About

In 2019 we asked a group of Italian young women, aged 18-25, what they thought of screen representations of girlhood produced in Italy. ‘Where is the product for us?’ the group asked. A second group, of girls aged 14-16, took it for granted that ‘their’ product was in fact US-produced film and television, and that Italian cinema and television were ‘for their parents’. Where indeed are the Italian-made products that address and depict younger women? As platform services blur the boundaries between film and television and shift traditional power structures, they are opening up new opportunities to address young women (Buccifero, 2019). Recent television series like ‘My Brilliant Friend’ (RAI/HB0, 2018) and ‘Baby’ (Netflix original, 2018) are attracting younger female audiences. This promising shift makes this a timely moment for the Italian film industry to build these audiences. Whilst Italian audiences have always valued US products, in the 1950s young women were a strong element of Italian cinema’s address (Morreale, 2011). Over the decade, however, it turned towards male audiences, and stayed there (Fanchi, 2007). This project will contribute in a timely fashion to a new inclusivity for Italian cinema. It aims to re-engage the film industry with female audiences, and female audiences with Italian cinema, around the question of girlhood, using a feminist, intergenerational perspective that brings girls’ and women’s voices to the foreground. Working between the UK and Italy, with an intergenerational team, our project will produce a book in English and Italian, an article, and a bilingual multimedia website and database. Our monograph will initially trace the relationship between press discourse and girls on screen from the 1950s. We will chart the history of representations of girlhood in and around Italian cinema and television; preliminary archival research shows that these are always closely tied to questions of sexuality and the body politic. Through archival research, we will also interrogate how postfeminist and popular feminist discourses have become entangled in contemporary ways of talking about girls in Italy. In the context of this history, we will then carry out a more detailed analysis of contemporary Italian cinema and selected television from the last decade. Our analysis will integrate the responses of Italian girls (aged 14 to 18), drawing upon data generated through individual interviews, screenings and focus group discussion. Our project will also set young women’s consumption of Italian products in the context of their broader patterns of media consumption, and ask just how important Italian productions are, or could be, to their process of growing up. If they do not perceive them as relevant, why is that? When it is, how do they respond to them? These findings will be central to the impact of our project, as we ask stakeholders in the film industry to address these questions too. This project also examines cultural memory as a key element of being a girl. As historian Franca Bimbi argues, in Italy becoming a woman is still as dependent on previous generations’ understanding of the process as it is on that of the peer group. Therefore, in its final stage, the project will use a participatory oral history method to put young women in dialogue with previous generations of women about the relationship between cinema and growing up. In this way, we return to the periods examined at the beginning of our book, through oral history. Female audiences in Italy have largely been ignored. Not only does this project want to contribute to their recovery, but it aims to put them at the creative centre of that recovery process, thereby finally making them stakeholders in the future of the industry.