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International Symposium and Edited Collection organized by University of Udine  

in collaboration with HomeMovies National Film Archive of Bologna 


Confirmed Keynote speaker: Alice Lovejoy (University of Minnesota) 


As a forerunner of today’s ubiquitous small screens and personal devices, substandard cinema has accompanied the history of film since the very beginning of the 20th century, increasingly colonizing leisure time and domestic space.  This pervasive technology can be interpreted as a political and institutional device of power that also provided a way to mold and structure private “sites of identity construction” (Doane 1987, Rogers 2019).  

Small format films elicited and encouraged new forms of desire, inducing emancipatory practices of technical creativity, while cultivating new material and intellectual needs that paved the way for television, the internet, and smartphones. As a key instigator of techno-industrial shifts in politics and entertainment, it has constituted one means of effective biopolitical design in liberal and totalitarian regimes alike. These small formats served multiple functions: they proved useful in transforming spaces, communicating ideas, convincing individuals, and producing subjects in the service of public and private aims (Acland, Wasson 2011).  During the interwar period in Italy, the fascist regime put extra effort into the experimentation, promotion and standardization of the small-gauge cinema with these purposes in mind. 

“Fate of a Format. Small-gauge cinema in post-war Italy” aims to sketch a geography of substandard film’s uses and circulation in Italy and trace the industry’s transformations as they unfolded in the aftermath of the second world war up to the full democratic era. Scholarship about Italian cinema has contributed to an increased understand of the implications of substandard film formats for distinct cultural domains: educational (Taillibert 2000; Grasso 2015), religious (Mosconi 2018), amateur and private (Mosconi-Farinotti 2005; Cati 2009; Simoni 2018), scientific (Casonato, Canadelli 2019), political (Mariani 2017). 

For this symposium and edited collection, we seek contributions that stress the infrastructural dimension of this field. In doing so, we invite contributors to question the “non-neutrality” of the technical processes (Yue 2020) linked to the production, distribution and promotion of substandard film stocks; their integration into national, regional and local realities; and the discourses that informed the decisions concerning their definitions, uses and objectives.

We therefore imply a conception of the format not just as a technical term but rather as a complex cultural object and a critical node (Volmar, Jancovic, Schneider 2020) or, as Jonathan Sterne defined it: “a whole range of decisions that affect the look, feel, experience, and workings of a medium” (Sterne 2012: 7). 


We are interested in proposals addressing substandard film in Italy or international perspectives in conversation with the Italian context:  


  • Substandard film manufacturing in post-war Italy (Italian manufacturers and workers or Italian branches of international companies)  
  • Personalities and offices related to the substandard film market in Italy 
  • Italian relationships with European and global histories of substandard film 
  • Substandard filmmaking and circulation in cine-clubs and film associations networks  
  • Substandard film’s institutional role (non-governmental organizations, private or public companies, hospitals, schools, universities, museums, etc.)  
  • Military uses of substandard film formats 
  • Experimental and amateur film with emphasis on the substandard format 
  • Substandard film for television  
  • Substandard film formats’ introduction, standardization or decline/persistence (i.e. 9.5mm clubs in the post-war period)  
  • Substandard film materiality (technical innovation and obsolescence, source materials and supply chains, etc.) 
  • Substandard film projection in special theaters, film festivals, national and local exhibitions and contests 
  • Film journals and magazines devoted to substandard film 
  • Substandard film marketing  


The conference will take place February 25th in a blended format in Udine, Italy, and online. Contributions in Italian and English are welcome. 


Submission deadline November 30, 2021.  

Notification by December 10, 2021. 


We invite proposals for papers or panels of up to 200 words. Please make sure to attach a short biographical note (up to 50 words) to: 


Andrea Mariani: 

Simona Schneider: