Tuesday 23rd of July 2024


Linguistic Diversity in Italian Migration Films: A Case Study of Segre’s Io Sono Li

Francesca Raffi, Università di Macerata pdf_icon_30x30



Abstract: Migration flows to European countries increased significantly in the late 1980s and early 1990s, especially in the Mediterranean region. As a consequence of accelerated migration, and to counteract the recent surge in anti-migrant rhetoric, “migrant and diasporic experiences and cross-cultural encounters have assumed a prominent position in cinematic narratives” (Berghahn and Sternberg 2014: 2). Wahl classifies migration films as one of the five subgenres of polyglot cinema; their aim is to “emphasise the process of adaptation or integration, whether successful or not, to a foreign society and language” (Wahl 2008: 340). Since language is one of the clearest markers of identity and cultural difference (Roth 2009: 289), linguistic diversity has always been a powerful means of representing migrants on screen. The aim of this paper is to examine the representation of linguistic diversity in migration films and discuss the difficulties in making these pictures accessible to their heterogeneous audience, without altering the representation of migrants’ identities and negatively affecting audience engagement. After presenting the translation options available for treating multilingualism on screen, a diachronic overview of Italian migration cinema is presented, spanning the period between the 1920s and the 2010s, during which the country has seen a shift from emigration to immigration, as reflected on the big screen. This leads us to a case study based on the film Io sono Li (2011) by Andrea Segre and its translation for American viewers. The analysis shows that the layers and nuances of linguistic diversity seem not to lose their complexity in the passage to English, thus having a positive effect on audience engagement among Anglophone viewers.

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