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Rome: occupation of the factory and Mario Monicelli


Osvaldo Coggiola

 

Eutelia, one of the most important factories in Italy’s information technology sector and located in Tiburtina, the industrial outskirts of Rome, was shut down by its owners, laying off 1200 workers. For over a month the factory was occupied by the workers and production continued. On 10th November, the workers thwarted an attack from bands of police officers ("vigilantes"). On 25th November, a one-act festival was held at the factory, with speakers and musical groups, for obtaining solidarity and making people aware of the struggle. I was there, to extend my support and to understand what was happening.

The programme was quite small. Spokesmen from the trade- union (FIOM-CGIL) appealed to the sensitivity of the authorities, blasted the owners for their "mismanagement of the company" and criticised the media. Then an elderly speaker took the floor and he blamed capitalism energetically and called for a unity among the occupants of Eutelia and other workers in Italy, especially the Venetians and Sardinians in the Alcoa company, struggling for the same reasons (the latter two groups clashed with the police while  demonstrating in the streets of Rome).

Who was he? None other than Mario Monicelli, director and screenwriter of "L'Armata Brancaleone" (For Love and Gold), "I Compagni" (The Organizer), "I Soliti Ignoti" (Big Deal on Madonna Street), "Brancaleone nelle Crociate" (Brancaleone at the Crusades), "Romanzo Popolare" (Popular Romance), "Amici Miei" (My Friends), "Parenti Serpenti" (Relatives and Snakes) and many other films, which have become part and parcel not only of classic Italian cinema, but also of  universal culture (turned to expressions used in everyday language). The only Italian "director" to have brought together Autogrill Sordi and Totò, the two all-time greatest comedians of the Italian cinema, in one single film.

There he was, with his 95 years (yes, ninety-five), talking with the energy of a boy, calling for workers’ unity, highlighting and encouraging the role of women in the class struggle. This was the man who made the fantastic film "I Compagni" in 1961 (featuring Mario Monicelli, Marcello Mastroianni, Renato Salvatori, Annie Girardot: it will take a long time to make another film featuring four geniuses such as them ...), when the European and global feminist movements were just latent.

I talked to him while he sat among the workers, the winner of the Venice and Berlin film festivals, drinking his coffee. The conversation was not easy, he has started to have hearing problems (although he refuses to use any hearing device), but it was long enough for him to tell me that he was still "more communist than ever." And he spoke with anyone who wanted to talk to him, myself included.

I thought: I am not from the generation of the Internet, cell phone, hi-phone and skype. I do not understand them much (I neither understand nor take them with me), though it’s easy to take them for any trip whatsoever , and I do not consider myself lucky for it (on the contrary), but I am from a generation which Monicelli (and a few others of his stature) taught after the periods of fascism and war ended, things that today make us smile when we see (or read, or watch) "deconstructions” 'of' “Occidentalism” '(and "orientalism" ad hoc), defenses of "multiculturalism" or "re-inclusion" of the "excluded from history" – in a festival of third-rate paternalistic intellectual populisms, which are considered as “innovative”. Not to mention those “creative” films, Hollywood-style or otherwise, which, compared to Monicelli’s work, seem like projects made by disoriented students of cinematography, in their first year at the ECA-USP (School of Communications and Arts, University of Sao Paulo) ...

Monicelli made us live the sublime and the ridiculous lives of the unemployed / amateur thieves of today's capitalist world (in "I Soliti Ignoti"), and showed us how the "outsiders" happened to "include" themselves on their own (in "I Compagni") and merged with the party worker, the revolutionary intelligentsia ... and also the naive (Mastroianni!), precisely because they were revolutionaries. And the two "Brancaleone" films are much more than "Italian comedies", decades before the genre became "fashionable".  Monicelli blasted all the Euro /Christian centrisms with bursts of laughter. Monicelli / Gassman - meetings like this happen only two or three per century (another genius of the twentieth century, who unfortunately had a premature death - Bernard-Marie Koltès, ended up with all the anti-Arab racism that rages in Europe, with a single sentence: "If there were Arabs in France, it would be equal to Switzerland ").

Monicelli, the only intellectual present in the Italian factory occupation, all with his 95 years, is one of the greatest filmmakers of the 20th century, and also the 21st, who directed "Letters from Palestine"(2002), and "Desert Rose" (2007). Although almost a hundred years old, he is a young man, because he is an artist and a communist.

 

There are some photos of the occupation of Eutelia, the struggle of the workers of Alcoa against the police, and one of myself with Monicelli in the festival. Unfortunately these are not very clear since they were taken with a Chinese (but not communist) cellular phone.

Good bye, great Mario. We shall meet each other in the next factory occupation, to talk about internationalism and communism. Monicelli stayed until the end of the programme. Then we accompanied him for some time until he left alone in a taxi that took him home. I walked to my bus stop. After all, I am a teenager.

 

"Cinema will never die, it was born and cannot die. The cinema hall will die, perhaps, but I definitely don’t care about that. "

(Mario Monicelli was the recipient of the Golden Lion for Career award at the 1991 Venice Film Festival)

Transated into English by Suchandra De Sarkar