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As part of our Federico Fellini retrospective, we present Lo Sceicco Bianco (The White Sheik) (1952), along with the short film Agenzia matrimoniale (1953), in Virtual Cinema, MoMA’s members-only streaming platform. A stunning display of an emerging filmmaker’s artistic vision, The White Sheik, Fellini’s solo directorial debut, solidly introduced the auteur’s world of fantasies, which he would continue to explore—and take to new heights—in subsequent years. Two newlyweds from the provinces arrive in Rome for a family visit, but the young bride finds herself gleefully running after her ultimate romantic hero, the star of a photo comic strip. This dreamy work features the director’s first collaboration with the iconic composer Nino Rota and a brief appearance by Giulietta Masina as a prostitute named Cabiria, a character who would later take center stage in Fellini’s 1957 Nights of Cabiria.
The White Sheik is preceded by Agenzia matrimoniale (A Marriage Agency), an episode from the anthology film L’amore in città (Love in the City) in which a journalist investigates the work of a marriage agency by going undercover as a customer. The result is a quietly devastating revelation.
Organized by La Frances Hui, Curator, Department of Film, The Museum of Modern Art, and Camilla Cormanni and Paola Ruggiero, Cinecittà.
Federico Fellini is part of the Federico Fellini 100 Tour, a series of centennial tributes to Federico Fellini (1920–1993), which travels to major museums and film institutions worldwide, coordinated by Paola Ruggiero and Camilla Cormanni, Cinecittà. All films have been digitally restored by Cinecittà, Cineteca di Bologna, and Cineteca Nazionale, with the exception of Nights of Cabiria and The White Sheik, which have been restored by L’Immagine Ritrovata and La Dolce Vita which has been restored by L’Immagine Ritrovata and the Film Foundation.