by Elisabetta Galeffi

At Castiglion Fiorentino, a small municipality in the province of Arezzo, there is a fortress at the top of the village. A soaring tower surveys the valley, dating back to medieval times, when you had to to be able to see as far as possible into the distance if you wanted to defend yourself. A steep climb up a mule path leads to the top of the hill overlooking Castiglioni, which is the short name for the village. You are rewarded by the view: below is the endless, flat stretch of countryside of the Val di Chiana, once a swamp.

The fortress rises in the middle of a stretch of grass with a museum to one side of it and the ancient Romanesque chapel in another corner. The Head of Castiglioni’s Department of Culture looks for as many ways as possible to take advantage of the most beautiful place in the village. Not even the Year of Covid stopped him from encouraging the population to stretch their legs and climb up to the fortress to get a breath of fresh air on the days when this was allowed, with the intention of not letting the magic of the big screen be forgotten.

Seats are distanced but there is no lack of space on the big lawn. The event sees the young people belonging to the local association “L’Ulcera del Sig. Wilson” / “Mr Wilson’s Ulcer” in the frontline, acting as hosts and working as volunteers. They have chosen films with Italian stories, recovered from wherever possible.

Old films, as well as local productions or documentaries, projected on the lawn’s silver screen and perhaps a little out of focus but, in these times of more or less non-existent film distribution and with the rights for the new films sold to all-powerful platforms like Netflix or Sky, the effort can definitely be considered worthy of merit.

Their programming was contextualised by preceding or following the screenings by presentations of books on the same theme, by interviews with actors from the cast or by a talk with the film’s director. Everything possible was put together to recall the pleasure of the movie theatre, the pleasure of discussing and reflecting on the cinema, hoping to carry on working with it. Talking about it again.

Modest projectors on hire, no 3D of course, but real enthusiasm.

Young people between the ages of 30 and 18, who study various subjects - philosophy, classics or modern letters - at the universities of Siena, Florence and Perugia, or who attend courses on design or communications, all shut into their homes or rooms but all with a desperate desire not to see or set aside their time as wasted.

I happened on the celebration of the cyclist Nencini, a Tuscan and the only Italian to win the Tour de France, precisely in 1960. During the interview with his son, who has written a book about the adventures of his fast and dauntless father, it emerged that in trying to keep up with him on the downward slopes, the other athletes would end up off the road. The interview was followed by a film on bike racing, still today a passion in Val di Chiana, thanks to its smooth bike trails. A film that was capable of drawing a good number of spectators to its projection “at a high altitude”.

The association “L’Ulcera del signor William” / “Mr Wilsons’ Ulcer” is still active, despite the pandemic, I am told by one of them, perhaps their very young leader: “We have always been committed to spreading culture”.

When possible, they also managed the little cinema in Castiglioni, together with the town’s Department of Culture - six to twelve seats in a small room in the local ex-fortress.

Today they continue their initiatives in the open air, never abandoning for a single moment, despite the difficulties, their dream of keeping culture alive in hard times, together with the “memory” of the big cinema screen and the pleasure of enjoying stories told by a series of images. But not alone in front of a computer screen or a little TV set.

(Per leggere il testo in italiano cliccare qui)