The Cinematic Battle for the Adriatic: Films, Frontiers, and the Trieste Crisis
CBA TRIESTE analyses cinematic practices related to the Trieste Crisis (1945-1954), the diplomatic struggle over the Italo-Yugoslav borderlands at the outset of the Cold War. Both countries produced several films about these events, often utilizing the same footage – Yugoslav partisans in Trieste, Italians leaving the region, political protests – but framing them in conflicting ways: as occupation/liberation, migration/exodus, anticommunist/antifascist protests. As the conflict coincided with the establishment of film festivals, the festival circuit became an arena in which the struggle for cultural hegemony took place. Taking festivals as lieux de mémoire, CBA TRIESTE explores how the cinematic representation of the struggle for this territory has been employed to construct politically suitable cultural memories related to the conflict’s national and ideological concerns.
The struggle for the Northern Adriatic remains one of the most controversial issues in contemporary Italy, Slovenia, and Croatia. This is due to the violence of the period, including accusations of war crimes committed by both sides, and Italian emigration from the areas that became part of socialist Yugoslavia. Hence, in 2004 the Italian government established Giorno del Ricordo to commemorate what it terms the “Italian tragedy” in the territories that it lost to Yugoslavia. This has fuelled the rediscovery of this once-marginalised topic and inspired the restoration of old and production of new films on this subject. As such, any political analysis of this disputed past, is indisputably a political analysis of the present.
The research compares the historical and contemporary production on this subject, focusing on three levels of cinematic action:
How is the conflict represented in these films?
Which festivals did these films screen at? How were they positioned within them?
Did their critical reception, measured by press reviews and awards, bolster their status as cultural and political artefacts?
Focus area: Italo-Yugoslav Northern Adriatic borderlands
The project takes into consideration the wider Northern Adriatic area but focuses on the region of Venezia Giulia/Julian March. This ethnically hybrid region spans from the town of Gorizia in the Northwest, over the peninsula of Istria, up to the port of Rijeka (Fiume) in the Southeast. In the framework of post-WWII border redefinitions, in 1945 it was divided into two zones, under Western and Yugoslav military control, respectively. Long international negotiations followed in order to define the border between Italy and Yugoslavia, that is, between the capitalist and the communist Europe at the very beginning of the Cold War. With the Paris Peace Treaty (1947) the issue was partially resolved, while a mini-state named The Free Territory of Trieste was created in the still disputed regions. Finally, the London Memorandum (1954) enabled Italy to regain most of the Northern zone of the Free Territory of Trieste, while most of the Southern zone was unified with Yugoslavia. Today, the region is divided between Italy, Slovenia and Croatia.
For timeline of the border changes in the Northern Adriatic, see this video.
CBA TRIESTE’s aim is to become the hub for knowledge related to the cinematic history of the struggle for the Yugoslav-Italian borderlands (1945-1954), producing:
- new publications on this subject: academic articles & a book;
- a series of events: conferences, screenings & talks;
- an online digital archive including: a selection of films and archival documents & a database with information on the existing film material.
The research will:
- systematize the information on this film corpus (database);
- provide its analysis (publications);
- bring the cultural heritage in question online and provide easy access to data, analysis, films and historical documents related to this theme (online digital archive).
In engaging with this work through an interdisciplinary, geo-political lens, CBA TRIESTE will provide a historical and theoretical contribution to the study of cinema, film festivals, and cultural memory, and a practical toolkit for researchers, filmmakers, and cultural programmers, which can act as a model for other, comparable studies.
Events and media
- 10th January 2023: Invited talk "Les festivals de cinéma comme une arène de la diplomatie culturelle. Circulations de films sur la Crise de Trieste au début de la guerre froide (1945–1954)", within the seminar “Circulations internationales et (sorties de) Guerre froide [FRA]”, EHESS, Paris
- 22nd December 2022: Publication of the article "The Cinematic Battle for the Adriatic: Film Festivals and the Trieste Crisis", in: Cinergie – Il Cinema e le altre Arti, 11 (22), 55–68. doi.org/10.6092/issn.2280-9481/14925 (Special issue "Reframing Film Festivals: Politics, Histories and Agencies“, eds. Marco Dalla Gassa, Andrea Gelardi, Federico Zecca, 2022)
- 4th August 2022: Interview for Finance Manager, Ljubljana "Kako se je bila in se še bije filmska bitka za severni Jadran" [SLV] [How the Film Battle for the Northern Adriatic Was and Is Still Being Fought] (journalist: Žiga Brdnik)
- 14th July 2022: Workshop "Using Image as ‘Evidence’: The Cinematic Battle for the Upper Adriatic" within the Summer School “Upper Adriatic Borderlands. Transitions, Identities and Urban Spaces in the Port City of Trieste and Hinterland (from 19th to 21st Century)”, University of Trieste.
- 16th May 2022: Public talk and film screening "La battaglia cinematografica per l’Adriatico: film, frontiere e la crisi di Trieste" [ITA] [The Cinematic Battle for the Adriatic: Films, Frontiers and the Trieste Crisis], Cinema Ariston, Trieste.
- 14th May 2022: Interview for Il Piccolo, Trieste, “Cinema di frontiera all’Ariston. La battaglia della propaganda nel dopoguerra 1945–1954” [Frontier Cinema at the Ariston. The Postwar Propaganda Battle 1945–1954] (journalist: Paolo Lughi)
- 12th May 2022: Public lecture & film screening "Kinematografska bitka za Jadran: filmi, meje in tržaška kriza" [SLV] ["The Cinematic Battle for the Adriatic: Films, Frontiers and the Trieste Crisis"], Kulturni dom, Nova Gorica.
- 11th May 2022: Lecture "Kinematografska bitka za Jadran: filmi, meje in tržaška kriza" [SLV] ["The Cinematic Battle for the Adriatic: Films, Frontiers and the Trieste Crisis"], followed by a screening of a selection of newsreels and documentaries, Slovenska kinoteka (Slovenian Cinematheque), Ljubljana.
- 9th-16th May 2022: Travelling conference and film retrospective "ORIENTE/OCCIDENTE. La frontiera nel cinema e nella storia 1945-1954-2025” [ITA], co-organised by Kinoatelje (Gorizia/Nova Gorica), La Cappella Underground (Trieste), Slovenian Cinematheque (Ljubljana) and University Ca’ Foscari of Venice (through the MSCA project CBA TRIESTE).
- 14th April 2022: Press conference [ITA] announcing the event "ORIENTE/OCCIDENTE. La frontiera nel cinema e nella storia 1945-1954-2025" [ITA]. ["VZHOD – ZAHOD. Meja skozi film in zgodovino 1945-1954-2025"], Café San Marco, Trieste.
- 13th April 2022: Invited talk "Triveneto and the Cinematic Battle for the Adriatic: from the Trieste Crisis until Today" within the study day "(Re)Mediating Landscape. Media, cartographie e paesaggi nel Triveneto" [ITA], IUAV, Venice.
- 30th September - 2nd October 2021: "Socialism on the Bench: Antifascism, Juraj Dobrila University of Pula" (online conference), "The Truth About…: Images of Antifascist Struggle in the Northern Adriatic" in the International Film Festival Circuit (1947–)