The documentary filmmaker Cecilia Mangini.
The filmmaker Cecilia Mangini, a documentary pioneer in Italy, passed away on Friday at the age of 93, after a career that made her a benchmark in non-fiction cinema and that kept her active until last year, when in the tribute she received in November at the Seville European Film Festival his latest work,
Due scatole dimenticate
Born in 1927 in Mola di Bari (Apulia), in southern Italy, Mangini grew up in fascist Italy, but developed an anarchist ideology and infused her work with libertarian ideas against social inequality and conservatism.
In the second half of the fifties, he began to film and release his documentaries, marked with a critical spirit, and which reflected the worst face of an Italy that wanted to leave behind its peasant aspect to embrace industrialization and consumerism.
And he took advantage of a gap that also existed in Spain: that of 10-minute short films (that was the duration legislated in Italian) that were obligatorily screened before feature films in theaters.
"For me, a documentary can be a staging of reality and, at the same time, require a performance or a poetic text to be more effective," he told EL PAÍS in an interview last November by email.
"My realism has always been rather unfaithful to reality," he added.
"I never attended to rules or prejudices, except to the desire that ethics and aesthetics have the same value."
When he made his film debut, he did it in a big way.
Mangini opened the phone book and looked up the number of his idol, Pier Paolo Pasolini.
He asked him for a text to accompany his chronicle on life in the post-war Roman neighborhoods, which he captured by visiting landfills, street markets and fairs populated by
ragazzi di vita
who fought homelessness by lending themselves to occasional prostitution.
The writer, who had not yet made his film debut with
Ignoti alla città
(1958) was born.
Pasolini also gave him two other texts that served as the common thread of his following short films:
Stendalì (suonano ancora)
(1960), about a funerary rite in the so-called Grecia of Salento, and
La canta delle marane
(1962), a portrait of a group of children who seem to advance the essence of Pasolinian cinema.
All'armi siam fascisti!
(1962), a declared anti-fascist film, reached the Venice Film Festival, sparking controversy for its denunciation of the collusion between fascism and the Church.
Two years later came
, the first documentary that recounted the situation of women in Italy.
In the sixties his work drifted more towards experimentation.
(1964), Mangini filmed villagers in a night procession and then edited the footage as if it were a
La passione del grain
(1963), he shot the ritual with which the peasants of Basilicata symbolically killed a goat played by a countryman from the town so that the harvest would be good.
"Industrialization gave dignity and work to many men and women in the south, but it also made them lose contact with the land and nature," he told EL PAÍS.
Mangini never stopped working, alone or in collaboration with her husband, the filmmaker Lino Del Fra.
Hence, his latest work,
Due scatole dimenticate
, addressed the truncated project of filming in Vietnam in 1965 with Del Fra.
For the history of cinema, there remains a filmography of very diverse themes, perhaps irregular, but in which he never renounced either poetics or the objective of propping up human dignity in his documentaries.