Introducing… The Diary Archive of Pieve Santo Stefano
By Karen Sadler
Word Count: 1413
Director Alina Marazzi visited NYU in January. After the screening Marazzi spoke at length with the audience and mentioned The Fondazione Archivio Diaristico Nazionale (National Diary Archive Foundation), also known as The Diary Archive, an award-winning public institution located in the small Tuscan town of Pieve Santo Stefano. “It is the place”, Marazzi said, “that I went to do research and get inspired” to make the film, We Want Roses Too (Marazzi, 2002). Marazzi’s film looks at a historical period of time, from the fifties to the seventies, through the first-hand accounts found in the diaries of three women that she discovered there. In 2002, going to the Archive was considered a pilgrimage, it is currently being digitized.
In a story about its evolution on shareable.net entitled, “Italian Diary Archive Rewrites History from the Bottom Up through a Personal Story Commons”, the Archive is described as a collection of diaries, letters and autobiographical memories of ordinary people. With over 250 years of history and “7,500 stories that cross local and national borders.”
Our Interactive History class has discussed two films that prefigure forms of social interactivity like Facebook and blogging, Be Kind, Rewind (Gondry, 2008) and Goodbye Lenin (Becker, 2003). The event audience was told emphatically, that“Alina Marazzi investigates individual identity from a gendered perspective.” The diaries create an access for Marazzi to “investigates” issues of women’s rights including motherhood, marriage, sexuality, abortion, psychoanalysis, and work.
Marazzi is a critically-acclaimed Italian director who is known for first-person, mixed media, and the creative use of found footage. She is a documentarian, educator and lecturer. We Want Roses Too uses first-hand accounts of three women’s lives from writings she found in their personal diaries at the Diary Archive. Marazzi says that in this film she is making a “bridge between” personal and collective memory ––turning the “personal into the collective.” In We Want Roses Too, Marazzi implements actors, voices, and visuals found in archival films of the time period to activate spectatorship. Several times in the film her 2002 editing style is very contemporary, predicting the popularity of digital effects such as gifs. A quick reference to the “Prosthetic Memory” powerpoint, housed on our class blog, also reminds us that learning about history through movies and experiencing events indirectly through film is a form of artificial memory. So intimate is the first-person narrative of We Want Roses Too told through the prosthetic of the film medium and the literary form of the diary, that the images and events Marazzi presents, seem to enter unfiltered into the viewer’s mind, like already assimilated time capsule photographs that have been stripped out of the diaries’ memory. We Want Roses Too is an example of Rosenstone’s ‘suggestive, metaphoric and powerful’ kind of film, especially in its poetic, non-literal, documentation of the historic period in women’s lives. Marazzi narrativizes the diarists’ memories creating a visible index of images, as a referent for the collective experience of all women during the time period.
In the Q &A after the screening, Marazzi recounts the memory of meeting with the film’s three diarists after the film was completed. She had the experience, like Renov’s description of a family returning to a shared memory by seeing their home movies, of screening the film with them. “They were happy with it,” she said. Marazzi’s shared memory of this moment suggests a culmination, that having crossed “the bridge” of her vision (her impetus for making the film) to connect the memories of the individual diarists to the collective memories of others, her work is complete. No longer invisible, the individuals and by extension the film’s spectators, can choose to release their connection to the past as individual memory. Jason Silva, in a BigThink produced Youtube clip, describes “Terrence McKenna’s idea of an ‘illusive sense of presence’ that is available in virtual reality”. We Want Roses Too evokes Silva’s description of being “turned inside out,” the spectator parsing through their own personal experience of the diarists’ accounts into a larger collective understanding of women in history. The viewer’s identification with the film becomes a politically-engaged mode of spectatorship with perhaps new, shared affiliations for the future–– for Silva, an empathic access to history through virtual reality is yet another reason to allow someone to “climb into” someone else’s mind.
Marazzi talked about her creative process, and the importance of using many sources,
“not using just the black and white images of street rallies so typical of the 70’s. I also wanted to show what experimental filmmakers were doing, and in advertising, which representations they were producing of society and women.”
Her focus was to use the poetic writings as an inspiration, to show the path taken, from the stylized image of the woman from the 50’s evolving in the film “to the liberated naked woman who is dancing in a park in Milan in 1976.” A crystal ball in the opening sequence prophesies the moment by projecting the exact shot from the “future” park into the ball, to the horror of the “magazine model 50’s woman” in the scene. This park footage is reprised full screen later on and may be recalled by the spectator to highlight its importance. The opening and closing of Be Kind Rewind used excerpts of the characters in a “self-authored documentary” using reprised footage in a similar way. Marc Ferro, whose compilation of critical writings were published in 1977, says “film is a cultural artifact, one which not only reveals much about the time period in which it is made but that at its best provides a ‘counter analysis’ of society.” Ferro cites several directors, including Luchino Visconti, as filmmakers whose work could “create independent interpretations of history and thereby make an original contribution to the understanding of past phenomena and their relation to the present.” (Ferro,1988). Marazzi clarifies her own approach and the story behind film’s title, in this excerpt from the film’s website,
“…the idea is to go beyond a mere historical reconstruction, capturing as much of the emotional and existential truth that history is also made of. These materials, along with the three diaries, provide the visual-sound base for a new look at our recent past, at a time when the future looks uncertain…In 1912, thousands of striking women workers from textile mills in Massachusetts marched on the street chanting the famous slogan “We want bread, but we want roses, too”. Today, the bare necessities – bread – may perhaps be taken for granted. But women fought for a world in which the poetry of roses also had a place, and this battle is as current today as it was then.”
Marazzi talked more about the Fondazione Archive Diaristic Nazionale and their own website describes the place as “a lively cultural genre which is fit for the age we live in (emphasis added). In the meanwhile, students, journalists, writers, scenarists, have come to the Archives and have consulted the texts.” The Archive, its contributors, and these visitors can all be identified, as Marianne Hirsch’s “hinge generation,” described in “The Generation of Postmemory.” Those “whose guardianship of the past is being transmuted into history or into myth” a concept that the film exemplifies in almost every frame. (Hirsch, 2008)
The Fondazione’s archivist describes the experience of a pre-digital collating of the diaries. He describes finding numerous “parallelisms and convergences” which echoes SelfieCity.net’s similar discovery of phenomena linking data between geographically distant cities. The two institutions reflect what is both human and timeless in the study of large numbers.
Nearing the end of the evening, an audience member was selected to ask a question but instead, relayed her own story. While in Spain, she had obtained a bootleg copy of Marazzi film, encountering We Want Roses Too for the first time, she was inspired by the visionary form of the film to become a filmmaker herself. In her estimation of Marazzi’s body of work, she felt ––Marazzi had succeeded in freeing herself of first-person by her use of the archives as a way to comment on society, and that it also revealed her freedom to relate to the archives as a source of possibility.” Marazzi paused, perhaps sensing her own and the film’s passage into memory that night. Marazzi simply said, thank you.
The Archives have recently released all of its collection materials online.
“Vogliamo anche le rose” available at http://www.vogliamoanchelerose.it/index_en.php
“Alina Marazzi at New York University Casa Italiana NYU.” 2016. YouTube.
<p style=”text-align:left;”>Clusini, Alessia. “Italian Diary Archive Rewrites History from the Bottom Up through a Personal Story Commons” 2016. Shareable.net</p>
“Digital Media as Cultural Memory Prostheses” 2016. https://interactivehistory2016.wordpress.com/links-resources/
Ferro, Marc. Cinema et histoire. 1977.
“Fondazione Archive Diaristic Nazionale”. http://www.archiviodiari.org/index.php/home.html
Hirsch, Marianne. “The Generation of Postmemory.” 2008.
“Jason Silva: Portable Virtual Reality Will Allow You to Climb Into Someone’s Mind.” Jason Silva, 2015. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GWcn6yc8HT0&list=PLpQR_vvgsb0yA8x-gmGcW9MmkUtixmrKR&index=5
Rosenstone, Robert A. “History On Film/Film On History.” 2006.
“SelfieNet City”. http://wwwSelfieCity.net
”Vogliamo anche le rose” Alina Marazzi film website: http://www.vogliamoanchelerose.it/index_en.php
“We Want Roses Too”. Doc Alliance Films. http://dafilms.com/film/7555-vogliamo-anche-le-rose/
Film Synopsis: The film looks again at recent events from a female point of view, through the first-hand accounts provided by the diaries of three women. Rather than focusing on the alleged objectivity of facts, the film gives space to a chorus of voices that narrate those events in first person, visually supported by archival footage of the period, drawn from the most varied sources – institutional, public, militant and private. Anita, Teresa and Valentina come from different Italian regions and different social backgrounds, but share the same feelings: they no longer feel as part of a society based on the patriarchal family, on the power of “husbands” and on the supremacy of males, which requires them to be efficient mothers, obedient wives and virtuous daughters.