Part rigorously formal and part multisensory experimental, Luca Guadagnino’s “Italian Unconscious” examines Fascist Italy’s disastrous colonial expedition in Ethiopia and the ramifications of occupation on today’s Italian psyche. Primarily composed of six black-and-white interviews with historians, interspersed with tinted newsreel excerpts, the docu is topped by a 30-minute-plus compilation of archival footage accompanied by John Adams’ choral powerhouse “Harmonium.” Auds familiar with past and current Italo events are the target, though Guadagnino’s name and the topic’s intrinsic fascination could attract limited offshore fests.
Italy was a Johnny-come-lately in the rush toward colonial expansion, yet its record as an occupying power in Libya, Sudan and Ethiopia is abysmal. When Mussolini’s forces brutally conquered Ethiopia in 1936, the Fascists contravened international law and instigated a shocking campaign against civilians. Guadagnino and writer Giuppy d’Aura get intellectuals to examine the history along with intriguing analyses of the lingering effects on Italian racism and immigration policy; more, however, could be said about internalized racism and the country’s policy of deliberate amnesia regarding its Fascist past. Digital will look best on smallscreens, though the choral finale gains power in theatrical venues.