The Della Seta family films shot in 1923, featuring weddings, leisure time and other daily activities, are the only known video document of Italian Jewish life before the Holocaust. The Italian journalist Claudio Della Seta found the negatives of films in his family home and never imagined they could be screened again. Recently he discovered that the Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia and the National Restoration Institute had the capability to restore and digitize them. After 91 years the films were brought back to life in all their splendor, wit and tenderness. Courtesy Della Seta Family – Center for Contemporary Jewish Documentation, Milan – Csc-Cineteca di Stato, Rome.
The films’ author
Salvatore Di Segni was born in Rome on January 9th, 1879, nine years after the abolition of the ghetto and the city’s annexation to unified Italy. His father, Amadio Di Segni, had taken part in the Risorgimento and in the carbonari movement. For this reason he had spent time in jail. Immediately before or after the First World War, he moved to Milan where he opened several textile and clothing companies with a Swiss partner, Jack Brausnweich. After the Racial Laws of 1938 he took refuge in Switzerland. He died in Lugano in 1945. After the war, his wife Ada Volterra joined their children in Argentina.
Dating the films
All footage was shot in 35mm Gevaert film, probably between winter and fall 1923. Only two segments can be dated exactly. One, shot at the beach, is dated September 1st 1923 as revealed by the newspaper’s headlines “Italian Troops Land in Corfu”. The other, memorializing a family wedding, is dated October 14th, 1923.
The beach is thought to be at Anzio, a small town South of Rome. The location of the pine-tree woods is unknown. The wedding took place in Perugia. The mountain is probably near Aprica.
In the film at the beach some members of the Di Segni family can be identified: Franco (13) wears a white shirt and circles around his mother, Ada (sitting on the left, in a white dress). Franco’s sister Ester (14) sits next to their mother. The girl playing on the side with another boy is probably Luciana, Franco’s and Ester’s younger sister. Franco, Ester and Luciana can also be seen in another films at the beach and in the woods. The lady on the right, who reads the newspaper and wears a darker dress, is Clelia Volterra, Ada’s sister.
The third film was shot during the wedding of Silvio Della Seta and Iole Campagnano. Among the guests are Silvio’s sister, and his parents, Samuele (Lello) Della Seta e Giulia Di Segni. Samuele is the heavier man with a hat, umbrella and cigarette. Giulia wears a feathered hat and enters the film from the left, in the first scene. Next to them are Iole Campagnano’s parents, Giuseppe (Peppe) Campagnano, the tall man wearing a coat, and Italia Di Segni; Tullio Della Seta, the child in sailor’s outfit; Elena Della Seta, the girl with braids; Galliano Servadio, a family friend, is the thin man in rain coat with his wife Maria. Samuele and Giulia were arrested in Rome on October 16th, 1943 and killed in Auschwitz upon arrival.
Music for the films is drawn from a collection of 78 vinyls that belonged to Giuseppe Campagnano, the bride’s father, and are now at the State Discotheque in Rome. http://www.icbsa.it/index.php?it/119/collezione-giuseppe-campagnano
Original reels and restoration
All original 35mm reels were deposited in entrusted to the Center for Contemporary Jewish Documentation in Milan. Restoration and digitization were conducted by the Istituto per il restauro e la conservazione del patrimonio archivistico e librario (IRCPAL) and the Centro sperimentale di Cinematografia – Cineteca di Stato.