The lost world of Vittorio De Seta

Born to an aristocratic family in Palermo in 1923, Vittorio De Seta studied architecture, which shaped his iconoclastic aesthetic long before he went to film school in Rome. Deeply enchanted by the unimaginable hardship of rural life, De Setta made a legendary string of short documentaries about the fishermen, miners, shepherds and farmers of Sicily, Sardinia and Calabria, that made them look like martyrs, ready to sacrifice their life in the name of survival. The noble and dreadful human labor, the brief (yet heartfelt) moments of joy and the dark struggle against the forces of nature are sanctified through De Setta’s expressionist lens, who shoots like he’s painting. Ahead of his time, he choreographs human toil and pointedly ignores dialogue, favoring traditional singing, wordless cries and commonplace exchanges that often float around his films, like melodies. Heralded by Martin Scorsese as “an anthropologist who speaks with the voice of a poet,” his miniature marvels stand as essential records of a vanished world.

The program consists of the following films: The Age of Swordfish (Lu tempu di li pisci spata, 1954), Islands of Fire (Isole di fuoco, 1954), Easter in Sicily (Pasqua in Sicilia, 1955), Solfatara (Surfarara, 1955), Sea Countrymen (Contadini del mare, 1955), Golden Parable (Parabola d’oro, 1955), A Day in Barbagia (Un giorno in Barbagia, 1958), Fishing Boats (Pescherecci, 1958), Orgosolo’s Sepherds (Pastori di orgosolo, 1958), The Forgotten (I dimenticati, 1959).

Restored by the Cineteca di Bologna at L’Immagine Ritrovata laboratory and The Film Foundation, with funding provided by the George Lucas Family Foundation.