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Secretaries – A Life for Cinema (Segretarie – Una Vita per il Cinema)

Six personal assistants tell what was like to work in film when Italian movies won one award after another, presenting a history soon to be lost to memory - from the Cambridge Film Festival

Though it advertises itself an attempt to document the long-range effects cinema brought to Italy, this film is much more interested and successfully in representing the social history it so readily represents. From the profuse luxuriance explored on the screen, it was the penpushers, the workers and the everyday women who made this possible. In its own way, it’s a tribute to Italy, Italian cinema and the indomitable nature of the Italian woman.

The film’s ambitious time-lapse method, converging from the present to the past, is presented in an assemblage of photo clips, showing the women both in their prime and in the fortunes of their Autumnal years. As is the nature of time, these subjects won’t likely be here to detail their story of a sensational decade when the next sensational decade begins.

The importance of the documentary has been highlighted since Michael Apted popularised the formula with the 7Up series (1964-present). Where Apted showed the wonder of the ordinary in the daily life an ordinary person leads, this film demonstrates the glamour brought to the varying lives that sorely lacked it. It was passion and fire that brought passionate, fiery films to the big screen, a flamed passion the six interviewees still exude in their weathered eyes.

Inevitably, the directors and producers (invariably, men, each of them) would take the glory for the films, the publicity and the prowess bestowed on their shoulders. That a film goes out of its way in order to pay tribute to the women who worked tirelessly on the movies which made their employers rich is testament to the way in which the cinema world is progressing in its outlook.

It’s a treat for film students versed in European cinema as a impression of fascinating images populate the screen, many of them previously unpublished and unreleased. Silhouetting from black and white portraitures to the colourful present, the cutaways seem more dreamlike in their demonstration than naturalistic. The point of the film is to highlight the opulence of a form of cinema which had dated by the 1980s, an era of excessive, exquisite ebullience.

Secretaries premieres at the Cambridge Film Festival, which takes place between October 17th and 24th. Just click here for more information about the event, and also in order to buy your tickets now!

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