Brookes’ research into memories of cinema-going in 1950s Italy

Thursday, 27 August 2015

cinema going 1950s italy

As Italy’s biggest film festival kicks off this week, the 72nd Venice International Film Festival (2-12 September 2015) Brookes highlights its on-going research into memories of cinema going in 1950s Italy.

This research was recently highlighted in the Research Excellence Framework assessment (REF 2014) as an example of the how the University’s research is making an impact across the world.

Dr Daniela Treveri-Gennari, a Reader in Film Studies at Oxford Brookes began her research in 2011, funded by a British Academy Mid-career fellowship. It has raised public awareness of the importance of autobiographical memories for the elderly; and also actively involved older people in reconstructing the history of an important time in the Italian film industry.

Interestingly, the initial outcomes of the research differed from official histories of Italian cinemas. They demonstrated that the audience forget about the titles of films, the stories, the narrative but have strong location memories, and could tell you exactly, from their house how they got to the cinema.

Dr Daniela Treveri-Gennari, Reader in Film Studies, Oxford Brookes University

Her research started with a case study conducted in Rome with 20 elderly participants, who had been interviewed on their memories of cinema-going. She investigated how the memory of events related to cinema-going were woven into people's personal narrative, as well as whether the geographical location was significant in the data if compared to the rest of the country.

Dr Daniela Treveri-Gennari said: “The significance of cinema at the time, and its social connotations vividly described by the participants was not only evident in terms of relationships - such as love, friendship, family and marriages - and identity formation. It was also found in the role of the vivid personal events as one of the historical landmarks in autobiographical memory: first experiences. 

“Interestingly, the initial outcomes of the research differed from official histories of Italian cinemas. They demonstrated that the audience forget about the titles of films, the stories, the narrative, but have strong location memories, and could tell you exactly, from their house how they got to the cinema.” 

The on-going research was achieved through innovative Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) funded research-led collaborations between Dr Treveri-Gennari and colleagues at Exeter and Bristol Universities, Saie, the University of the Third Age and Memoro - a non-profit initiative dedicated to sharing memories of people born before 1940. 

In 2013 the project, In search of Italian cinema audiences in the 1940s and 1950s: Gender, Genre and National Identity, was expanded to the whole Italian territory in a collaborative research study with a grant of £654,000 from the AHRC. 

Dr Treveri-Gennari has also worked on a similar local initiative for the centenary of the Phoenix Cinema in Oxford. She was invited to analyse memories of Phoenix cinema-goers and the results of this research is available in the volume The Phoenix Picturehouse. 100 Years of Cinema Memories.

Read the full Impact Case Study and others on our dedicated REF 2014 webpages.

In last year’s REF 2014 Oxford Brookes' substantial research activity was demonstrated with 94 percent of research found to be internationally recognised.

If you are interested in Film Studies at Oxford Brookes, visit the School of Arts website.