Dubbing Multilingual Films: La terra del ritorno and the Italian-Canadian Diaspora

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This paper addresses the challenges to the dubbing industry posed by films which are characterised by multilingualism. The TV film Lives of the Saints, which is based on the best-selling, award-winning trilogy by Italian-Canadian author Nino Ricci, is a multilingual Canadian-Italian co-production involving Capri Films of Toronto and RTI of Italy in association with CTV (Canadian TV). The English version, which was shown in Canada in January 2005 on the CTV Network, employs various languages: Canadian and British English, standard and regional varieties of Italian, and a variety of Southern Italian dialects from the Molise region. The film was dubbed into Italian with the title La terra del ritorno and this version was televised in Italy in September 2004 on Canale 5.
Multilingual films are a relatively recent phenomenon. It was during the 1980s and 1990s that the number of film productions requiring the audience to deal with communication in more than one language increased (Heiss: 2004). Films reflect or sometimes anticipate current realities, and the presence of multiple languages on the screen is clearly a response to worldwide changes brought about by mass immigration and to its linguistic consequences. Immigration has influenced political and cultural theory: politicians have become interested in discussions of cultural diversity and ethnic pluralism as a means of reconsidering language rights and language policy, and cultural studies have introduced concepts such as mobility, hybridity and creolisation, all of which bring aspects of language plurality to the fore (Meylaerts 2006: 2-3).
Lives of the Saints is inevitably influenced by this interest in the linguistic aspects of migration. According to the Italian-Canadian director and producer Jerry Ciccoritti and Gabriella Martinelli, the film aims to depict the specificity of the Italian-Canadian immigrant experience and to distinguish it from the Italian-American one, with which the former is often confused, because of the dominance of American films in the cinema and TV. If a more accurate account of the Italian-Canadian post-immigrant condition is the compelling desire of many Canadians of Italian background living in Canada, for Italians living in Italy the interest in such a film comes from the changes brought about by immigration in the last two decades to their own country. Italian emigration is now a popular theme in movies, TV serials, exhibitions, conferences, popular festivals and newspapers. Today politicians, sociologists and journalists refer to the Italian migratory experience in order to deal with contemporary migrations into Italy. The interest, as far as Italian-Canadian immigration is concerned, has been sharpened by the recent translation of Nino Ricci’s trilogy of novels from which the title of the dubbed version of the film, La terra del ritorno, is taken[1]
The multilingualism of the TV film Lives of the Saints is thus a product of migration and an aspect of the formation of migrant identity. Understanding its role within the context of the Italian-Canadian migratory experience becomes crucial to an informed analysis of the translation. The script of the Italian version is complicated by the fact that national languages in their standard form coexist with regional variants and dialects, a coexistence which involves both ideological and actual elements of subordination (Meylaerts 2006: 3).
The aim of this paper is to determine, starting from a discussion of cinematic multilingualism, the compromises which are evident in the dubbed version of La terra del ritorno and how Italian-Canadian identity is interpreted and reconstructed for the Italian audience.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)no page numbers
Publication statusPublished - 2009


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