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23 June 2013: Pasolini's Notebooks


Following the Pasolini retrospective at the BFI in March, we present two documentaries which comprise research for locations for two feature films and mirror the writing style of Pasolini's scripts, plays and novels. Reflecting on history, society and politics these two films are collages of thoughts, analyses, images and poetry which dissolve the boundaries of interpretation in which his subjects are usually confined.

Sopralluoghi in Palestina (Scouting in Palestine)
Pier Paolo Pasolini
1965 | 55 min | B/W | Digital

As an atheist and having recently been imprisoned for blasphemy for his depiction of the life of Christ in La Ricotta, Pasolini was invited by Pope John XXIII to a seminar to open a dialogue between the Catholic Church and non-Catholic artists. In the event, the papal visit caused chaos on the roads and Pasolini was confined to his hotel room, where he read through all four of the Gospels of the New Testament and ultimately was inspired to film The Gospel According to Saint Matthew (1964).

Sopralluoghi in Palestina per il vangelo secondo Matteo is comprised of footage shot on Pasolini's visit to the original locations of the Gospels, Lake Tiberius, the Jordan River and Jerusalem. Pasolini sought in the Holy Land the roots of history and its spirit; instead he was confronted with a living land of contrasts: the modernity of Israel compared to the Arabic culture, recalling pre-Christian tradition.

Notes for an African Oresteia
Pier Paolo Pasolini
1970 | 70 min | B/W | Digital

Pasolini films in Uganda and Tanzania, mulling over possible parallels between Aeschylus' Orestes trilogy (in essence a cycle of revenge murders, sparked by Agamemnon's sacrifice of his daughter) and African politics in the 1970s. It includes debate with African students in Rome, and performance by Gato Barbieri. While Pasolini produced two films based on Greek myth, Medea (1970) and Oedipus Rex (1967), the African Oresteia was never realised and all that remains is this tantalising sketch as he scouted for locations and actors. Pasolini again immerses himself in the world he hopes his film will inhabit, with his thoughts and impressions in voiceover.