Through little-seen archive and his characteristically cinematic analysis, Mark Cousins narrates the ascent of fascism in Italy and its fall-out across 1930s Europe. Both essay film and historical document, Cousins contextualises history through the now, holding a mirror to a political landscape of a creeping far right and manipulated media.

Director's Statement

In one way, this film is a gift to make. It’s about an important historic event that was filmed. And at the centre of that event is a charismatic man who, again, was widely filmed. So there’s plenty of great archive footage of the March on Rome and Benito Mussolini. But it is tainted footage. It was shot by the fascist information machine to sell fascism. So our film must detain it. In many of my films I full back the curtain on cinema to show the audience the fascinating ways in which it makes emotion and excitement. I will do the same here. People will see footage of key events of the 20th century, and hear how it was manipulated. Relevant revelations in our modern era of fake news and new aggressors. Our film will deepen and widen its appeal by putting at its centre a young Italian woman, Anna. Through her eyes we see and hear what the rise of fascism felt like – its appeal, excitement and eventual abjection. They young woman is played by the great actor Alba Rohrwacher with defiance at first, and then coming realisation. We will shoot innovatively, on a virtual set in Cinecittà. To make the film more cinematic still, I have filmed 580 “tableaux” shots of Rome in its many guised – monumental, religious, troubled, architectural. And in addition to these I will use telling clips from the history of Italian cinema, movies by Ettore Scola, Augusto Tretti, Elvira Notari, Bernardo Bertolucci and others. These films further flesh out the film’s portrait of fascism in Italy, its turmoils and escapes. Together these sequences will show us Rome in visually bold ways and will add layers to our story.

It’s quite a remarkable story of a theft of power in the Eternal City, an event which snowballed into a sequence of tragedies in Europe and further afield. A story whose toxic masculinity and manipulation of imagery have many resonances today. We watch in fascination and some dread. To give the story more scale and power, I am structuring it in five acts, like an opera. The story has the emotions of a great opera, and the expressivity. And so, we hope, has our film.

Director's Biography

Mark Cousins is an Irish film director and critic, he has interviewed famous directors such as David Lynch, Martin Scorsese and Roman Polanski in the Scene by Scene series.

In 2009, together with actress/director Tilda Swinton, he created a portable cinema in a van that was towed throughout the Highlands. An itinerant film festival that was later chronicled in a documentary called Cinema is Everywhere.

In 2011, he directed the monumental THE STORY OF FILM: AN ODYSSEY, divided into 15 60-minute episodes. After THE EYES OF ORSON WELLES (2018), he directed the documentary THE STORMS OF JEREMY THOMAS in 2021. The documentary THE MARCH ON ROME (MARCIA SU ROMA) (2022) was presented at the Venice Film Festival (Giornate degli Autori).

Cast & Crew

Directed by: Mark Cousins

Written by: Mark Cousins, Tony Saccucci, Tommaso Renzoni

Produced by: Carlo Degli Esposti, Nicola Serra, Andrea Romeo, Antonio Badalamenti

Cinematography: Timoty Aliprandi, Mark Cousins

Editing: Timo Langer

Costume Design: Alessia Condò

Make-Up & Hair: Paola Gattabrusi , Massimo Gattabrusi

Sound: Concetta Lombardo, Filippo Lilli

Cast: Alba Rohrwacher (Anna)

Nominations and Awards

  • European Documentary 2022
  • Documentary Selection 2022