Photo © Giulio Angella
Giovanni Angella was born in Rome, Italy, on February 18, 1930. From an early age, he followed his passion for art and especially cinema. In 1950, he founded the Charlie Chaplin Film and Culture Club in Rome. Starting in the 1960s, this club hosted a special film program, I lunedì del Rialto (Rialto Mondays), rediscovering and presenting many forgotten or marginalized movies. After almost two decades, the club closed in 1967. Although Giovanni Angella had to join the family’s real estate and manufacturing business after his father passed away in 1964, he remained dedicated to the history of cinema his whole life and made important contributions to Italian and international cinema and art history.
Angella was a self-taught filmmaker who directed short documentaries on art and artists in the 1960s. While he initially financed his own films, eventually he teamed up with production companies, including Unitelefilm (founded in 1963 by the Italian Communist Party). Among his films are portraits of various political artists, including the expressionists Oskar Kokoschka, Max Beckmann, and Käthe Kollwitz, whose works were labeled “degenerate art” by the Nazis. Angella also entertained a special interest in Mexican art that is reflected in his film portraits of Diego Rivera, David Alfaro Siquerios, and José Clemente Orozco—three influential Mexican artists who established the Mural Movement—and in his award-winning short, La pittura d’oggi nel Messico, about the remarkable exhibit Mexican Art from Ancient Times to the Present Day (October 1962-January 1963) at the Palazzo delle Esposizioni in Rome.
Angella’s films also contributed to debates about art and society. In his short La rivoluzione: parole e immagini (music by Dmitri Shostakovich), Angella retraces the history of the October Revolution through the lens of Soviet poster artists in the 1920s and discusses the social function of art in mobilizing the masses. dada e neo-dada is a critical view on the history of the Dada movement and its critique of the degradation of social structures.
Giovanni Angella was connected to the East German film scene. Beside his position as a member of the honorary board of the Leipzig International Documentary Film Festival—where, in 1965, he served along with, among others, Italian filmmaker Cecilia Mangini, co-director of the 1962 prize-winning documentary All’armi, siam Fascisti! (To Arms! We Are Fascists)—he also directed a short documentary for the East German DEFA Studio.
At the invitation of the German Academy of Arts in East Berlin and Unitelefilm, Angella produced a film about the history of the German publishing house Malik, based on the academy’s exhibition marking its 50th anniversary (December 1966 - January 22, 1967). The film—which includes interviews with Malik’s founders, John Heartfield and Wieland Herzfelde, and documents its connection to artist George Grosz and German Dadaism—premiered in East Germany in 1967. Angella collaborated on this DEFA film with Paolo Chiarini (script), a well-known Italian lecturer in German language and literature at Sapienza University in Rome. They had met in law school there and were members of the university’s communist student group.
Angella’s documentaries were shown at festivals in Venice, Bergamo, Moscow, Karlovy Vary, and Bilbao and won many prizes, including the Italian Association of Film Journalists’ 1964 Nastro d’Argento (Silver Ribbon) for La pittura d’oggi nel Messico. He was the president of the Umberto Barbaro Library of Cinema in Rome, which he had co-founded in 1962 with sociologist Alberto Abruzzese, the film critics Mino Argentieri and Lino Miccichè, journalist Rita Porena, and many others. In 2006, Angella and Mino Argentieri also initiated the Charlie Chaplin Prize for outstanding contributions to Italian film history, awarded by the Library and Cinema Sessanta film magazine. Until his death, Angella was a member of the jury for the prize; his son Giulio Angella then took over his position.
Giovanni Angella died in Senigallia, Italy, on September 2, 2011.
Hiltrud Schulz, DEFA Film Library, would like to thank Giulio Angella for generously sharing information about his father Giovanni Angella. Other sources included the Malik production files at the Federal Film Archive in Berlin, Germany and personal communications with film historian Günter Jordan
|1967||Malik (short, doc.)|
|1967||La rivoluzione: parole e immagini (The Revolution: Words and Images, short, doc.)|
|1963||dada e neo-dada (dada and neo-dada, short, doc.)|
|1963||OK (short, doc.)|
|1963||La pittura d’oggi nel Messico (Mexican Painting Today, short, doc.)|
|1963||David Alfaro Siquerios (short, doc.)|
|1963||José Clemente Orozco (short, doc.)|
|1963||Diego Rivera (short, doc.)|
|1962||Käthe Kollwitz (short, doc.)|
|1961||Max Beckmann (short, doc.)|