Synopsis by Bhob Stewart
Riccardo Mei narrates this Italian documentary look back at the fascist era with archival footage from the Istituto Luce, founded in 1924 to produce educational films, followed by the Gionarle Luce newsreel series that began in 1927. The name carries a double meaning: although Luce translates as "light," it's also an acronym for L'Unione Cinematografica Educativa. The earliest Luce films of the '20s traveled to then-exotic locales such as Tibet and Africa. Luce newsreels traced the rise of Benito Mussolini, the 1934 meeting of Hitler and Mussolini, and Mussolini's last rally in 1944. During the '30s, a Luce camera crew in the United States documented the Hindenburg explosion. Celebrities visiting Italy were filmed by Luce, including Gandhi, Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, and William Powell. Shanghai scenes shot during the Sino-Japanese War include combat footage and fleeing refugees. The documentary notes that the post-WWII Italian Neo-Realist movement was very much influenced by Luce, still active today as a producer-distributor. Shown at the 1997 Venice Film Festival.