The Representation of Migrants in Italian Cinema, from the Stereotypes to the Socio-Political Mission of Present-Day Film Directors

Francesca Colella


The mass media are more than ever taking on the role of a socialization agency and contributing to the construction of new social representations. They are producing and perpetuating stereotypes that get crystallized in the individual and collective imagination, determined and defined by the goods produced by the culture industry. For decades now, and with different disciplinary approaches, the social sciences have demonstrated the role and importance of the mass media in constructing the social representations, stereotypes and prejudices of immigrants, and therefore the relationships between the different groups and cultures that live throughout the land. The present article deals with the major results of an empirical research, conducted at the Sapienza University of Rome, on the relationship between Italian cinema and the topic of migration: a topic that has always been a favorite leitmotif of the mass media the world over, especially cinema. The main objective of this survey was to compare images and representations formed on Italian immigrants in the world with the more recent ones of foreigners in Italy, through both the study of cultural products that address these issues (such as films and film-documentaries) and interviews focusing on some of the most famous Italian filmmakers who have dealt with this topic. With this in mind, I will analyze (in comparative terms) the corpus of films and stereotypes – positive and negative – that stud our cinematic firmament, in order to try to understand if films are still capable today of conducting the social function they have always done.


cinema, social representations, stereotypes

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ISSN 2239-8589 | Managing Editor: Debora Viviani | Editor in Chief: Paola Di Nicola