Roberto Rossellini – L’India vista da Rossellini (1959)


Series of programs broadcast on RAI TV in Italy showing footage shot by Roberto Rossellini in India. The series was also broadcast on ORTF TV in France under the title ‘J’AI FAIT UN BEAU VOYAGE PAR ROBERTO ROSSELLINI’. The footage shown in the individual episodes seems to have been the same in the Italian and French series.

Rossellini stayed in India for almost 9 months, refusing to look at famous monuments and rather preferring to take a non-exotic view of India, by looking at lives of common persons.

Indian works of Rossellini: The Indian stay of Roberto led to two works, a documentary film India – Matri Bhumi (India – Mother land, 1959) and a TV mini-series India vista da Rossellini (India seen by Rossellini, 1959) broadcasted on Italian RAI channel.

The mini-series “India seen by Rossellini” broadcast in 10 episodes was produced jointly by India, Italy and France. The episodes were: India without myths, Bombay Gateway to India, Architecture & costumes of Bombay, Varsova, Towards the south, Lagoons of Malabar, Kerala, Hirakud dam on river Mahadi, Pandit Nehru & Animals in India.

Regarding his experience in India, Roberto Rossellini had written, “I wish that cinema can serve as a means to knowledge, that it has a cultural value and it promotes an opening of consciousness. I went abroad to experiment this view of cinema but I can try it in Europe as well. Wouldn’t it be good to have ethnographic films on Paris or Rome?”

Gli ANIMALI IN INDIA (11/03/1959)
Il PANDIT NEHRU (04/03/1959)
KERALA (18/02/1959)
Le LAGUNE DI MALABAR (11/02/1959)
VERSO IL SUD (04/02/1959)
VARSOVA (28/01/1959)
INDIA SENZA MITI (07/01/1959)

What little I know about this 16mm documentary is that it was shot simultaneously with Rossellini’s 35mm feature film, India — matri bhumi, and that Rossellini returned to the Cinémathèque Française when the authorities chased him out of India for his scandalous affair with his married scenarist, Sonali Sen Roy. He still needed to finish shooting the 35mm feature (in studio sets in Europe), but could only raise the funds by selling the 16mm footage to French television. So he turned the raw 16mm footage over to Tinto Brass to edit. The result was a four-hour ten-part television series broadcast in black and white — in Italy! — beginning in January 1958, with Rossellini and the television host discussing the footage as it was shown. It was later broadcast on French television from January through August 1959, with a French TV host interviewing Rossellini in French this time round, under the title J’ai fait un beau voyage (I Had a Fine Trip). This documentary seems never to have been shown publicly since that time.


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  1. I couldn’t find a single episode lol Thank you very much as always!

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