Luigi Di Gianni

Hailing from Naples in 1926, Luigi di Gianni established himself as one of the most prominent documentary filmmakers in Italy during the 20th century. His film career began in the 1950s with a keen focus on anthropological, religious, and social themes. Notably his work delved into the intersection of pagan rituals and popular Catholicism in the southern regions of Italy.

Di Gianni’s acclaim as a documentary filmmaker stems largely from his exceptional ability to weave emotionally impactful stories with a unique sensitivity. This is evident in his compelling works like “Magia Lucana (1958)” and “Nascita e morte nel meridione – San Cataldo – Birth and Death in the South-San Cataldo (1959)”. However, what sets him apart is his unparalleled talent in using shots and photography to tell these stories. Di Gianni was a virtuoso in this regard, manipulating light and shadow to imbue his images with profound emotional depth. “Magia Lucana (1958)” is a prime example of this, as the documentary vividly captures the magical life of the impoverished Lucanian farmers and their fears, rituals, and sufferings.

Di Gianni’s technique drew heavily from the research of his friend Ernesto De Martino and original audio recordings from the field. The result was a mesmerizing and evocative portrayal of the Lucanians’ challenging existence.

Di Gianni’s documentaries were not limited to Basilicata alone, as he shot films across Italy in regions like Calabria, Campania, Friuli, and Sicily. However, his fascination with southern Italy shone through in his exploration of the area’s ethnographic and sociological aspects, which he approached with a unique sensitivity.

Unfortunately, Di Gianni passed away in 2019, but his work continues to inspire filmmakers and artists of subsequent generations. His legacy is celebrated through numerous exhibitions and retrospectives, and he is often mentioned in discussions about the great personalities of cinema.

Di Gianni was an extraordinary artist who expertly captured the beauty and complexity of life through his video camera. His ability to tell stories made him one of Italy’s greatest directors and an important figure in the world of documentary filmmaking.

His legacy serves as a reference point for anyone looking to engage in this genre of filmmaking.

In 2017, I had the privilege of meeting him personally during a course organized by the “Lucana Film Commission.” During this time, he shared stories of his early days in Basilicata with Ernesto De Martino and his amazement at witnessing ancient Lucanian traditions, such as funeral lamentations and the removal of the “eye socket.”

I will never forget his words on professional ethics and the importance of respecting them as a documentary filmmaker.

Thank you, Maestro Di Gianni.


Filmography of Luigi Di Gianni

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