Dr Danielle Hipkins

Life on the other side of the screen: Italian cinema audiences

We know a lot about the directors and stars of Italian cinema's heyday, from Roberto Rossellini to Sophia Loren, but what do we know about the Italian audiences that went to see them?

Dr. Danielle Hipkins, Senior Lecturer in Italian in the Department of Modern Languages, together with colleagues at Oxford Brookes and Bristol, has received an AHRC award of £690,000 for the project 'In Search of Italian Cinema Audiences in the 1940s and 1950s: Gender, Genre and National Identity'. The project explores the history of Italian cinema audiences and offers a unique opportunity to uncover a hidden history that is fundamental to Italian and European identity.

Dr Hipkins comments "In a period when Italy went through one of its most dramatic changes, from a predominantly agricultural nation to a leading industrial power, cinema was a constant for its people. Crucially, at the centre of this project are those people whose stories about cinema need to be told, understood and disseminated."

Dr. Hipkins is a Co-Investigator on the project, which is the first of its kind to use qualitative and quantitative data to examine the nature of cinema-going in Italy in the post-war period, and to trace national and regional patterns in cinema exhibition and audience preferences.

The project will draw on the support of six non-profit organisations in Italy. Three of these (ANASTE, Blumedia and Universita' della Terza Eta') will help the project team to distribute 1000 questionnaires amongst groups of Italy's over-65s, in order to gather statistics about cinema-going in the 1940s and '50s. Then, drawing on the survey's findings, Memoro (an organization that records and disseminates online video interviews with elderly Italians) will conduct 160 interviews on cinema-going, with a carefully chosen sample of interviewees from across Italy.

The project will ask participants questions about genre, stars, and gender, and place these subjective accounts in the context of our archival research, aided by two statistical bodies: SIAE (Società Italiana degli Autori ed Editori) and AGIS (Associazione Generale dello Spettacolo). It will then examine how preferences expressed by interviewees relate to box-office figures and contemporary reviews. Readers' letters and contemporary diaries will also play a crucial role in the project.

A project website is currently in development. When complete, it will provide access to the interviews and data obtained.  Furthermore, research will be disseminated through papers at three international conferences, two articles and two books, and a PhD student will receive a strong foundation for research in Italian film.

The fully funded PhD studentship is for a self-contained doctoral research topic on the reception of female stars in the Italian press in the 1940s and '50s, to be supervised by Dr. Catherine O’Rawe at the University of Bristol, as part of the AHRC project.

Informal enquiries about the PhD studentship may be addressed to Dr. O’Rawe in the Department of Italian by telephone at +44 (0)117 3316760 or by email. The closing date for receipt of applications is 24th June 2013.

For more information on the project, contact Dr. Hipkins.

Date: 5 June 2013

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