Matteo Brera

Matteo Brera (York University)

Matteo Brera is a Postdoctoral Fellow at York University, where he directs the digitization of the ‘Angelo Principe Collection’ of historical Italian Canadian newspapers. His research focuses on transnational exchanges between Italy and the Americas, Italian and European literatures, Fascism and ecclesiastical/political policies of book censorship. Also a criminologist, Matteo specialises in Tennessee legislative history, imprisonment for profit, and the sociology of crime with a specific focus on the fictionalization of imprisonment and practices of degradation in Post-WWII Italian films.


Puramente casuale: Italian Prison Films and the 1975 Carceral Reform

Both media discourse and representation of crime influence mainstream culture to the point of claiming their own place beside scholarly approaches to crime as a form of popular criminology able not only to study crime films but also to render a picture of the society they are screened for (Garland and Sparks 2001). In this respect, prison films are both capable of shaping popular culture and being receptacles of the sociological signs perceived by their directors in the current political discourse on crime.

In this paper, I will analyze two films produced and screened before 1975, when the Italian legislator passed a crucial reform of the carceral system: L’istruttoria è chiusa, dimentichi [The Case is Closed: Forget It] (Damiano Damiani, 1971) and Farfallon [Farfallon] (Riccardo Pazzaglia, 1974). I will demonstrate that cinematic representations of incarceration written in a specific historical context – whether of dramatic or comic register – mirror the ongoing debates on crime and imprisonment and act as a critique of the social and penal setup of Italy in the Seventies.