Di Gianni, Luigi

   Documentary filmmaker. Widely regarded as one of Italy's leading documentarists, Di Gianni graduated from the Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia in 1954 with the short film L'arresto (The Arrest), a free adaptation of Franz Kafka's The Trial (Der Prozess), which was screened out of competition at the Venice Festival that year. He subsequently embarked on a series of evocative ethnographic documentaries focusing on life and customs in some of the poorer regions of southern Italy, beginning with Nascita e morte nel meridione—San Cataldo (Birth and Death in Southern Italy—San Cataldo, 1958), followed by Magia lucania (Lucania Magic, 1958), Frana in Lucania (Landslide in Lucania, 1959), Donne di Bagnara (Women of Bagnara, 1959), and Lapunidura (The Punidura, 1959).
   In the 1960s, while continuing to document magical and ritual practices in provincial Italy, he also extended his sights to more historical and contemporary subjects, as in Via Tasso (Tasso Street, 1961), a documentary on the Nazi occupation of Rome, and La tragedia del Vajont (The Tragedy of the Vajont, 1964), an investigation into the 1963 dam disaster in northern Italy that caused close to 2,000 deaths. At the same time he directed a number of theatrical adaptations for television, among them versions of Samuel Beckett's Krapp's Last Tape and Act without Words, while his disturbing and oneiric La tana (The Lair, 1967) was nominated for the Palme d'or for Best Short Film at Cannes. His even more provocative full-length fictional feature II tempo dell'inizio (The Time of the Beginning, 1974), a recounting (in black and white) of the dreams of an inmate of an insane asylum, earned him the Nastro d'argento for Best New Director. In 1988, while teaching at the Centro Sperimentale, he was awarded his second Nastro d'argento for his short documentary L'arte del vetro (The Art of Glass, 1987) and two years later he celebrated the memory of one of his old masters, Cesare Zavattini, in a one-hour documentary made for the LUCE. More recently he has documented the survival of maternal cults in La madonna in cielo, la "matre" in terra (The Madonna in Heaven, the Mother on Earth, 2006) while he himself has become the subject of La malattia dell'arcobaleno (The Rainbow Sickness, 2006), a documentary on his work directed by Simone Del Grosso.
   Historical Dictionary of Italian Cinema by Alberto Mira

Guide to cinema. . 2011.

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