Comune di Reggio Emilia Fondazione Palazzo Magnani

A leading personality of the international culture

Despite the strong bond to the Emilian roots, the cultural experience of Cesare Zavattini is characterized by a remarkable international openness. Sure enough the Luzzarese writer has established himself as an authentic “global icon” of the cinematographic neorealism, characterizing his entire work for a marked transnational character. Zavattini’s work outside Italy was outstanding, developing an extensive network of exchanges and connections especially towards Ibero-American cultural environments (Spain, Cuba, Mexico and Argentina) and Eastern Europe (Hungary, Romania, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Soviet Union) but also in the Anglo-Saxon area (Great Britain and the United States) as well as in other European contexts (France, Germany, Switzerland, Sweden, Austria) and non-European countries (including the African continent) where he went to carry out projects and collaborations, above all (but not only) in the cinematographic field. It’s not by chance that the biography of Zavattini is sprinkled with frequent and intense trips abroad during which he established extensive connections, entering into cosmopolitan cultural circuits. 

The Zavattinian transnational networks

The huge amount of the epistolary and its features (around 12.000 correspondents for over  100.000 documents) preserved in the Zavattini Archive reflects the extraordinary complexity of the artist’s relationships that range not only through the different geographical areas but also towards various cultural contexts: cinema, literature, art, publishing industry, etc. 
In this sense the “Zavattinian factory” involves various forms of connections: on the one hand with foreign bodies, institutions and organizations with which Zavattini maintained relationships including film institutes (the Cuban Institute of Art and Film Industry), houses film production (the Spanish Unión Industrial Cinematográfica, the Algerian Cinemateque Algerienne, the American Transcontinental Film), film festival (the Czechoslovak Karlovy Vary), committees in support of political causes (Italian Anti-Colonial Committee, Committee of the European Conference Western for Spain), associations (Italy-USSR Association, Association Internationale des Documentaristes, Italian-Algeria Association); on the other hand with leading personalities of the cultural life of the countries frequented by Zavattini, including filmmakers (the Argentine Fernando Birri, the Cubans Alfredo Guevara, José Massip and Julio Garcia Espinosa, the Spanish Luis Garcia Berlanga and Ricardo Muñoz Suay, the Americans Herbert Biberman, John Cassavetes and Truman Capote, the Czechoslovakian Jiri Weiss), film producers (the Americans David Selznick and Paul Graetz, the Swiss Arthur Cohn and Lazar Wechsler, the Egyptian Ramses Naguib), writers (the Colombian Gabriel García Márquez, the Spanish Alonso Ibarrola), photographers (the Americans Richard Avedon, William Klein and Duane Michals), film critics (the French André Bazin and Georges Sadoul) and artists (the French Jean Dubuffet, the Spaniard Joan Miró, the American Saul Steinberg, the Mexicans David Alfaro Siqueiros and Diego Rivera).
In the dense Zavattinian network the connections with the cosmopolitan Jewish circuits appear to be relevant, whose wide ramifications influenced decisively the artistic activity of Zavattini
as in the case of the friendship with the American Jew of Bohemian origins Paul Strand (from which the photographic book A country) or with the graphic designer of Jewish origin Leo Lionni.

Zavattini's international activity practices

It was thanks to his trips abroad that the "overseas initiatives” developed, such as meetings and inspections for the realization of film projects, participation in conferences and congresses, conferences, films, books and painting exhibitions, collaboration with magazines, the organization of cinematographic co-productions, the training of filmmakers and documentarists from decolonized countries to obtaining awards and prizes. There is therefore a wide range of experiences, some of which are particularly relevant, such as the practice of the "investigation journey" carried out to test the neorealist practice in contexts outside Italy such as Spain and especially in some Latin American countries. The journey made by Zavattini in France and Holland in 1950 in preparation for the film project on Van Gogh during which the Emilian author was able to improve the methodology of "ethnographic research".
It would be reductive, however, to limit the Zavattinian commitment to the strictly artistic sphere, in fact, at the same time, the intellectual's attitude to influence the political-cultural organization in the context of the historical period marked by the US-URSS antagonism during the Cold War years, emerges. In this perspective, the intense activity carried out in the field of relations with Eastern Europe through Italo-Soviet cultural cooperation and also attested by the numerous international awards beyond the “Iron Curtain” is of great interest; but also the profuse commitment in relation to the developments of the decolonization process in the African, Asian and Latin American continent between the 1950s and 1970s as a participant and promoter of initiatives at national and international level in support of the liberation struggles of the African people and more generally against colonialism, racism and in favor of the independence of the people of the Third World.

The reception of Zavattini's work abroad

In the international context there are several suggestions about the impartation and reception of Zavattini's work in relation to the "global" dimension of neorealism and its spreading process in the second half of the twentieth century. The name of Zavattini abroad remains mainly associated with the cinematographic work of "father of neorealism" damaging the creative complexity of the Emilian author. Despite Zavattini's consolidated neorealist reputation, the fortune of the entire Zavattinian artistic production is undenaiable, from literature to painting. In particular, the foreign impact of Zavattini's literary work appears to be significant thanks to the work of translating of intellectuals and writers as an expression of different cultural environments. But above all the influence exerted on Latin American literature by Gabriel García Márquez is relevant. The transnational profile of an intellectual promoter of a real cultural diplomacy closely linked to the role of Zavattini as a militant intellectual in the historical reality of the Cold War emerges in its entirety. 

 edited by Alberto Ferraboschi.
 Corsiero Editore
 Italian and English edition
 Format 24 x 17 cm; 240 pages  
 Cover price 28 euros
 Discounted price 25 € for the exibition at Palazzo da Mosto from 14 Decembre 2019 to 1 March 2020
 Available in all bookstores and online at:

 Link of the exhibition