Screening and discussion: a work in progress on the Italian occupation in Ethiopia
The idea for If Only I Were That Warrior, took shape in February 2013 when director Valerio Ciriaci and producer Isaak Liptzin attended a panel discussion on the recently inaugurated
The idea for If Only I Were That Warrior, took shape in February 2013 when director Valerio Ciriaci and producer Isaak Liptzin attended a panel discussion on the recently inaugurated monument to Rodolfo Graziani organized by the Calandra Italian American Institute at CUNY and Centro Primo Levi NY.
An Italian army general responsible for war crimes and human rights violations in Africa, Graziani was first denounced by the League of Nations and, after the war, brought in front of the United Nations War Crimes Commission. Due to diplomatic reasons, he was never tried. In 1948 an Italian court found him guilty of war crimes but was relieved from serving his sentence because he claimed to have only obeyed orders. Graziani and his actions remained in limbo in the Italian collective memory. The dedication of the monument sparked international protests and brought his role in history back to the forefront of public discourse.
The CUNY panel prompted the two young filmmakers to research the Italian occupation of Ethiopia and understand why it was remembered so little and with such radical divergences. They made contact with organizations and individuals who had spoken out against the monument, primarily the Global Alliance for Justice (an American group seeking acknowledgment of Fascist war crimes in Ethiopia and official apologies from the Italian government) and ANPI (National Association of the Italian Partisans). They also contacted scholars of fascism and colonialism who could help them in their journey.
Their quest became a film project on the 1935 Italian invasion of Ethiopia and its unresolved legacy exposing it both from an Italian and an Ethiopian perspective.
Italy’s ambivalent relationship with its colonial past has been a matter of discussion in the academia, but the general public has seldom engaged in it. Although the Italian army’s use of deadly gas on civilians was forcefully protested by the international community, a critical discourse on the events has not reached the young generations. This story slowly disappeared from national memory to the point that, in 2012, the Graziani monument was approved by several Italian government agencies.
The film follows three characters involved in the controversy surrounding the Graziani monument and draws a transnational memory map through interviews with Italians in Ethiopia, Ethiopians in Italy and America, and Italian Americans.
As these voices frame the contemporary debate, the film delves into the history of the invasion through the work of major historians of colonialism like Angelo Del Boca and Richard Pankhurst. Historian of fascist Italy Mauro Canali and cultural historian Ian Campbell accompany the public through the history of the occupation as documented in the Italian and Ethiopian national archives.
In recent years, scholars have placed Italian war crimes in Greece, Yugoslavia and Africa under the spotlight allowing, among other things, a new approach to the study of fascist racism and a debate on international intervention, post-war justice as well as the effect of lingering prejudice and an unresolved past.
Addressing the general public and rethinking this memory in an international perspective, this film gives these issues currency and a broader audience.
Valerio Ciriaci (Director) is a Brooklyn based documentary filmmaker. He was born in Rome in 1988, and graduated with a major in Communication Sciences from La Sapienza University in Rome with a thesis on Jean Rouch and ethno-fiction. In 2011 he moved to New York City to attend documentary classes at New York Film Academy. In 2012 he co-founded Awen Films and directed two short documentary films: “Melodico”, featuring Tony Maiorino, barber and singer from the Bronx’s Little Italy, and “Treasure – The
Story of Marcus Hook”, which chronicles the efforts of a community after the shutdown of the local oil refinery. In 2013 he created Short Italian Tales, a documentary series portraying the lives of Italians living in New York, for i-Italy TV airing on NYC Life (Channel 25).
Isaak Liptzin (Director of Photography/Producer) is a New York based cinematographer and producer with a background in documentary photography. Isaak was born in San Francisco, but grew up and studied in Italy until 2009, when he moved to New York to attend classes in photography and imaging at NYU Tisch School of the Arts. In 2010 he spent seven months working at the studio of acclaimed photojournalist James Nachtwey, and in 2011 he provided photo and video documentation for Peace Child India in Bangalore. In the summer of 2012 he co-founded Awen Films, a nonfiction film production company, contributing his camera and his skills to various projects. He worked closely with Valerio Ciriaci as cinematographer and producer on “Melodico” and “Treasure — The Story of Marcus Hook”.