115th Annual Conference - Honolulu, Hawaii
Friday, November 10 - Sunday, November 12, 2017

Italian Farming Cultures and Ecological Landscapes in Ermanno Olmi's Documentaries and Films

Ilaria Tabusso Marcyan, Miami University, Ohio

This paper looks at the cinematic production of Ermanno Olmi and its relationship to Italian peasant culture. From Olmi’s first documentaries, to L’albero degli zoccoli and his most recent documentaries, Olmi's films invite us to reflect on the role of peasants and farming landscapes within Italian history and culture.


Film director, screen writer, photography director, editor, and film producer, in one word Ermanno Olmi’s artistic production encapsulates the Italian cinema of the last seventy years. At the beginning of his career, in the fifties, Olmi’s short documentaries focused on the economic, industrial, social, and cultural changes of Italy and Italians presenting an overall vision of the transformation of the country and Italian peasant life. Until the first half of the twentieth century, in fact, more than half of Italian population was of peasant origins.

This paper looks at the documentary and cinematic production of Ermanno Olmi in relation to his interest and personal connection to Italian peasant and farming culture, and his sensitive yet realistic perspective on the changes in Italian landscape and the ecological and environmental consequences. From Olmi’s first short documentaries such as La diga del ghiacciaio (1953), L’energia elettrica nell’agricoltura (1955), Il frumento (1958), to the film L’albero degli zoccoli (1978), the film documentary Lungo il fiume (1992), and his most recent documentaries Terra Madre (2009) and Rupi del vino (2009), this paper examines some of Olmi’s documentaries and films from an eco-cinematic perspective to reflect on the history, role and cultural value of Italian past and contemporary farming cultures and their relationship to the land.

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