsreels are meant to be a kind of cinema that is exclusively and always a public service. [End Page 9]

In this spirit, both in its forms of production and reception, free newsreels amount to a meticulously decentered cinema, designed to access every home, school, industry, and street. It is a form of filmmaking constantly on the alert. It stays up-to-date on current events, brazenly forms an alternative distribution circuit, and, if need be, relies on clandestine channels so as to not interrupt its contributions to an objective knowledge of the world. It is the opposite of the type of cinema manufactured by a selected few, directed at all, therefore authoritarian and paternalistic, and ultimately, a slave to profit. Instead, free newsreels represent a cinema by the many for the many, of a daily, anti-spectacular nature, and whether provincial, regional, or national, it should foster understanding of the increasingly complex interdependency among the geographic, psychological, moral dimensions of our lives. …

It is an open, direct, and immediate cinema, it can sometimes even be uncouth, but it is driven by the impelling desire to say what up to now we did not dare, or which we felt prevented from saying. It is a cinema without preconceived formal preoccupations, except for those of perfect legibility and clear communication, because for free newsreels the issues of language, style, and of art itself coincide with the problem of how to more effectively intervene. …

It is a cinema that we could call “interruptible” in the sense that it does not aspire to find closure on the screen at any cost but is willing to stop itself when it becomes paramount to transfer the film action to real locations and in conjunction with other actual actions. …

In Italy, there are already thousands upon thousands of film cameras and hundreds of thousands of amateur filmmakers. The camera is not a myth anymore. We believe that these amateur filmmakers can be directed toward a more critical use of the medium by transforming their often generic and unprofessional film approach into one of analysis and reflection, a political method that can be summed up with the old adage: to know in order to change.

Every free newsreel, even when shot in the most remote locations, should aspire to circulate beyond its borders and enter into its own dense and dedicated network.

By itself a single free newsreel can be weak, but a hundred free newsreels are a force capable of granting power back to each of them. Quantity becomes quality and enables newsreels’ practical and dialectical development.

Every free newsreel needs to make it on its own, without the involvement of a bureaucracy or a hierarchy in its production. In this too they diverge from the enormous apparatus of consumer cinema. Today with a few thousand lire you can create film with formidable truths. It is not a matter of means, but of willingness. …

Against the taboo [of conventional production procedures] the alliance of several progressive associations is giving democratic space to initiatives meant to realize, quickly, our cultural and political renewal.

Several modest contributions, together, make a great impact.

All you need to project a free newsreel is a wall. What matters is the force, the brutal honesty, of what is projected. You can compete with cinema and television, not on their...


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pp. 9-11
Launched on MUSE
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