The material life of world cinema
: dynamics of ‘discovery’ and ‘rediscovery’ at the Cineteca di Bologna (1960-2018)

  • Andrea Gelardi

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis (PhD)


This thesis explores how concepts and canons of world cinema were historically and materially conditioned by European film institutions. Using the Fondazione Cineteca di Bologna as a dynamic case study, it retraces the permutations of world cinema over the last half century, as it shifted from a universalist yet Eurocentric term to a militant phase in which European left-wing intellectuals sought to support and give visibility to Third World oppositional filmmakers and, finally, to a neoliberal phase in which filmmakers and films from the Global South have become dependent on the support of European and North American film institutions. Emphasising its “material life” over these three phases, this thesis argues that world cinema has emerged out of the preceding Third World Cinema, and describes a set of films produced in the so-called Global South and sustained and circulated by film institutions, primarily based in Europe. It focuses on two distinct historical periods, investigating two phenomena that have received scant attention in film historical research thus far. First, it excavates the neglected history of Italian Antifestivals, in particular the Porretta Terme Mostra Internazionale del Cinema Libero and early history of the Cineteca. In the 1960s-1970s period, these Antifestivals revolutionized the conventional festival format, energised innovative theoretical and critical discourses and, above all, crucially contributed to the European “discovery” of Third World Cinema. Second, this thesis explores the impact of film festivals’ rediscoveries of the world cinema canon by analysing the Cineteca’s subsequent phase, beginning with its archival film festival (Il Cinema Ritrovato) before turning to more recent conservative initiatives of the World Cinema Project and the African Film Heritage Project. In conclusion, the thesis concludes with an analysis of the Cineteca’s restoration of Med Hondo’s early films, which illuminate the different modes curators, critics and scholars use to relate to the film-historical past embedded in rediscovered world cinemas.
Date of Award13 Jun 2022
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of St Andrews
SupervisorPaul Flaig (Supervisor)


  • World cinema
  • Film festivals
  • Film history
  • Cineteca di Bologna
  • Film culture
  • Film preservation

Access Status

  • Full text embargoed until
  • 19 May 2027

Cite this