Monti Moments: Men’s Memories in the Heart of Rome

Produced by: Michael Herzfeld

39 min. Color. 2007.

Captioned: Yes

Catalog #: 0157

Price: $225.00

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Product Description

This rich and revelatory documentary provides a uniquely intimate portrait of social change in a rapidly gentrifying neighborhood in Rome. Told through thoroughly engaging informal conversations with local inhabitants, the film speaks to important issues at the heart of contemporary social science — issues of history, memory, and voice — as well as to the effects of rapid socioeconomic change in urban neighborhoods. Filmmaker and anthropologist Michael Herzfeld displays an enviable and authentic rapport with his often colorful subjects and elicits from them eloquent, bittersweet, and charming commentary about the culture of Rome and how it has dramatically changed in recent years.

The film admirably captures the poignant memories and quiet desperation of men who today face increasing threats to their lives as artisans and shopkeepers and as residents of a once mostly working-class neighborhood amid some of Rome’s most famous monuments. The men’s standing as economic providers and true representatives of the local culture is now threatened by a massive epidemic of evictions and by astronomical cost increases. They nevertheless recall with wry humor the poverty, scandals, and glories of a past that for them is still very much alive and that animates the sun-warmed ocher walls and diamond-shaped cobblestones of their quarter.

Constant incursions of raucous traffic, the callous disregard of the rich and powerful, and the relentless invasion of market forces (with their attendant retinue of conniving loan-sharks) have not blunted their appreciative wit or their devotion to a richly variegated history — a history that emerges visibly in the often florid manifestations of corruption, illegality, and rebellion.

Taxi-drivers debate the comparative merits of old editions of historical books; a butcher recalls the anti-fascist commitments of a family that has lived in the same house since 1704; a newsagent muses over an old photograph that connects his family’s business to a thousand years of local architecture; worries over rent and factory competition shadow the glowing inventions of a glassmaker’s art; two friends recall moments of knavish wit and bitter tragedy; and the film tracks the sad trail of an evictee in search of a decent living under today´s terrifying pressures. Grime and decay, but also resilient cheer and irreverent banter, suffuse life amidst the intensely local remnants of Church and empire.

Monti Moments is a delightful and thought-provoking documentary that will generate discussion in a wide variety of courses in cultural anthropology, urban studies, sociology, European or Italian studies, and popular culture. It was produced by Michael Herzfeld, Prof. of Anthropology and Curator of European Ethnology in the Peabody Museum at Harvard University. The film is in Italian with English subtitles.