(L’avanzata decisiva in Libia / L’avanzata di Tripolitania / Tripolitania: azione decisiva)
Film in 2 parts; part of the series “Guerra italo-turca”
Luca Comerio (IT 1913)

Following the special programmes dedicated to Luca Comerio presented in the past three editions of the Giornate, curated by Sergio M. Grmek Germani, films and fragments from the great filmmaker’s work continue to surface and undergo restoration – in accordance with the hopes expressed in last year’s  catalogue. This year we are delighted to include one of these discoveries, introduced below by those dealing with its restoration.

As reported by Aldo Bernardini, at the outbreak of war between the Kingdom of Italy and the Ottoman Empire at the end of 1911, Comerio was engaged on the Libyan front “in a series of reports from the front line. Then he moved to Tripoli, and opened a branch of his own company; the films of various episodes from the fighting in progress constitute the core of his production (28 titles) during the course of 1912. From Africa Comerio also sent and released several medium- and feature-length films, such as La battaglia delle Due Palme (The Battle of the Two Palms; 500 m.), La presa del marabutto di Sidi Said (The Capture of the Marabout of Sidi Said; 600 m.), and La presa di Zuara (The Taking of Zuwara; 1200 m.).
In Africa, however, Comerio had to reckon with an embargo imposed by the military authorities, which did not allow journalists and cameramen to enter combat zones. In some cases he was able to get around them, in others he filmed soldiers disembarking or marching to the front, and military manoeuvres. Though his films were highly popular with the public, they aroused embarrassment and objections in some quarters. On this subject, La Cinematografia Italiana ed Estera wrote that Comerio “is threatening to become the Vanderbilt of cinematography with these masterpiece films dal vero [from real life]. He deserves this success because, aside from their unquestionable technical merit, he spares no expense or effort to obtain splendid results. His film La battaglia delle Due Palme alone is said to have earned a trifling 200,000 lire”. But another critic, Aristarco Jr., lamenting the absence of Italian cameramen from the battlefields of Tripolitania, pointed out that Cines and Comerio “have done something: but it was an urge, when it wasn’t a ruse. Comerio in particular filmed self-gratifying military exercises and passed them off as real scenes from the war in Tripolitania and Cyrenaica – stuff that makes one livid, to say the least. Only Pathé, which isn’t ours, has been able to give us anything reliable”. Taking stock of the 1911-12 season, the same critic wondered: “And what can we say about Comerio? His is an elusive reality; it is nothing but praiseworthy, because he seeks to reproduce the real… when he really produces it; and very often he does produce it.’” (A. Bernardini, “Le società di Luca Comerio”, in E. Dagrada, E. Mosconi, S. Paoli, Moltiplicare l’istante: Beltrami, Comerio e Pacchioni tra fotografia e cinema, Il Castoro, 2007).
Energica avanzata contro i ribelli di El Baruni (Vigorous Advance Against the Rebels of Al-Baruni) was part of this series of productions devoted to the campaign in Libya. The film (total length 1200 metres, as verified by Luca Mazzei) was in two parts, of which two fragments have been found (Fragment A is about 140 metres long; Fragment B, 20 metres), from the end of the first part and the beginning of the second.
More specifically, the film presents several military operations involved in the pressure being brought to bear by the Italian army on the Turks in the western zone of Tripolitania after the conquest of Tripoli. The scenes shown (probably, as Bernardini observes in the article cited above, re-enactments or military manoeuvres) feature concentrations of alpini [mountain troops] and bersaglieri [light infantry sharpshooters], the employment of military technology (mountain cannons, trucks, etc.), the pursuit of the Turkish army as far as Miega and Jefren – with the battle of Jefren (today known as Yafran) and the Italian triumph. Among the historical personalities involved, General Montuori and General Lequio are mentioned.
The discovery and identification of the two fragments was the work of Diego Cavallotti, Silvio Celli, and Andrea Mariani, working as part of the research project concerning the Chinese collection, partly related to the collection of Rodolfo Cristiani from Gorizia, now donated to the University of Udine. Such conservation and evaluation work has involved various Italian silent film scholars, in particular Luca Mazzei and Denis Lotti. The identification was performed in the laboratory “La Camera Ottica” in Gorizia.

Diego Cavallotti

regia/dir, photog: Luca Comerio.
riprese/filmed: 1912?.
v.c./censor date: 01.12.1913 (n. 276).
copia/copy: DCP, 7′ (da/from 35mm: 2 frammenti/fragments, 123 m., 16 fps); did./titles: ITA.
fonte/source:  Università degli Studi di Udine, La Camera Ottica – Film and Video Restoration, Gorizia.
Preservazione da un controtipo negativo
/Preserved from a duplicate negative.