Synopsis by Eleanor Mannikka
Although the Inferno was made in 1962 for NBC television's prestigious "White Paper" series, the network refused to run the documentary because it was considered too controversial. Director Robert M. Young rescued the film from the discard pile, and after some editing, it was publicly shown for the first time in 1984 at the Museum of Modern Art in New York and then at the Munich Film Festival in that same year. In the early '60s, Young and his co-director and friend Michael Roemer traveled to the impoverished quarter of Cortile Cascino in Palermo, Sicily to record the human deprivation there through the eyes of one mother in the ghetto. A crippled boy makes his way across a garbage-strewn landscape, children dangerously play along the train tracks, and the young mother in her shack talks about her children, especially her talented and intelligent young daughter, hoping that she will someday be able to escape into a better life. In the meantime, children barely more than toddlers are picking rags with their older siblings, boys learn to steal to get what they need, prostitutes roam the area -- born in the ghetto themselves, and the Mafia is ominously present everywhere. Compelling, and offering its images with compassion and empathy, this documentary deserves to be more broadly disseminated.