March on Rome: Mark Cousins’ Docu on the Roots of Fascist Propaganda

Roots of Fascist Propaganda in ‘March on Rome’ Documentary

Mark Cousins/March on Rome
Courtesy Palomar Doc

Film director and historian Mark Cousins (The Story of Film: A New Generationis at Rome’s Cinecittà Studios making March on Rome

The docu explores the roots of fascism by analyzing films, photos, and other documents found in Italian archives.

Timed for the centennial of the October 1922 insurrection by which Benito Mussolini came to power in Italy, the feature will take its cue from the Fascist propaganda film A Noi by director Umberto Paradisi, produced in 1923 as an official Fascist party document celebrating the March on Rome.

Italian writer and director Tony Saccucci (“The Duce’s Boxer”), who originated the project and did meticulous research for it, serves as a co-writer with Cousins. Saccuci cross-checked Paradisi’s film with other sources of the time to reveal details of the pic that provide a completely new take on the history of those dramatic days, according to the synopsis.

Many of the images in the film “A Noi” are extensively manipulated. But some of the scenes that are completely staged reveal all the power of great propaganda and exaltation of masculinity, “which has always been at the center of fascism’s communication strategies,” the synopsis says.

The speeches and references, exuding Mussolini’s machismo “today are those of Putin – who also gets shirtless – and of the undemocratic leaders of Hungary, India, Brazil.”

The docu’s narrator is Anna, played by Italian actor Alba Rohrwacher (“The Lost Daughter”). She plays a working class woman who, speaking directly into the camera, embodies the sentiment of many ordinary Italians of the time. An enthusiastic supporter of the fascist regime, she later becomes disillusioned and critical.

“Italy is the country that has most inspired me on visual level,” Cousins said. “I’m thrilled to make a film about the culture of images and propaganda in Italy.”

“The documentary is about how horrible they can be,” Cousins added, “in the service of bullies and murderers. And it shows how strong the echo of fascism is today. But it also reveals the greatness of cinema when it is used in an imaginative way and with an open heart.”

“March on Rome” will mark the first high-profile documentary for the international market produced by Palomar Doc, the recently launched documentary unit of the Italian TV and film production company behind “Inspector Montalbano” and Sophia Loren-starrer “The Life Ahead.”

Palomar Doc is headed by Andrea Romeo, founder and chief of Italy’s Biografilm Festival.

“This production is part of our mission to enrich the historic Istituto Luce archives with the contribution of visions from new auteurs. We do not intend to limit ourselves to preserving the legacy of the past, but to revisit it to renew the lesson it can provide us in the present,” she added. 

“Rereading history through the prism of the present is the only path that can lead us towards profound learning,” said Palomar CEO Nicola Serra. “Mark and Tony’s work has taken this path which fascinated us right away and we are proud to share this journey with Luce Cinecittà.”

“March on Rome” marks the latest film essay from Cousins who made his name with the Peabody Award winning 15-hour “The Story of Film: An Odyssey.”

His “Women Make Film: A New Road Movie Through Cinema” scored the award for innovative storytelling at the European Film Awards last December.

Cousins also won a special Cannes Camera d’Or commendation in 2018 for “The Eyes of Orson Welles.”