Keimena #33: Pays Barbare (Barbaric Land)
by Yervant Gianikian and Angela Ricci Lucchi

Monday July 31, 2017, 24:00 on ERT2
Pays Barbare (Barbaric Land), 2013, France, 65 min.
Director: Yervant Gianikian and Angela Ricci Lucchi

In Barbaric Land, Angela Ricci Lucchi and Yervant Gianikian ask, ‘What is fascism?’ How is it born, how is it rooted, and what unites its different strains? Composed of archival documentary material, their film descends into the darkest period of Italian history.

Between the First and Second World Wars, their country succumbed to fascism and perpetrated horrors in Libya and Eritrea. Ricci Lucchi and Gianikian source a wide variety of images from the time: aerial shots, domestic, industrial, and propaganda footage; photographs; different film stocks; and drawings. Each image is scrutinized and re-photographed, creating a “new” image which bears witness to the act of looking. This obsessive analysis of the image, a process of “scanning,” lends Barbaric Land its jarring, disruptive form. This is the artists’ message: never let anything be forgotten; resist the flow; resist silence. No posture could be more political.

The film begins with an image of Benito Mussolini’s lifeless body, alongside that of his lover, Claretta Petacci, in Milan’s public square in 1945. Yet the focus is not on the dictator but on the curious spectators. The public is the protagonist: it is scrutinized, but seems to look back at the viewer. This silent scene precedes a journey backwards into a noisy history.

The artists’ questions are represented by those mute Milanese citizens. Why are they silent? What are they looking at? How can they look, and do nothing? The film ends with ghosts, negative shadows that dance beyond Italy’s fascist history, becoming universal. Is this the “dance of death,” or is humanity the ghost of history? One thing is certain: the future is obscure.

—Andrea Lissoni

Posted in Public TV on 07.31.2017