DENUNCIA: Speaking Up in Modern Italy

Maccioni’s “Lo stato di eccezione. Processo per Monte Sole 62 anni dopo” (2007).

Posted in Documentary Film Festival by nyudenuncia on January 30, 2009

locandina1As part of the Casa Italiana’s programming for the Giorno della Memoria, Germano Maccioni’s Lo stato di eccezione was shown on January 28th.  The film was also the first screening of the Denuncia Documentary Film Festival (stay tuned for details on future showings in late February and March). The director, Germano Maccioni, was present for the screening and answered questions from the audience.

Lo stato di eccezione. Processo per Monte Sole 62 anni dopo was made in 2007 for the Regione Emilia Romagna. It has already been presented to important Italian film festivals, like Venice, and has won the Jury Special Prize at the “Libero Bizzarri” Festival in 2008.

An extraordinary documentary, Maccioni’s Lo stato di eccezione records the trial against 17 ex-SS German soldiers held in the Military Court of La Spezia between 2006 and 2007. These soldiers were accused for bringing about the 1944 Monte Sole Massacre, which took place 10 miles South of Bologna along the Gothic Line. German soldiers, lead by Walter Reder and aided by Italian Fascists, killed 770 people. Among them there were children, elders, and women. The massacre was carried out in over 100 locations, where houses, churches, roads, livestock were burnt down together with the victims. The communities of three small towns, Marzabotto, Monzuno and Grizzana, were completely destroyed and entire families were annihilated. Should we exclude the final solution inflicted upon the Jews, we could say that the Monte Sole massacre constituted the biggest extermination of civilians perpetrated by the Nazi troops in Italy and Western Europe. Not only its massive proportion, but also the brutality, the ferocity that drove the German soldiers to indiscriminately kill children, seniors, women and to transform those territories in a “macelleria” (a butchery) as survivors would repeatedly describe them, characterized this massacre.

The title of Maccioni’s documentary film has different meanings. First of all, it refers to Giorgio Agamben’s well known Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and the Bare Life, where a state of exception is defined by the “suspension of the juridical order”. The title also refers to the “exception” of no trial conducted against the soldiers responsible for such a massacre from the end of World War II until this trial in La Spezia. Only Walter Reder was sentenced to life imprisonment in 1951 by the Bologna Military Court and then released in 1985 because of the intercession of the Austrian government. However, there is also another “exception”: 695 trial files hidden for decades in the so-called armadio della vergogna (“the closet of shame”) at the Military Court of Rome, which also contained information related to ex-SS criminals involved in the Monte Sole massacre. Finally, the absence of all 17 defendants accused of aggravated assault and murder is the exception of such a trial, which took place in absentia.

The necessity of securing a judgment shapes the survivors’ narration in their role of “superstiti”, survivors, and “supertestes,” in its Latin meaning, as people who have experienced an event and can bear witness to it. Therefore, in the context of the trial, memory becomes a means for the acquisition of facts and the decision of a legal judgment. The survivors’ language makes clear how painful this operation becomes. Not only does their use of dialect clash against the precise judicial language of the court, but the trauma of recollecting such tragic events after more than sixty years becomes palpable. Indeed, the survivors’ lives are still affected by the memory of the events that hurt and shocked them irreparably. Maccioni’s camera eye records their eyes still filled with the horror they witnessed and felt in front of the Nazis’ indiscriminate violence, whose aim was not “simply” to kill, but rather to de-humanize their victims. Maccioni’s documentary constitutes a testament to the victims’ memory; it records and empowers the survivors’ voices, while also denouncing the attempts to suppress the legal evidence about these war crimes and the much-delayed legal process.


Interview with Germano Maccioni:

Website of the film:

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