Sog., Scen.: Paolo Bosio. F.: Alfredo Lenci. Prod.: Bob Films, Roma ·DCP. D: 52’. Col. From original tinted and toned.
In 1924 Waldensian pastor Paolo Bosio commissioned Nino Martinengo to make a film for disseminating the Waldensian Church’s history through the modern medium of cinema. Martinengo was known especially for his performance as the comic character Bob; for the occasion, however, he proved to sell himself as an expert of spectacular historical reenactment with the help of Alfredo Lenci, who was also the cinematographer for Messalina.
The surviving film is a tinted and toned 35mm diacetate kept at the Museo Nazionale del Cinema in Turin. The print was locked up for years in a safety deposit box before making its way back to the archives of the Società di Studi Valdesi. The copy is an American version divided in two separate parts. The first is a historical reconstruction of the main events connected to the origins of the Waldensian movement and the ensuing centuries: Waldo’s conversion, their persecution, the Duke of Savoy’s resistance, the ‘Glorious Return’. The second part is live footage of the places and life of Italian Waldensian communities.
At the time the film was banned from screening by censors for defamation of the state’s religion, and it was clandestinely distributed abroad. Period documents attest to the existence of multiple versions: the Italian version, for example, opened with the documentary part. Martinengo only kept part of his promise: the film’s style is a little stiff and antiquated. It, however, is of incredible documentary interest as it was the first Waldensian propaganda film. The foundation and the museum thank Alessandro Signetto and Luciano D’Onofrio for their cooperation on the project.
Claudia Gianetto and Stella Dagna