Florence holds its annual short film festival, ‘Firenze Film Corti’, in the remarkable surrounds of Le Murate. A former prison, Le Murate was used by Mussolini to hold political prisoners and anyone else who objected to the regime in dark and grim conditions.
Devoid of light or air, often 3 to a small concrete, bare cell, they scratched images and slogans using pieces of stone chipped from the walls.
‘Viva L’Italia Libera’. This simple slogan resonates across time, a defiance of misery and pain.
The incredible determination remains to this day, etched into the cell walls. They created these sometimes rough images, in near complete darkness, a powerful visual reminder of the building’s grim history.
Around the turn of this century, the prison lay abandoned and was given over to the arts community where it rapidly turned into an arts and film venue and began a new life as a creative and inspiring hub for artists and for film.
The transformation of the building, which fills daily with community life, vivid displays of dance and visual art and exhibition of the expressive and liberating freedom of film will, I hope, cause Mussolini and his ilk, to turn in their graves.
Florence Film Corti is part of this rich tapestry and it makes the most of the possibilities, the courtyard becomes an outdoor evening screening venue and awards ceremony, as well as a dance stage.
The cells surrounding it are transformed into artist cells as well as apartments and homes for Florentines. At night, the lights from the ash trees gleam, the stage glows and pulses with creativity and film-makers from across Europe gather in the courtyard, exchanging ideas and contacts.
The Festival is very well connected within the Italian film industry and also plays host to visiting partners, including the Edinburgh Short Film Festival, whose programme of short film produced inside abandoned buildings resonated with the audience and aimed to show the transformative power of art in re-animating deserted public spaces.
Once, the films have been screened, the cell doors are not forever closed but remain active participants in the life of Florence.