Gabriella Romano
Gabriella Romano

The proposed Article 528 of the 1925 Italian code of law stated that “anyone who commits libidinous acts on a person of the same sex, or consents to these acts, when this causes public scandal, is punished with a six months to three years prison sentence”. But to mention homosexuality would have meant to admit it existed. Italy had to be the country of real “new” men, dedicated to their families and to the demographic effort the regime required. Mussolini’s regime resolved to erase the Article from the legal code rather than admit homosexuals existed.
Homosexuality would be “tolerated” only if not visible. Carabinieri, police, Mayors, psychiatrists and the church ensured that any form of visibility would be punished. Several special and discretional measures were implemented to fine, warn, sanction gay men and women, sometimes sending them to confino (exile) on a small island or village in the South of Italy for three years or more. Gay men were frequently arrested, kept in a prison cell for days and then released with no explanation, no trial, no interrogation, simply because they were known to be “pederasts”. Sometimes they were interned in an asylum because of their scandalous behaviour, considered a visible symptom of their “moral madness” or “degeneration”. Not to mention gang beatings, blackmailing and discrimination at work. Besides, they could be persecuted for crimes ranging from indecent acts in public to soliciting prostitution and behaviour contrary to public morality. Homosexuals had to be invisible if they wanted to survive, avoid attracting attention, remain in a grey limbo, while putting up with all sorts of humiliations.
This documentary makes for the first time the invisible visible, illustrating the still undocumented daily life of gay men and women during the Mussolini years (1922 – 1943). It narrates the complexity and variety of experiences of LGBT Italians during those years – so far remained confined to niche history books – and their strategies for survival, and their pursuit of happiness.
Through letters, diaries and personal accounts it gives voice to individuals who could only communicate in clandestinity, using code words, meeting in secrecy and living totally underground lives. It narrates the “joie de vivre” of those who managed to live the way they had chosen, despite the persecution they suffered. Their intimate words contrast with the popular songs and the propaganda images of the time, obsessed with the myth of virility, femininity and motherhood, pervaded by sexual repression.



Director: Fabrizio Laurenti, Gabriella Romano
Written by: Gabriella Romano, Fabrizio Laurenti
Editor: Patrizia Penzo
Production: Istituto Luce Cinecittà
Music by: Ugo Laurenti
DOP: Fabrizio Laurenti
Graphic Design and Animation: Luca Tommasini

Awards & Festivals:
Florence Queer Festival 2020: Panorama
Bellaria Film Festival 2020: Concorso BeiDoc