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Paolo Cavara

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Paolo Cavara: A Pioneering Italian Filmmaker and Screenwriter

Early Career and Expedition to Ceylon

Born in Bologna on July 4, 1926, Paolo Cavara initially studied architecture at the University of Florence. However, his passion for diving and underwater operations led him into filmmaking. Cavara gained initial recognition through a pioneering expedition to Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) in 1951, which he undertook with Carlo Gregoretti and Franco Prosperi. Following this, he produced around 40 documentaries either as part of scientific expeditions or independently.

Collaboration with Giorgio Moser

Starting in 1957, Cavara worked as a co-director with Giorgio Moser on the first Italian national television documentary series, “La nostra terra e l’acqua,” which included notable documentaries such as “Il ragazzo del risciò” and “Bali.” Around this period, Cavara also had some experiences as an assistant director for American filmmakers like John Huston and Henry Hathaway, working on films such as “Timbuctu” and “La contessa scalza.”

Inception of Mondo Movies

In the early 1960s, Cavara collaborated with Angelo Rizzoli and co-directed, along with Gualtiero Jacopetti and Franco Prosperi, the films “Mondo cane” (1962) and “La donna nel mondo” (1963). These films were initially conceived as one single project, but due to the enormous amount of footage, they were divided into two separate films. “Mondo cane” is considered the seminal film of the Mondo movie genre, a form of shock documentary.

Shift Towards More Personal Cinema

While Cavara initially specialized in provocative documentaries, he later chose to part ways with his co-directors to pursue a more personal form of cinema. His subsequent works included “I malamondo” (1964), an investigation into young rebels during Italy’s economic boom, and “L’occhio selvaggio” (1967), a largely autobiographical work that critically examined the methods used in making shock documentaries. This film was nominated at the Moscow Film Festival and won the Atlanta Film Festival.

Commercial Success and Diverse Portfolio

The late 1960s and 1970s saw Cavara moving towards more commercial films. His 1971 thriller “La tarantola dal ventre nero” and 1976’s “E tanta paura” were both commercial and critical successes. Unlike conventional thrillers of the time, these films introduced a critical and grotesque lens to the genre.

Final Years and Work in Television

In the latter part of his career, Cavara focused more on television work, including “Atsalut pader” (1979), which was about the life of Padre Lino da Parma, and “Sarto per signora” (1980). He continued to collaborate with various writers, including Lucia Drudi Demby and Roberto Lerici, until his death on August 7, 1982.

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