Cinema of Italy: First stars and propaganda films

It was during 1914 and 1918, and especially during WWI that passion dramas became the favorite subject along the public and the first actors to be called stars were Emilio Ghione and Mario Bonnard, Lydia Borelli and Francesca Bertini.

It was during those war years that a new genre was born, the so-called propaganda film: the one in which a hero, sometime a mythological character, becomes involved in war adventures with acts of heroism, but to never show any opposition to the real violence of war.

During Mussolini’s regime film was not widely used for propaganda, as the Italian public was not interested in the “serious” films the government produced, but censorship was heavily used to avoid unwanted material, and a governmental body was set up to produce documentaries on Fascist achievements.

True Fascist propaganda was to be found in “black” films, which championed the Fascist ideology and cause. They often were short newsreels shown in movie theaters before the main film, rather than full length feature films. On the other end of the spectrum, film makers produced “white telephone” films which were made up of melodramatic romances and light-hearted comedies. The majority of the films made under the Fascist era were in fact Fascist films, war-based films with a fictional story line and a heavy dose of propaganda, but usually could be found toward the middle of the Black-White spectrum. (

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