Accepted paper:

Monti moments: men's memories in the heart of Rome


Michael Herzfeld (Harvard University)

Paper short abstract:

A portrait of gentrification in Rome; addresses history, memory, and voice. Local men offer wryly eloquent commentaries on their increasingly threatened standing as artisans, shopkeepers, and breadwinners as they struggle to maintain homes and workplaces amid Rome's famous monuments. (Distributed by Berkeley Media LLC) 39' film and 15’ director-led discussion

Paper long abstract:

This documentary provides an 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. The inhabitants offer an eloquent, bittersweet commentary on the culture of Rome and how it has dramatically changed in recent years.

The film captures the poignant memories and quiet desperation of, specifically, local men as they 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. Their 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 documents the social and physical environment the evictees are now losing. Sadness and decay, but also resilient cheer and irreverent banter, suffuse everyday life amidst the intensely local remnants of church and empire.

(Distributed by Berkeley Media LLC)

39' film and 15’ director-led discussion

panel P43
Film programme