Much More Than an Archive

Interview With Delegate of Vatican Film Library

ROME, OCT. 10, 2006 ( What kind of films are shown in the Vatican?

According to Claudia Di Giovanni, the first woman to hold the position of delegate of the Vatican Film Library, both classic and modern films.

In this interview with ZENIT, Di Giovanni explains that the library not only houses some cinematic gems, with material that begins with images of Pope Leo XIII in 1896, but is also a venue for dialogue with contemporary cinema.

Q: You are the first woman to do this job. Do you think the Vatican is opening to the presence of women in executive posts?

Di Giovanni: This process of the presence of women in some posts of the Church already began during John Paul II’s pontificate, perhaps less obviously or less amplified by the media.

Within many dioceses, parishes, religious congregations and movements, moreover, women have held and hold responsible posts.

Of course the phenomenon is more visible today, not only in the Church but in part throughout the world, in different realms.

Benedict XVI has expressed several times and shown his openness in this respect, the rest therefore is up to women, to their individual abilities.

Q: Is the Vatican Film Library a great archive or much more than that?

Di Giovanni: The Vatican Film Library is undoubtedly a great historical archive, but its activity is not only limited to the conservation of material, at times unique.

It attempts to be a bridge of dialogue with the film world, in its dimension of vehicle of values and culture.

The screen is a great window open to the world, capable of bringing together, through the universal language of images, men of any latitude and thought, making the spectator reflect through entertainment, on fundamental topics of the contemporary world.

Films also reflect the different expressions of spirituality and the Film Library has been working for years on cinema relating to religion, analyzing films produced worldwide from 1896 until today which have addressed man’s relations with the transcendent.

Q: Film directors from all over the world come here. Why are you interested in this confrontation with the present cinematographic world?

Di Giovanni: This confrontation is indispensable precisely to continue to keep the dialogue open with all those who intervene in cinema, to take advantage of the great potentialities that this instrument of social communication can offer the development of the person and the spread of universally valid values.

For nine years, the Vatican Film Library, in collaboration with the Italian Show Business Entity and the Pontifical Council for Culture has organized a Congress of Studies on Cinema and Spirituality, in which important exponents of the cinematographic and cultural realms take part.

In today’s world it is impossible to ignore the impact that the cinema has on the public, especially on young people, determining fashions and attitudes. Therefore, it is indispensable to analyze the contents proposed, helping the spectators, including the youngest, to make a critical, mature and responsible reading of the films.

Q: Which is the best film you house here?

Di Giovanni: Our archive keeps historical pearls on the Popes: the filming of Leo XIII in the Vatican Gardens, made in 1896 in Lumiere film, Vatican Radio’s inauguration in 1931, with Pius XI and Guglielmo Marconi, the conclave and election of Pius XII and the Second Vatican Council.

The list of historical films on the activity of the Church and of the Popes might be long, but the Film Library also keeps in its archives commercial films or productions of the early days of cinema, such as “Hell,” a 1911 film made by Italian Helios Film, inspired in Dante’s work, in which special effects of a modern sort were used for the first time.

We thought this film was lost; instead, it was rediscovered in our archive and with the help of the Bayer pharmaceutical firm, it has now been restored and distributed in DVD in academic and specialized circuits.

Moreover, the archive has some films of great anthropological interest, made by missionaries, around the 1950s of last century, who did takes on daily and religious life of people who would otherwise have been ignored.

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