Shot in Sicily, Sardinia and Calabria in the Fifties, the documentaries chronicle a lost world. They combine the strength of classical cinema with an austere and powerful expressiveness. Isole di fuoco (Island of fire,...展开1955), set in the Eolie islands, shows the impressive strength of the volcano. The documentary was awarded the First Prize at the Cannes Film Festival in 1955. A world where the ritual dimension is very strong, like in Lu tempu di li pisci spata (The swordfish season, 1955), on swordfish fishing "in the tepid water separating Sicily and Calabria". Hunt frenzy, worthy of Moby Dick, and the struggle between man and nature are also present in Contadini del mare (Peasants of the sea, 1955), dedicated to fishing with the tunny-fishing nets off the Sicilian coast, where men wait for tunas, which have always followed the same route: "When sea tribute appears in the net, the circle of life and death repeats". And, at sunset, when men go back ashore and children dance, solemn women carry the fishes on their head to the fish market (Pescherecci, Fishing boat, 1958 is on the same topic). The conditions of miners risking their lives in the bowels of the earth to extract the conditions of farm labourers scything and harvesting wheat in huge fields with primitive systems in Parabola d'oro (Golden parable, 1955) are not less dramatic. Then, Pasqua in Sicilia (Easter in Sicily, 1955) with its sacred folklore and the representation of the Passion of Christ. Pastori a Orgosolo (Orgosolo shepherds, 1958) and Un giorno in Barbagia (A day in Barbagia, 1958) are the two documentaries shot in Sardinia. They chronicle the isolated lives of shepherds in the very heart of Sardinia, where men live far away from their families most part of the year to pasture the flocks.
Vittorio De Seta - Born in Palermo in 1923 from an aristocratic family, he said that he "discovered" the world of the humbles during military service. He devoted to them most of his cinematographic work, undertaken after quitting the faculty of architecture. A withdrawn and shy author, for a long time underestimated by critics, he was often personally involved in film editing, photography and musical choices. After his Sicilian documentaries, in 1958 he shoots Pastori ad Orgosolo (Orgosolo shepherd) and Un giorno in Barbagia (A day in Barbagia) in Sardinia, which are at the basis of his feature film Banditi ad Orgosolo (Bandits of Orgosolo, 1961, Prize for the First Work at Venice Film Festival), a detailed in-depth analysis of an archaic civilization and its malaise. In 1966 he directed Un uomo a meta (Half a man) on the eccentricity of a politically-committed intellectual, giving rise to a lot of criticism (Moravia and Pasolini among the few defending him). After L'invitata (The invited woman, 1969), he met a resounding success in 1973 with the TV series Diario di un maestro (Diary of a schoolteacher). In 1981 he left cinema, but he was back in 1993 with the direction of In Calabria, in which he reflected again on the lost identity of the South of Italy. In 2004 he completed Lettere dal Sahara (Letters from Sahara) on an African migrant in Italy.