SAVE THE DATE! When the World Answered, the new PBS documentary based on the book by Jane Fortune and Linda Falcone, will premiere at Florence’s Odeon Cinema Hall at 6.30pm on Tuesday, October 20.
The idea to restore art by women started as a way for me to give something back to the city I most love. This dream was first shared with the world thanks to the Emmy-winning documentary ‘Invisible Women’. When asked to help create a second show for the series, I realized that I’m by no means alone in my love for Florence. A documentary on the 1966 flood, the world’s response to it and the art by women that the city gained following the disaster is, for me, a true source of inspiration. The flood and its results are not just memories. They continue to be a call to action today.
Life is a series of takes and retakes, and you’ve got to get the ‘light’ right. At least that’s what it seemed from behind the scenes as I watched how director Kim Jacobs and videographer Vinnie Manganello captured the dialogue and pictures that are now just days away from becoming the full-fledged documentary called When the World Answered: Florence, Women Artists and the 1966 Flood. During the production crew’s whirlwind week in Florence, we visited dozens of intriguing people and places. Here are some highlights:
To me, the film’s protagonist is the flood itself. We imagined a bird’s-eye view of its wrath from Mayor Bargellini’s rooftop terrace and visited the storehouses of the National Library’s restoration laboratory. It spoke volumes about how deeply the city’s treasures were damaged in 1966. Its technicians continue their quest today—it’s been a daily job for nearly five decades. Four million books and the end is nowhere in sight!
At Il Bisonte, an ex-art printing house near Porta San Niccolò—now a traditional graphic design school and lithograph gallery—professor and artist Nicholas Kraczyna shared his memories of the flood. Twenty-six years old in 1966, he risked his life to photograph the deluge and smiles at himself today, ‘Oh, Youth!…To be young again and to know no fear.’ His destiny, Kraczyna says, became intimately intertwined with that of Florence, as a result of the flood experience.
What a treat to meet with Florentine maestro Franco Zeffirelli. I’ve always admired his films and never would have imagined being able to meet him. Warm and personable, he met us at his Roman villa, which had hosted the entire cast of his Romeo and Juliet in the 1970s, as there was no allotted budget to house the actors during on-location filming. Mr. Zeffirelli’s heart-wrenching documentary Per Firenze spread Florence’s S.O.S. message throughout the world. Zeffirelli’s message to us today? ‘Anything for Florence,’ he told me. I couldn’t agree more!
Over 40 women donated their art to Florence after the flood, including Titina Maselli, whose formidable Greta Garbo was restored as part of AWA’s latest conservation project. With Rossella Lari, the works’ restorer, we had the chance to meet several living ‘flood’ artists and asked them about their gifts to the city. More than one told us they still had working studios and ‘new pieces’ in mind for Florence. Five of the flood ladies’ works are now on display at the Twentieth-Century Museum, including one of Maselli’s large-scale pieces. My dream is to have artworks, now languishing in storage, some day on display for all the world to see!