LUIGI DI GIANNI
DIRECTOR AND FILM PROFESSOR
“It is a poor land but rich in strong traditions that should be protected to safeguard the cultural identity of a population.”
Professor, you are Campanian but you have represented Lucanian traditions in your works…
I am actually Campanian and Lucanian. I am Campanian because my mother came from the province of Caserta and Lucanian on my father’s side because he was from Pescopagano, in the province of Potenza. I used to go to Basilicata with my parents sometimes when I was a child. As an adult, I went back there for work reasons. I remember when I was nine I was overwhelmed by the Lucanian landscape and the religious folk traditions: by the landscape, because it was so beautiful and so different from what I was used to. There were mountains which you could hike round without knowing if you would arrive somewhere. By the traditions, because of a sense of anguish, bewilderment and at the same time curiosity. It was a poor land — a land of peasants.
Did these rural Lucanian aspects influence your artistic creativity?
These feelings, which I experienced as a child, stunned and intrigued me and opened a window on a different world to explore. After graduating in directing from the Centro Sperimentale di cinematografia (Experimental Centre of Cinematography) I had to make a film. I read in a newspaper that the City of Rome had organised an anthropological expedition, led by Ernesto De Martino, to discover the rural culture of Basilicata. That’s when I got the idea of making the documentary Magia Lucana which was a wonderful adventure followed by other adventures in Lucania. In fact, even today whenever I go to Basilicata I experience a new adventure.
The rural world with its landscape, traditions and poverty has been a great source of inspiration for me as I am interested in the preservation of the history and the identity of a territory and a population.
If you think about the Lucanian food traditions, which comes to mind to you and why?
Certainly the bread for which I inherited an almost religious obsession from my father. When I was little, huge loaves of dark bread with an extraordinary and overwhelming smell were sent from Pescopagano to my father. He used to spend three days just eating bread. I got that from him. I remember when in 1971 after I had just finished shooting a documentary in Naples I convinced my cameraman to drive to a small village near Potenza where they made excellent bread. We arrived at night and we could smell the bread along the road that took us straight to the bakery. Right after that a storm arrived and we stayed there — eating bread. Other than the bread, I love the pasta made only with flour and water, just as my mother used to make it, when I brought the flour home.
During his professional life, he made cinema movies, cultural programmes and television movies for Rai Television. He made also several documentaries in which he looked at anthropological and social themes, exploring in particular the intertwining of pagan rituals and popular Catholicism in South Italy. Among his most famous a documentaries on Basilicata there is "Magia Lucana" (1958) which was made under the guidance of the anthropologist Ernesto De Martino and was award winner for best documentary film in the 19th edition of the Venice Film Festival. In 1958 he made "Nascita e morte nel meridione" for which he won the "Puccini Senigallia" award in 1959. He dedicated to Basilicata also two documentaries of cultural and touristic interest: "Basilicata: una regione per l'uomo" in 1977 and "Basilicata, una Regione tra due mari" in 1984. In 2005 he filmed the documentary "Aliano, la tradizione".
In February 2006, the University of Tubingen, Germany, awarded him an honorary degree in Philosophy in recognition for his achievements in anthropological cinema.
The Bologna Cineteca has undertaken the restoration of his short documentaries by publishing them in a box set called "Uomini e spiriti."