From Film Censorship to Film Revision

The notion of Censorship can be found where artistic will to expression meets government will to control. Censoring practices have touched literature, drama, painting, and, last but not least, Cinema.
Film censorship in Italy was born almost at the same time as the Seventh Art became more popular. Namely, it was enforced by Royal Decree n. 531, May 31, 1914, which approved the executory provision of the Facta Law, thus establishing the Italian censorship set of rules.
One hundred years after this date, MiBACT/Ministry of Cultural Activities and Heritage, and Tourism – Direzione Generale per il Cinema/Directorate-General for Film has decided to promote and support the Virtual Permanent Exhibition for One Hundred Years of Film Censorship in Italy, highlighting how the idea of censorship relative to the silver screen has changed. From a stern form of political and social control, censoring activity has now become a mainly administrative film revision. Being aware of the enormous economic potential of each film, the authors themselves get round the censor system, avoiding not only artistic abuse of their work, but also and especially financial damage. Over the past few decades, censorship has left behind several of its inherent traits: if, earlier, it took on the role of strict political, moral, and religious surveillance (not coincidentally, the Minister himself used to sign censorship documents), now the current Committees of Film Revision restrict themselves to protecting minors – one of the traditional functions of censorship.
The Virtual Exhibition meant precisely to develop this aspect: how and to what extent a government instrument such as Censorship operated on what would become the Italian collective imagination and an “Italian style” of film-making. The Exhibition offers everyone the opportunity to access directly, without intermediaries, a considerable portion of the precious material preserved in the archives of the Directorate-General for Film. A painstaking analysis was conducted on the extraordinary holdings to be found in the film files submitted to the offices of film censorship. Thus, we have been able to recover extremely valuable records such as original papers written by the greatest Italian and international film directors, people’s petitions for the withdrawal of films considered “obscene” according to the current morals, rich correspondences between producers, sector organizations, and the Ministry, as well as dialogue lists from films of the past but also recent ones. The entirety of the files, which offer a comprehensive view of Italian cinema and the social values that characterized it, until recently were accessible to experts exclusively. They are now available to the entire world wide web thanks to this virtual exhibition.
We are committed to giving a permanent historical status to a work that celebrates the evolution of Censorship both as national institution and as social concept and offers all those who want to explore this subject a different point of view over Cinema in Italy. Beginning from the archiving of censorship material done with the project “Italia Taglia” – which brought forth the idea for the exhibition – and with the collaboration of the Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia- Cineteca nazionale, the MiBACT wants to trust the enthusiasm of this initiative. We wish it will continue on this way (actually, this is more a real perspective) enhancing the preservation and promotion of this rich heritage.

Nicola Borrelli
Direttore Generale per il Cinema
Ministero dei Beni e delle Attività Culturali e del Turismo