Anthology Film Archives


July 22 – July 31

The Mondo movie, often referred to in its past-prime period as a “Shockumentary,” was once the stuff of whispered legend, the sort of thing you’d watch on a dare to prove your mettle. The genre took its name from what was, if not the first film that belongs among its annals, then certainly the one that was most widely seen, and that set the template for much of what was to come: 1962’s MONDO CANE, the work of Italian filmmakers Paolo Cavara, Gualtiero Jacopetti, and Franco Prosperi.

The organizing principal of the Mondo documentary was simple: Scour the globe for scenes of the extreme, exotic, and disturbingly erotic, all beyond the general scope of experience of a middle-class midcentury audience, and bring back the haul to dump it at their feet. The Mondo movie traveled to the four corners of the earth in search of forbidden experience and taboos to topple, exploring the multifold varieties of human life, and even the mystery of human death. It was the cinematographic equivalent of a phenomenon that emerged in Renaissance Europe, the collection of rare and exotic items culled from around the world and variously known as a Wunderkammer or cabinet of curiosities – and, at least in its early years, the perspective on the wider world that the Mondo movie provided came through European (specifically Italian) eyes.

Anthology’s series, Mondo Mondo, includes the pioneering films of Prosperi and Jacopetti (and disgruntled former partner, Cavara), as well as their understudies Antonio Climati and Mario Morra – works which present real-life scenes with cinematic pomp and often questionable veracity. Also included in the program are key pre-Mondo documentaries that elucidated some of the genre’s basic concerns (forbidden images, assumptions of civilization and savagery), fiction films that imitated Mondo’s ballyhooed claims of shocking “authenticity,” and documentaries of rare force and philosophical depth which were unjustly dismissed for their seeming connection to the Mondo phenomenon, disdained by so-called serious documentarians of all stripes – as though anything could be more serious than exploring the shared world heritage of culture, and the mysteries of life and death. –Nick Pinkerton

Guest-curated by Nick Pinkerton, who also wrote the introduction and all film descriptions.

Special thanks to Benedetta Angeli (Rewind Film), Cassie Blake (Academy Film Archive), Livia Bloom (Icarus Films), Chris Boeckmann (True/False Film Festival), Janice Cowart (RM Films), Sebastian del Castillo (American Genre Film Archive), Johan Ericsson (Swedish Film Institute), David Gregory (Severin Films), Mark Johnson (Harvard Film Archive), Matt Jones (North Carolina School of the Arts), William Lustig (Blue Underground), Caterina Marchese (RAI), Miho Shimizu (Toho Towa), David Szulkin, and Thierry Zéno.

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