Italian Documentarian Brings Trash Crisis to William and Mary

Story by Christian Pelfrey (’11)

In February, the William and Mary Italian Studies Department invited Ivana Corsale, an up-and-coming Italian documentarian, to debut her latest film as part of the 2011 William and Mary Global Film Festival.

Corsale’s film, Unhappy Country, tackled a growing issue in Southern Italian society: the illegal and unhealthy handling of industrial waste. The beautiful, fertile area near Naples has been transformed into a toxic wasteland where even breathing the air is hazardous to Italians’ health. What is worse, Corsale argues in Unhappy Country that those who are polluting the area illegally—namely, members of the region’s organized crime group, the Camorra—not only do so with impunity, but are actually helped by the lack of government oversight, even complicity.

In a rare treat for William and Mary, Corsale brought Unhappy Country to Williamsburg as a first cut, with most of the film previously unscreened. This debut accompanied the screening of another documentary, Terra Madre, which also examined our relationship to the environment. While Terra Madre had a more optimistic ending, Corsale’s Unhappy Country offered a shocking portrait of an Italy that is hidden from tourists.

After the night’s double feature, the filmmaker visited two Italian Studies classes to discuss her film. The students were able to ask Corsale to elaborate on her documentary’s powerful images to gain a better perspective on this persistent problem. The students provided important feedback to Corsale, who plans to finish her documentary by May 2011. While she may find opposition by Italian distributors when she begins to screen Unhappy Country in Italy, she hopes that her film will inspire all Neapolitans to address the issue that many believe is slowly killing them.

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