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28 April1945
5 p.m. in Dongo
Luca Schenini | In collaborazione con AAMOD - Archivio audiovisivo del movimento operaio e democratico
Music by Guglielmo Pagnozzi

28 April, it is five o'clock in the afternoon: in Dongo, on Lake Como, a number of prominent Fascist figures are shot, such as ministers, commanders of the black brigades, colonels of the Republican National Guard, and loyalists. A few kilometres away, the execution of Mussolini and Claretta Petacci had already taken place. The story is well known. Less so is this very short 9.5 mm film, forgotten for a long time. The first to rediscover it is director and archivist Ansano Giannarelli, while working on a documentary for the 30th anniversary of the Liberation.

A timber merchant with a passion for photography and cinema, Luca Schenini, rushes in that afternoon of 28 April with his camera to film that moment, which he knows is historic. From here on, the events of the film are mysterious: removed from the camera by one of the partisans, it is probably damaged.

But what do we see in the film that has just been digitised from a 16mm copy, the only one in existence? In the frame the central perforation of the 9.5mm runs over the images. Overexposure has burnt out the right side of the film in particular, rendering a large part of the frames unreadable. The footage is concise: the sequence opens with the prisoner hierarchs leaving the town hall, each escorted by a partisan. We see Pavolini, Barracu, Bombacci. They are made to line up with their backs to the balustrade, a priest passes by. Change of frame, the cameraman has moved, the bodies are already on the ground, the figures of the partisans silhouetted against the lake. Then the cameraman runs in the direction of something: the town hall and the exit of the fascist prisoners escorted by the partisans.

The film has been spliced incorrectly: the final frames are actually the initial ones. But, above all, the precise moment of the shooting is missing. We see the platoon, the prisoners lined up but not the shots, replaced by a few seconds of white.

This absence of the crucial moment, combined with the difficulty of reading the images, may be one of the causes of the oblivion of this footage. In reality, the interest of these images lies precisely in their uncertain nature, in the shooting errors, in the holes. All elements that tell us about other, more subtle aspects of that event in history and its complicated memory, still glowing today.