Memories of Cinema Going in 1950s Italy

  • Memories of Cinema Going in 1950s Italy

    Memories of Cinema Going in 1950s Italy

    Research from Dr Daniela Treveri-Gennari on post-war Italian cinema-going has raised public awareness of the importance of autobiographical memories for the elderly. This work has also actively involved older people in reconstructing the history of an important time in Italian film industry.

    This has been achieved through innovative Arts and Humanities Research Council 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.

    Italian Cinema Audiences in 1950s Italy started with a case study conducted in Rome with 20 elderly participants, who had been interviewed on their memories of cinema-going. The result of that research was presented as In Search of Italian Cinema Audiences in the 1940s and 1950s: Gender, genre and national identity at the Edinburgh International Film Audiences Conference in 2011, and subsequently published in journals.

    The results of the first part of the British Academy funded project on Rome has been presented through a number of articles and directly to the general public via an event in collaboration with Roman City Council, as well as presented to the NECS Conference in Prague and the IAMHIST Conference on Childhood and the Media at the University of Leicester in 2013.

    The project has now been expanded to the whole Italian territory in a collaborative research study with a grant of £654,000 from the Arts & Humanities Research Council.

    First experiences

    In the first part of the project, Dr Treveri-Gennari 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. The social connotation of cinema vividly described by the participant is not only evident in terms of relationships - such as love, friendship, family and marriages - and identity formation. It also to be found in the role of the vivid personal events as one of the temporal landmarks in autobiographical memory: first experiences.

    The memory of cinema going is therefore associated to what Stubbings defines as `key aspects of the lifecycle': the first time smoking a cigarette, of seeing Sophia Loren on the big screen, or when participants first fell in love with their future husband or wife.

    The initial outcomes of the research differs from official histories of Italian cinemas in demonstrating that the location memories were much stronger than narratives, dates of first screenings or actors seen in films.

    Achieving recognition

    This research received national press through the Italian newspaper Il Messagero, national radio Radio Rai 3 and was covered by one of the Italian leading press agencies Press Agency AGI.

    Moreover, two public engagement events organised in collaboration with Unitre (the University of the Third Age) attracted over 800 people and was covered by local and national press - further information can be found on the project’s website at

    Dr Treveri-Gennari was subsequently asked to work on a similar 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 .

    Whether it relates to post-war Italian cinema or closer to Oxford Brookes’ home city, Dr Treveri-Gennari’s research has raised understanding of the importance of autobiographical memories for the silver screen.

    Find out more

    Read more about the full Impact Case Study on RADAR. Further information on Dr Daniela Treveri-Gennari can be found on her profile page. An article on Dr Treveri-Gennari’s work can be read in the University’s Research Forum publication.