The history of Italian cinema began with a few seconds footage of Pope Leo XIII blessing the camera. Historical dramas were most popular in these early years before sound. During and after WWI, funds were short and nothing much of interest was made until the 1920s. With the rise of fascism the film industry was encouraged and in 1937 Cinecitta was built on the outskirts of Rome. Literally a 'cinema city', it contained everything a film maker could need or want, including theatres, and even a cinematography school. The slogan on posters at the time read "Cinema is The Most Powerful Weapon". Newsreels and propagandistic documentaries were filmed here but by 1939, feature film productions were underway. Visconti ('Ossessione'), Rossellini (Rome, Open City') and De Sica ('Bicycle Thief') all began their careers here. Post-war, two distinct trends emerged in Italian cinema: on the one hand, the neo-realist films of Rossellini and De Sica, made chiefly on location in the streets of Rome and surrounding towns; and on the other, the American megaproductions, filmed almost entirely on sets constructed in the Cinecitta studios. In 1948, 'Quo Vadis?', 'Roman Holiday (1952), 'Three Coins in a Fountain' (1954), 'Farewell to Arms' (1957), 'Ben Hur' (1958) and 'Cleopatra' (1961), to cite only the most famous. Federico Fellini shot most of his films, at least in part at Cinecitta and to this day the studios are used for television and film productions. Mention must also be made of Pasolini, Bertolucci, Zeffirelli, Antonioni, Sergio Leone - Italy has given cinema some of its greatest individuals and auteurs. Pictured: The lost kisses from 'Cinema Paradiso'
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