Subtitling “Non Perdono” – a Collaborative Project

This past semester, spring 2017, my students and I took part in a collaborative project with a group from Johns Hopkins University and two Italian filmmakers. The experimental documentary film Non Perdono (Non Pardon / I Don’t Forgive, 2016) explores current environmental, health and economic crises in the town of Taranto, Italy, long home to the ILVA steel plant. It is an important text for my own research on narrative expressions of toxicity, and I was in touch last fall with directors Roberto Marsella and Grace Zanotto about crafting English subtitles so that the film and its message might reach a broader audience. Our conversations had begun to stall by January of this year, when JHU Professor Laura Di Bianco also came in contact with Marsella and Zanotto, and began envisioning ways in which we might be able to help the filmmakers while also benefitting our students.

non_perdono_2In particular, she understood how a faculty mentored translation & subtitling project could be a great opportunity for students to work on their linguistic, cultural and even ecological competencies, while advocating for a real-world concern. Professor Di Bianco reached out to me and we both identified students interested in participating: two undergrads from each of our universities and one JHU graduate student who could help oversee their work. The process since then has been one of ongoing dialogue between the students, with fabulous results. Professor Di Bianco and I will go over the completed text this summer, and hope that the filmmakers will be able to apply the subtitles to the film by early fall 2017. We recently had the chance to share the project with other colleagues in the field, when we participated together on a roundtable at the 2017 joint conference of the American Association for Italian Studies & Canadian Association for Italian Studies. Below are some reflections from William & Mary student translators Zoe Nelson and Sheila Williams-Morales on their experience. – Prof. Monica Seger

Zoe Nelson (class of 2020):
NonPerdono004“Working with students at John Hopkins University to translate the dialogue of the script for the film Non Perdono opened my eyes to the importance of a collaborative translation process. I enjoyed seeing the ways that all of us interpreted sections that did not have an obvious literal translation, since both language and film are things that often do not have just one clearly correct interpretation. Specifically, it was difficult to find the balance between retaining the authenticity of the original Italian script without making its English equivalent sound unnatural or changing the tone of the scene. I also found the Italian script more challenging to understand than other things that I have read in Italian, because some of the language was colloquial or idiomatic. On the whole, it was a really exciting and rewarding experience to work on a project that has such a tangible result, and that helps make a serious problem about pollution better known to English speakers

Sheila Williams-Morales (class of 2017):
Laura Pres Slide“Collaborating with the students of John Hopkins University in translating the Italian film, Non Perdono, was an amazing experience. I have always been interested in how to translate a foreign work into its English counterpart while maintaining the meaning of the original. The Non Perdono project offered a friendly environment to discuss the various translations, and the students of William and Mary and John Hopkins helped each other understand the film and its transcription. For example, we discussed the testimony of a hair stylist in order to determine the interviewee’s message, and we analyzed the various allegorical tales told throughout the documentary in order to create narratives that were comprehensible for an English speaking audience. The process was akin to solving a puzzle. The right piece made the entire translation flow and take a coherent form. Overall, the project was delightful and emphasized not only the delicate relationship between words and their various meanings but how to convey an Italian concern to a foreign audience.


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