16mm Film Screening: Cortile Cascino
This long-suppressed and controversial documentary was produced in 1961 for network television but never broadcast. Co-mingling cinema verité and narrative techniques, the film offers a sensitive but critical look at the slum called Cortile Cascino in the center of Palermo, Sicily where poverty and early death are constants and where the church and the Mafia compete for the inhabitants' fealty. The established church, largely ignoring the plight of its parishioners, nonetheless voices its outrage when a faith healer draws large crowds. The Mafia runs an illegal slaughterhouse and controls the concession to funerals but also distributes free food to the district's hungry residents. In the face of relentless adversity, the women provide the only stabilizing force. The neighborhood's despair is tragically foregrounded in a sequence depicting the burial of baby who died of malnutrition. The soundtrack is composed of comments by the people, recorded and translated by the filmmakers.