Capturing Italy's Golden Age

Nation marks 100 pics for preservation

Federico Fellini's iconic "La Dolce Vita" and Vittorio De Sica's neo-realism classic "Ladri di Biciclette" (The Bicycle Thieves) are among the 100 films that will be protected and highlighted as part of the "Hundred Films and One Country" project.

The initiative, unveiled during the Venice Days sidebar at the Venice Film Festival in 2006 and officially launched there a year later, will protect 100 films made from 1942-78, Italy's so-called Golden Age of film.

The films selected will be refurbished if necessary and protected, promoted and made available free of charge for educational and cultural uses.

Organizers of the project caution that the list should not be seen as a list of the 100 best films of the period in question but rather a "cinematographic examination" of Italy during those decades.

Minister of Culture Francesco Rutelli, on hand for the official launch last year, likened the project to a "cinema-based cultural archive."

"This is very important because the youngest generation is very familiar with cinema but not necessarily with the history of cinema," Rutelli said. "And by becoming familiar with the history of cinema, they will become more familiar with the history of Italy and its culture."

Among the other films selected for the initiative are Roberto Rossellini's classic World War II-era drama "Roma, Citta Aperta" (Rome, Open City); "Bellissima," Luchino Visconti's examination of the Italian film industry; Franceso Rosi's mob classic "Salvatore Giuliano"; "Riso Amaro" (Bitter Rice), Giuseppe De Santis' dramatic examination of the northern Italian rice trade; and Dino Risi's "Una Vita Dificile" (A Difficult Life), a look into some of the difficulties of post-War Italian life.

A 10-person committee of experts that included Venice Days director Fabio Ferzetti and David di Donatello-winning director Gianni Amelio selected the films.

Said Amelio when the list was announced: "These are not just films to be protected, these are films every Italian should know."