The current situation of Italian documentaries is –as usual – made up of light and shade.
If we wish to present a glass half full scenario, there are now three subjects (all “institutional” to various extents) which have become an integral and important part of the world of Italian documentaries, an essential element – when the preliminary conditions are in place – of every serious financing plan for audiovisual works of a documentary nature: the Cinema General Management (DGC) of MiBACT – Rai Cinema – and the regional Film Commissions (in most cases in the form of regional support regulated by special public open calls, in others through the direct intervention of the FCs themselves).
For example, in the period 2010-2015, the DGC funded 200 documentaries (over half of which were destined for movie theaters), with an overall investment in excess of € 11 million, representing 24% of the total projects supported by the FUS [Single fund for the performing arts].
In second place, it is crucial to mention the pro table results achieved by extending the Tax Credit instrument to audiovisual productions, of which Italian documentary-makers are consciously taking full advantage for their most ambitious projects. Finally, the third element of growing importance, the increase in bilateral agreements which has been broadened to include audiovisual productions, is becoming an important lever of external financing for an increasing number of international documentary co- production projects.
However a fundamental element continues to be missing which, on the contrary, is involved in composing the virtuous picture to be found in most other European countries: the Public Service Radio and Television.
Violating the institutional and economic mission which has (supposedly) been dictated by the Government and Parliament, Rai is – currently – no more than an equal player (or little more) to the other broadcasters operating in the national television system (such as TV 2000, Sky Arte, Discovery or Real Time etc.).
This is how we should interpret the very modest amounts made available for participating in a project presented by an independent producer by Rai Storia or Rai 5 which are actually the only Public Service digital channels in which it is possible to identify a structural editorial line that favors national documentaries.
In other words, Rai’s choice (often officially announced but never seriously pursued) not to position itself as a pivot driving the entire national audiovisual sector in the documentary category (as, on the other hand, it has done for drama) contributes to the continuation of a situation of serious weakness with regard to independent national productions.
International co-productions also pay the price for this: in fact, for projects of Italian origin our producers are finding it increasingly difficult to obtain the intervention of foreign co-producers (normally used to bringing along their own country’s television networks or other European broadcasters as part of their own quota), due to the absence of the (natural) national television partner (to give an example –a positive one this time – this is exactly what happened with “Fuocoammare-Fire at sea”, where the French co-producer Les Films d’Ici contributed the signi cant nancing of Arte).
But this political and corporate inertia does not mean that the world of Italian independent documentaries is on the ground or dying.
Quite the opposite, the growing attention of Doc/it- Associazione Documentaristi Italiani [Italian Association of Documentary-makers] in institutional policies and the desire to play a role in the general discussion currently taking place on the modifications to the Italian audiovisual system clearly demonstrate the rising level of maturity of Italian documentary-makers.
For example, some production companies have steadily gone down the feature length documentary route mainly destined for movie theaters as well as the schedules of the new players in the online entertainment field on a worldwide level.
Compared to the situation of Italian television proposals just a few years ago, the most significant new feature is possibly the growth of factual entertainment productions for digital terrestrial channels, like the TV series (in its h season in 2017) “My Crazy Italian Wedding” by the Roman/Neapolitan “B & B Film”, broadcast on Real Time.
And, similarly, docu-dramas and TV series created for international markets and broadcaster s (for example, the series dedicated to “Food Markets”: 15 episodes created and realized around the world by Turin’s Stefilm and distributed worldwide by Arte Sales).
It is no coincidence that the production strategies of the Italian independents have started to include projects targeted at increasingly global media players, such as Netflix and – in the not so distant future – Amazon.
DOC/IT BATTLES FOR DOC
1. Doc/it succedes in positioning Italia documentary filmmaking within the new Cinema Law and now… the battle goes on with “decreti attuativi – implementing decrees”
2. March 22 Italian Parliament (Commissione di Vigilanza RAI – RAI Supervision Commission) listens to Doc/it suggestion for the upcoming 10 years Public Service Law with RAI
3. In association with ICE Doc/it supports Italian docs filmaker delegations in all the major international markets and festivals, and leads Italian indies into the Chinese market establishing a long term partnership with GZDoc, the main Documentary market in China.