Alfredo Deagostini


T. it.: Italian title. T. int.: International title. T. alt.: Alternative title. Sog.: Story. Scen.: Screenplay. F.: Cinematography. M.: Editing. Scgf.: Set Design. Mus.: Music. Int.: Cast. Prod.: Production Company. L.: Length. D.: Running Time. f/s: Frames per second. Bn.: Black e White. Col.: Color. Da: Print source

Film Notes

Religious missionary cinema, which documented the growth of congregations and missions from the early decades of the twentieth century, is still an under-explored genre. It is a cinema with fluid boundaries, of which the CSC – Archivio Nazionale Cinema Impresa is one of the principal repositories in Italy.
Missionary priests documented the world around them with great technical ability, easily moving from still cameras to the moving image. They were particularly drawn to small and robust cameras that can withstand extreme climates and be transported unscathed across savannas and deserts, and they preferred smaller gauge film formats such as 9.5mm and later 16mm. They were early adopters in a rapidly developing market to which companies like Pathé Baby paid particular attention; this is clear from the adverts that appear in the pages of Catholic magazines during the period, which convey a clear and effective message promoting the practical and economic qualities of this equipment and their light weight. We do not know whether the priests at the Istituto Missionari Consolata (IMC) read these adverts, but they were undoubtedly attracted to the buzz that smaller formats had generated and they made use of them to shoot their films and to project release prints.
Research into the IMC collection is still underway, but so far, we know that some of these films were shot by Father Alfredo Deagostini (1904-1989). He was a teacher and assistant to new initiates and in 1940 he was sent to Ethiopia where he made a documentary on the activities of the priests in the region.
With primarily pragmatic rather than artistic aims, the devout of the Consolata used 9.5mm to document their activities in the 1930s and 1940s. This included the missionaries’ preparations, which involved everything from the study of medicine to entomology, their home life and the teaching and education of youth, the benefits of recreational activities in the open air, and finally, the priests’ departures and their first encounters with distant lands and their populations.
The IMC films sustain the typical contradictions of the period, in which the boundary between promotion and propaganda, or between civilising and evangelising, is very subtle. It is precisely for this reason that they constitute a precious historical source for the study of the twentieth century.

Elena Testa

Copy From

Work conducted at the CSC – Archivio Nazionale Cinema Impresa laboratory by Ilaria Magni and Diego Pozzato