Guido Brignone, Passaporto Rosso (1935)
Brignone’s Passaporto rosso is a patriotic drama about a young Italian, Lorenzo Casati, who received the ‘red passport’, a document given to political agitators who were forced to leave Italy. On the way to America Lorenzo meets Maria Berutti, a girl who is emigrating with her father. After several twist and turns, Lorenzo and Maria get married in Argentina and have a son called Gianni. When WWI starts Lorenzo, now an elderly man, would like to return to Italy to help his country; his son Gianni, who has not felt any connection with Italy until then, is impressed by his father’s patriotism and decides to join the Italian army. This decision will prove fatal for Gianni, who dies during the war.
The Sacralisation of the New Man’s Total Politics through the Arts
Shaping the New Man’s Reality by Fashioning National Myths
Monumentalism: Visualising Subjectivity and Objectivity
Brignone’s film is divided into two quite clearly distinct parts: the first praises Italian migration as a means of exporting the new values of national identity. Here, the film echoes traditional Western sagas, with people looking for a new frontier to claim and to use as the basis to create a new community. However, this project is undermined by negative characters such as Don Pancho, an unscrupulous and corrupt manager of an Argentinian dance hall who wants Maria to be an entertainer in his bawdy shows. Maria is ‘liberated’ by Lorenzo Casati, who pays off the debt she owed Don Pancho. As the central female character, Maria embodies the ideal Fascist woman, since she helps the suffering children in the ship during the ocean crossing, is ill at ease in the immoral environment of Don Pancho’s dance hall, and takes care of Lorenzo when he is injured. Eventually, the marriage between Lorenzo and Maria seals their union, and the birth of their son Gianni epitomises the conquest of the American landscape as he represents the Italian seed thriving in that context.
In the second part of the film, when Gianni decides to enter in the Italian Army, Fascist paradigms surface more clearly. The patriotic spirit, heroism, and the ultimate sacrifice for the country symbolize the strength of Fascist revolution which has reached even the remotest Italian communities scattered across the world. Born into an Italian-minded family who exported the national values beyond Italy and sacrificing his life, Gianni is portrayed as the precursor perfect Fascist transnational hero. Accordingly, themes such as the dialectic connection between the love affair between Lorenzo and Maria and the conquest of remote lands, the tension between individual leisure and collective duty, the image of the woman as the motherland to be protected, and the notion of virgin land to be conquered, all bring to mind the colonial tropes that in 1935, when the film was produced, were circulating in Italy in relation to the conquest of Ethiopia.
Coletti, Maria. 2004. ‘Il sogno imperiale. I film coloniali del fascismo, 1935-1942.' La valle dell’eden 6: 12.
Forgacs, David. 2014. ‘Fascism and Italian Cinema’. In The Italian Cinema Book, edited by Peter Bondanella. London: BFI and Palgrave Macmillan.
Gundle,Stephen. 2013. Mussolini’s Dream Factory: Film Stardom in Fascist Italy. Oxford and New York: Berghahn Books.
Landy, Marcia. 1986. Fascism in Film: The Italian Commercial Cinema, 1931-1943. Princeton: Princeton University Press.