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15 May1968
Garibaldi's Thousand
Emilio Sidoti
Original sound

On 15 May 1968, a sort of miracle happened: through a leap in time and space, an uncultivated Ligurian area was transformed into the battlefield of Calatafimi, a hill near the Sicilian town where in 1860 the Thousand, the famous volunteers under Garibaldi's orders, faced the Bourbon army: the red shirts emerged victorious from the first battle of the expedition that would be the trigger for the Unification of Italy. What happens is not due to a strange passage of time, but is the work of Maestro Emilio Sidoti's 'cinema for children'. The teacher, together with his pupils from a primary school in Albisola Superiore, reinterprets historical facts to learn and tell them while having fun. His play is serious and highly original, pioneering, an experiment that will be repeated with many films to follow. "We were filming strangely enough on the anniversary of the battle, 15th of May, at the same time from 1 to 5 o'clock, which was very strange, Garibaldi was protecting us from the sky". This is how Sidoti recalls the events of the Risorgimento with this 8mm film entitled precisely 'I mille'. The basic idea is to highlight the lights and shadows of the unification process starting from the need to use cinema for a counter-information operation against the traditional narrative of school textbooks. The inventiveness of the group - using makeshift materials to build the cannons, and bags of gunpowder to simulate explosions - and the wonder of Kodachrome, to the sound of 'The flag of three colours', restore the spirit and history of the late Risorgimento imbued with the ideas and passion rooted in the climate of the 1960s. It was precisely in this climate that, at a conference in March 1969, the polemical vision of Italian Unity presented by Sidoti would be strongly contested. In particular, the episode of the millstone tax, from the Bourbons to the Savoy dynasty, will be the object of accusations: the film emphasises how it remained a constant in the lives of the peasants and, consequently, how the poorer social classes gained nothing from national unity, laying bare the monarchical gattopardism.