Gillo Pontecorvo
Gillo Pontecorvo was an Italian
Italian people
The Italian people are an ethnic group that share a common Italian culture, ancestry and speak the Italian language as a mother tongue. Within Italy, Italians are defined by citizenship, regardless of ancestry or country of residence , and are distinguished from people...

 filmmaker. He worked as a film director for more than a decade before his best known film La battaglia di Algeri
The Battle of Algiers (film)
The Battle of Algiers is a 1966 war film based on occurrences during the Algerian War against French colonial occupation in North Africa, the most prominent being the titular Battle of Algiers. It was directed by Gillo Pontecorvo...

(The Battle of Algiers, 1966) was released. For this he was nominated for the Best Director
Academy Award for Directing
The Academy Award for Achievement in Directing , usually known as the Best Director Oscar, is one of the Awards of Merit presented by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to directors working in the motion picture industry...

 Oscar in 1969 and won the Golden Lion
Golden Lion
Il Leone d’Oro is the highest prize given to a film at the Venice Film Festival. The prize was introduced in 1949 by the organizing committee and is now regarded as one of the film industry's most distinguished prizes...

 at the Venice Film Festival
Venice Film Festival
The Venice International Film Festival is the oldest international film festival in the world. Founded by Count Giuseppe Volpi in 1932 as the "Esposizione Internazionale d'Arte Cinematografica", the festival has since taken place every year in late August or early September on the island of the...

 in that year.

His other films include Kapò
Kapò is an Italian film about the Holocaust directed by Gillo Pontecorvo in 1959. It was nominated for the Academy Award as Best Foreign Language Film. It was an Italian-French co-production filmed in Yugoslavia.-Plot:...

(1960), which takes place in a World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 concentration camp, and Burn!
Burn! is a 1969 film directed by Gillo Pontecorvo; starring Marlon Brando. The plot is loosely based on events in the history of Guadeloupe.The main character is named after William Walker, the famous American filibuster...

(Queimada, 1969), starring Marlon Brando
Marlon Brando
Marlon Brando, Jr. was an American movie star and political activist. "Unchallenged as the most important actor in modern American Cinema" according to the St...

 and loosely based on the failed slave revolution in Guadeloupe
Guadeloupe is an archipelago located in the Leeward Islands, in the Lesser Antilles, with a land area of 1,628 square kilometres and a population of 400,000. It is the first overseas region of France, consisting of a single overseas department. As with the other overseas departments, Guadeloupe...

. In 2000, he received the Pietro Bianchi Award at the Venice Film Festival. He was also a screenwriter and composer of film scores, and a close friend of the Italian President Giorgio Napolitano
Giorgio Napolitano
Giorgio Napolitano is an Italian politician who has been the 11th President of Italy since 2006. A long-time member of the Italian Communist Party and later the Democrats of the Left, he served as President of the Chamber of Deputies from 1992 to 1994 and as Minister of the Interior from 1996 to...


Life and work

Pontecorvo, born in Pisa
Pisa is a city in Tuscany, Central Italy, on the right bank of the mouth of the River Arno on the Tyrrhenian Sea. It is the capital city of the Province of Pisa...

, was the son of a wealthy non-observant Italian Jewish businessman, and the younger brother of Bruno Pontecorvo
Bruno Pontecorvo
Bruno Pontecorvo was an Italian-born nuclear physicist, an early assistant of Enrico Fermi and then the author of numerous studies in high energy physics, especially on neutrinos. According to Oleg Gordievsky and Pavel Sudoplatov , Pontecorvo was also a Soviet agent...

, an internationally acclaimed physicist, and Guido Pontecorvo
Guido Pontecorvo
Guido Pontecorvo ForMemRS was an Italian-born geneticist.-Career:He fled to Britain in 1938.* Institute of Animal Genetics, University of Edinburgh, 1938-40 and 1944-45...

, a geneticist.

He attended chemistry
Chemistry is the science of matter, especially its chemical reactions, but also its composition, structure and properties. Chemistry is concerned with atoms and their interactions with other atoms, and particularly with the properties of chemical bonds....

 at the University of Pisa
University of Pisa
The University of Pisa , located in Pisa, Tuscany, is one of the oldest universities in Italy. It was formally founded on September 3, 1343 by an edict of Pope Clement VI, although there had been lectures on law in Pisa since the 11th century...

, but dropped out after passing just two exams. It was there that he first became aware of opposing political
Politics of Italy
The politics of Italy is conducted through a parliamentary, democratic republic with a multi-party system. Executive power is exercised collectively by the Council of Ministers, which is led by the President of the Council of Ministers, referred to as "Presidente del Consiglio" in Italian...

 forces, coming into contact with leftist students and professors for the first time. In 1938, faced with growing anti-Semitism
Antisemitism is suspicion of, hatred toward, or discrimination against Jews for reasons connected to their Jewish heritage. According to a 2005 U.S...

, he followed his elder brother Bruno to Paris
Paris is the capital and largest city in France, situated on the river Seine, in northern France, at the heart of the Île-de-France region...

, where he was able to find work in journalism and as a tennis instructor.

In Paris he involved himself in the film world, where he made a few short documentaries. He became an assistant to Joris Ivens
Joris Ivens
Joris Ivens was a Dutch documentary filmmaker and committed communist.-Early life and career:...

, the Dutch documentary filmmaker and a well known Marxist, whose films include Regen and The Bridge
De brug
De brug is a 1928 Dutch documentary short film directed by Joris Ivens. This silent film explores the newly constructed Rotterdam vertical-lift railroad bridge: its structure, mechanisms, complex actions, and the steam-powered trains and ships making use of it.- Synopsis :Three views of the film...

. He also assisted Yves Allegret
Yves Allégret
Yves Allégret was a French film director in the film noir genre.He is noted as having been the husband of actress Simone Signoret between the years 1944–1949.-Selected filmography:...

, a French director known for his work in the film noir
Film noir
Film noir is a cinematic term used primarily to describe stylish Hollywood crime dramas, particularly those that emphasize cynical attitudes and sexual motivations. Hollywood's classic film noir period is generally regarded as extending from the early 1940s to the late 1950s...

 genre whose films include Une Si Jolie Petite Plage
Une si jolie petite plage
Une si jolie petite plage is a French film shot in black-and-white, directed by Yves Allégret and released in 1949. The film stars Gérard Philipe, Madeleine Robinson and Jane Marken....

and Les Orgueilleux. In addition to these influences, Pontecorvo began meeting people who broadened his perspectives, among them Pablo Picasso
Pablo Picasso
Pablo Diego José Francisco de Paula Juan Nepomuceno María de los Remedios Cipriano de la Santísima Trinidad Ruiz y Picasso known as Pablo Ruiz Picasso was a Spanish expatriate painter, sculptor, printmaker, ceramicist, and stage designer, one of the greatest and most influential artists of the...

, Igor Stravinsky
Igor Stravinsky
Igor Fyodorovich Stravinsky ; 6 April 1971) was a Russian, later naturalized French, and then naturalized American composer, pianist, and conductor....

 and Jean-Paul Sartre
Jean-Paul Sartre
Jean-Paul Charles Aymard Sartre was a French existentialist philosopher, playwright, novelist, screenwriter, political activist, biographer, and literary critic. He was one of the leading figures in 20th century French philosophy, particularly Marxism, and was one of the key figures in literary...

. It was during this time that Pontecorvo truly developed his political ideals. He was particularly affected when many of his friends in Paris packed up to go fight in the Spanish Civil War
Spanish Civil War
The Spanish Civil WarAlso known as The Crusade among Nationalists, the Fourth Carlist War among Carlists, and The Rebellion or Uprising among Republicans. was a major conflict fought in Spain from 17 July 1936 to 1 April 1939...


Pontecorvo joined the Italian Communist Party
Italian Communist Party
The Italian Communist Party was a communist political party in Italy.The PCI was founded as Communist Party of Italy on 21 January 1921 in Livorno, by seceding from the Italian Socialist Party . Amadeo Bordiga and Antonio Gramsci led the split. Outlawed during the Fascist regime, the party played...

 in 1941. He traveled to northern Italy to help organize anti-Fascist
Italian Fascism
Italian Fascism also known as Fascism with a capital "F" refers to the original fascist ideology in Italy. This ideology is associated with the National Fascist Party which under Benito Mussolini ruled the Kingdom of Italy from 1922 until 1943, the Republican Fascist Party which ruled the Italian...

 partisans and going by the pseudonym Barnaba, becoming a leader of the Resistance in Milan
Milan is the second-largest city in Italy and the capital city of the region of Lombardy and of the province of Milan. The city proper has a population of about 1.3 million, while its urban area, roughly coinciding with its administrative province and the bordering Province of Monza and Brianza ,...

 from 1943 until 1945. Pontecorvo broke ties with the party in 1956 after the Soviet intervention in Hungary
Hungary , officially the Republic of Hungary , is a landlocked country in Central Europe. It is situated in the Carpathian Basin and is bordered by Slovakia to the north, Ukraine and Romania to the east, Serbia and Croatia to the south, Slovenia to the southwest and Austria to the west. The...

. He didn't, however, renounce his dedication to Marxism
Marxism is an economic and sociopolitical worldview and method of socioeconomic inquiry that centers upon a materialist interpretation of history, a dialectical view of social change, and an analysis and critique of the development of capitalism. Marxism was pioneered in the early to mid 19th...

 and in a 1983 interview with the UK’s Guardian newspaper, said, "I am not an out-and-out revolutionary. I am merely a man of the Left, like a lot of Italian Jews."

After World War II and his return to Italy, Pontecorvo made the decision to leave journalism for filmmaking, a move that seems to have been in the making for some time, but was set in motion after he saw Roberto Rossellini
Roberto Rossellini
Roberto Rossellini was an Italian film director and screenwriter. Rossellini was one of the directors of the Italian neorealist cinema, contributing films such as Roma città aperta to the movement.-Early life:Born in Rome, Roberto Rossellini lived on the Via Ludovisi, where Benito Mussolini had...

's Paisà
Paisà is a 1946 Italian film directed by Roberto Rossellini, the second of a trilogy by Rossellini. It is divided into six episodes. They are set in the Italian Campaign during World War II when Nazi Germany was losing the war against the Allies, using themes such as the difficulty of communication...

(1946). He bought a 16mm camera and shot several documentaries, mostly self-funded, beginning with Missione Timiriazev in 1953. He then directed Giovanna
Giovanna is an Italian feminine first name, the equivalent of Joanna, Jane, etc. in English.Diminutive forms include Gianna, Vanna, Giovannina, Nina. People known by this name name include:...

, which was one episode of La rosa dei venti (1956), a film made with several directors. In 1957 he directed his first full length film, La grande strada azzurra
La grande strada azzurra
La grande strada azzurra is a 1957 Italian romance drama film directed by Gillo Pontecorvo and Maleno Malenotti.-Plot:...

(The Wide Blue Road), which foreshadowed his mature style of later films. It deals with a fisherman and his family on the small island off the Dalmatia
Dalmatia is a historical region on the eastern coast of the Adriatic Sea. It stretches from the island of Rab in the northwest to the Bay of Kotor in the southeast. The hinterland, the Dalmatian Zagora, ranges from fifty kilometers in width in the north to just a few kilometers in the south....

n coast of Italy. Because of the scarcity of fish in nearby waters, the fisherman, Squarciò, is forced to sail out to the open sea to fish illegally with bombs. The film won a prize at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival
Karlovy Vary International Film Festival
The Karlovy Vary International Film Festival is a film festival held annually in July in Karlovy Vary , Czech Republic. The Karlovy Vary Festival gained worldwide recognition over the past years and has become one of Europe's major film events....

. Pontecorvo spent months, and sometimes years, researching the material for his films in order to accurately represent the actual social situations he commented on. In the next two years, Pontecorvo directed Kapò
Kapò is an Italian film about the Holocaust directed by Gillo Pontecorvo in 1959. It was nominated for the Academy Award as Best Foreign Language Film. It was an Italian-French co-production filmed in Yugoslavia.-Plot:...

(1960), a drama set in a Nazi death camp. The plot of the film is about an escape attempt from a concentration camp by a young Jewish girl. In 1961 the film was nominated by the Academy Awards
Academy Awards
An Academy Award, also known as an Oscar, is an accolade bestowed by the American Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to recognize excellence of professionals in the film industry, including directors, actors, and writers...

 for an Oscar for Best Foreign-Language Film
Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film
The Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film is one of the Academy Awards of Merit, popularly known as the Oscars, handed out annually by the U.S.-based Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences...

. Also in this same year the film won two awards: the Italian National Syndicate of Film Journalists awarded Didi Perego
Didi Perego
Didi Perego was a statuesque actress who appeared in over 80 films and television shows. She made her debut in 1959's Death of a Friend and followed it up in the same year with perhaps her best-known performance, as Sofia in Kapò for which she won the Silver Ribbon for Best Supporting Actress...

 a Silver Ribbon for best supporting actress, and the Mar del Plata Film Festival
Mar del Plata Film Festival
The Mar del Plata International Film Festival is an international film festival that takes place every November in the city of Mar del Plata, Argentina...

 awarded Susan Strasberg
Susan Strasberg
Susan Elizabeth Strasberg was an American film and stage actress.-Background and career:Strasberg was born in New York City, New York, the daughter of theatre director and drama coach Lee Strasberg of the Actors Studio and former actress Paula Strasberg...

 for best actress.

The Battle of Algiers was Pontecorvo's masterpiece and is widely viewed as one of the finest films of its genre ever made. Its portrayal of the Algerian resistance during the Algerian War, follows in the footsteps of neorealist
Neorealism (art)
In art, neorealism was established by the ex-Camden Town Group painters Charles Ginner and Harold Gilman at the beginning of World War I. They set out to explore the spirit of their age through the shapes and colours of daily life...

 pioneers such as de Santis and Rossellini, employing the use of newsreel-style footage and non-professional actors and focusing primarily on the disenfranchised population that seldom receives attention from the general media. Pontecorvo was clearly reading Frantz Fanon
Frantz Fanon
Frantz Fanon was a Martiniquo-Algerian psychiatrist, philosopher, revolutionary and writer whose work is influential in the fields of post-colonial studies, critical theory and Marxism...

 while making The Battle of Algiers, as many of Fanon's notions are echoed in the film, though often simplified. When the film achieved mass screening in the United States, Pontecorvo received a number of awards, and was also nominated for two Academy Awards for direction and the screenplay (a collaboration). The film has been used as a training video by government strategists as well as revolutionary
A revolutionary is a person who either actively participates in, or advocates revolution. Also, when used as an adjective, the term revolutionary refers to something that has a major, sudden impact on society or on some aspect of human endeavor.-Definition:...

 groups. It has been and remains extremely popular in Algeria
Algeria , officially the People's Democratic Republic of Algeria , also formally referred to as the Democratic and Popular Republic of Algeria, is a country in the Maghreb region of Northwest Africa with Algiers as its capital.In terms of land area, it is the largest country in Africa and the Arab...

, providing a popular memory of the struggle for liberation from France. The semi-documentary style and use of an almost entirely non-professional cast (only one trained actor appears in the film) was a great influence on a number of future filmmakers and films. This can be found in things as diverse as the few surviving works of West German filmmaker Teod Richter made from the late 1960s up to his disappearance, and presumed death, in 1986 through to more recent commercial films such as the Blair Witch Project, Paranormal Activity and many others.

Pontecorvo's next major work, Queimada! (Burn!
Burn! is a 1969 film directed by Gillo Pontecorvo; starring Marlon Brando. The plot is loosely based on events in the history of Guadeloupe.The main character is named after William Walker, the famous American filibuster...

, 1969), starring Marlon Brando
Marlon Brando
Marlon Brando, Jr. was an American movie star and political activist. "Unchallenged as the most important actor in modern American Cinema" according to the St...

, is another anti-colonial film, this time set in the Antilles
The Antilles islands form the greater part of the West Indies in the Caribbean Sea. The Antilles are divided into two major groups: the "Greater Antilles" to the north and west, including the larger islands of Cuba, Jamaica, Hispaniola , and Puerto Rico; and the smaller "Lesser Antilles" on the...

. This film also depicts an attempted revolution of the oppressed, with strong anti-colonial message.

Pontecorvo continued his series of highly political films with Ogro (1979), which addresses the occurrence of terrorism at the end of Francisco Franco
Francisco Franco
Francisco Franco y Bahamonde was a Spanish general, dictator and head of state of Spain from October 1936 , and de facto regent of the nominally restored Kingdom of Spain from 1947 until his death in November, 1975...

's dwindling regime in Spain. He continued making short films into the early 1990s and directed a follow-up documentary to The Battle of Algiers entitled Ritorno ad Algeri (Return to Algiers, 1992). In 1992, Pontecorvo replaced Guglielmo Biraghi
Guglielmo Biraghi
Guglielmo Biraghi was an Italian critic and film festival director. He was the director of the Taormina Film Fest in the 1970s and became the 14th director of the Venice Film Festival in 1987...

 as the director of the Venice Film Festival and was responsible for the festivals of 1992, 1993 and 1994. In 1991, he was a member of the jury at the 41st Berlin International Film Festival
41st Berlin International Film Festival
The 41st annual Berlin International Film Festival was held from February 15 to 26, 1991.-Jury:* Volker Schlöndorff * Chantal Akerman* Laurie Anderson* José Luis Borau* Judith Godrèche* Yuri Klepikov* Renate Krößner* Gillo Pontecorvo...


In 2006, he died from congestive heart failure
Congestive heart failure
Heart failure often called congestive heart failure is generally defined as the inability of the heart to supply sufficient blood flow to meet the needs of the body. Heart failure can cause a number of symptoms including shortness of breath, leg swelling, and exercise intolerance. The condition...

 in Rome
Rome is the capital of Italy and the country's largest and most populated city and comune, with over 2.7 million residents in . The city is located in the central-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, on the Tiber River within the Lazio region of Italy.Rome's history spans two and a half...

 at age 86.

Filmography as director

  • Firenze, il nostro domani (2003, documentary)
  • Un altro mondo è possibile (2001, documentary)
  • I corti italiani (1997, segment "Nostalgia di protezione")
  • Nostalgia di protezione (1997, short)
  • Danza della fata confetto (1996, short)
  • Gillo Pontecorvo's Return to Algiers (1992, documentary)
  • 12 registi per 12 città (1989, segment "Udine")
  • Addio a Enrico Berliguer (1984, documentary)
  • Operación Ogro (Operation Ogre, 1979)
  • Queimada
    Burn! is a 1969 film directed by Gillo Pontecorvo; starring Marlon Brando. The plot is loosely based on events in the history of Guadeloupe.The main character is named after William Walker, the famous American filibuster...

    (Burn!, 1969)
  • La Battaglia di Algeri (The Battle of Algiers, 1966)
  • Paras (1963, documentary)
  • Gli uomini del lago (1959, documentary)
  • Kapò
    Kapò is an Italian film about the Holocaust directed by Gillo Pontecorvo in 1959. It was nominated for the Academy Award as Best Foreign Language Film. It was an Italian-French co-production filmed in Yugoslavia.-Plot:...

  • Pane e zolfo (1959, documentary)
  • La grande strada azzurra
    La grande strada azzurra
    La grande strada azzurra is a 1957 Italian romance drama film directed by Gillo Pontecorvo and Maleno Malenotti.-Plot:...

    (The Wide Blue Road, 1957)
  • Die Windrose (1957, segment "Giovanna")
  • Cani dietro le sbarre (1955, documentary)
  • Giovanna (1955, short)
  • Uomini del marmo (1955, documentary)
  • Festa a Castelluccio (1954, documentary)
  • Porta Portese
    Porta Portese
    Porta Portese is a gate in Rome, Italy.The gate was built in 1644 as part of the Janiculum Walls commissioned by Pope Urban VIII, replacing the Porta Portuensis. Until the late 19th century, the Ripa Grande port was located in the nearby...

    (1954, documentary)
  • Missione Timiriazev (1953, documentary)

External links

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.