Italian filmmakers Guido Chiesa and Davide Ferrario scored some fest travel with their 1995 documentary “Materiale resistente” (aka “Bella ciao”), which explored the legacy left by WWII Resistance fighters to today’s left-wing youth. Joined by three new directors in “Partisans,” they continue on a similar track, unearthing recollections from surviving partisans and their families in the town of Correggio in Emilia Romagna. Well-assembled, moving, often surprisingly humorous docu is suitable for political film forums and public TV.
Focus here is the blurring of lines between memory, historical analysis, myth and rhetoric. This mix is established in an opening sequence that cuts from a dramatized re-enactment of a clash between partisans and fascists on a country road to an interview with a real-life survivor of the incident. The mini-narrative feels a little incongruous, and the film kicks in only when it moves beyond this familiar territory to look at the relationships among those involved and, in particular, at the women on the fringes but still very much a part of the struggle.
Recalling the clandestine beginnings of romance in hideouts, the brutal interrogations aimed at getting them to name names and the simultaneous awakening to the ideals of national liberation and the emancipation of women, the interviewees’ warmth and candor suggest a rich reserve of poignant stories, with many women amusingly butting in to correct their husbands’ embellished accounts. It’s in this very personal midsection that the filmmakers’ genuine affection for their subjects distinguishes the material.
Closing part overlaps with “Materiale resistente” in dealing with the ideals passed on from the partisans to the generations that followed, and with the frequent inability of those involved to convey to their children what the experience really meant. Popular Italian rocker Luciano Ligabue, who comes from a family of resistance fighters, makes eloquent comments on the impossibility of a similar kind of political mobilization and idealism among today’s apathetic youth.