Ain-el-Ghezal (La fille de Carthage; The Girl from Carthage). 1924. Tunisia. Directed by Albert Samama Chikli. Screenplay by Haydée Samama Chikly. With Samama Chikly, Hadj Hadi Jebali, Belgassem ben Taïeb, Ahmed Dziri. 35mm print courtesy the Archives françaises du film du CNC (Bois d'Arcy). French intertitles; English subtitles. 19 min.
Unfortunately, only a short fragment from the beginning of Ain el Ghezal survives today. These scenes, which also show signs of decomposition and deterioration, set up an impossible romance between a young Tunisian woman named Ain-el-Ghezal (Haydée Samama Chikly) and a local teacher (Ahmed Dziri). “I wrote this story,” Haydée later claimed, “to show how badly women were treated when they were just sold off with an arranged marriage into a man’s world.” In the surviving fragment, we see such a transaction between Ain-el-Ghezal’s father (Hadj Hadi Jebali) and the son of a rich sheik (Belgassem ben Taïeb) that decides her fate. The film reportedly ended with the tragic death of the couple at the hands of the sheik’s horsemen after the two escape on Ain-el-Ghezal’s wedding day. Haydée Samama Chikly was the daughter of Tunisian-Jewish filmmaker and photographer Albert Samama Chikli, whose career is now receiving renewed attention thanks to the Cineteca di Bologna and Il Cinema Ritrovato. Haydée also wrote the screenplay for her father’s 1922 film Zohra, in which she starred, and had a small role in Rex Ingram’s The Arab after the production came to shoot in Tunisia. According to WFPP contributor Ouissal Mejri, Haydée edited and hand-colored some of her father’s films as well.
‘A Santanotte (The Holy Night). 1922. Italy. Directed, written, produced, and edited by Elvira Notari. Based on a song by Eduardo Scala, Francesco Buongiovanni. With Alberto Danza, Rosè Angione, Eduardo Notari. Digital restoration courtesy the Cineteca Nazionale, from prints preserved at Cineteca Nazionale and George Eastman Museum. Italian intertitles; English subtitles. 60 min.
Long championed by the WFPP editorial team and contributors, and by feminist film scholars more broadly, Elvira Notari is a vital part of Italian cinema history. From a milliner to a film colorist to a maker of short nonfiction films alongside her husband, Notari eventually became the head of her family’s production house in Naples, called Dora Film after her daughter. Under the banner of Dora Film—which had its own studio, laboratory, and acting school—Notari not only wrote, directed, edited, and produced films (shot by her husband and regularly featuring her son, Eduardo), she also distributed them, most notably to Italian immigrants in the US. Dora Film of America even had an office at 729 Seventh Avenue in New York City. Dora Film eventually closed in 1930, and only a few films made by Notari survive today, including ‘A Santanotte, which has been interpreted by some as a comment on the violence of a patriarchal culture. Like much of Notari’s work, this somber yet passionate melodrama has musical origins and is based on a popular Neapolitan song of the same name. Rosè Angione plays Nanninella, a working-class waitress who must provide for her alcoholic father. In love with Tore (Alberto Danza), she ultimately sacrifices herself in marriage to Carluccio (an unnamed acting student from Dora Film) in order to save Tore from being accused of her father’s murder.