Founded in 1959 by a group of scholars in the humanities, anthropology, sociology, ethnology and mass-media studies, the Festival dei Popoli, a not-for-profit organization, has been active for over fifty years in the promotion and study of social documentary cinema.
The association works primarily to organize Italy’s leading International Documentary Film Festival in Florence. From 2008 to 2010 it has also held an edition in New York (NYDFF - New York Documentary Fim Festival). The Institute has created a vast network of collaborations for the diffusion of documentary culture in Italy and abroad.
Simultaneously, the Festival dei Popoli continues to conserve and digitalize its own Archives (which contains over 16,000 titles, from video to film) and make strides in film training, organizing courses and workshops for documentary filmmakers.
Over the course of its half-century of activity, the Festival has hosted the screening of the best documentary productions at the international level and has introduced to the public the most noted filmmakers in the field: Jean Rouch, Vittorio De Seta, D A Pennebaker, Richard Leacock, Gianfranco Mingozzi, Lindsay Anderson, Abbas Kiarostami, Nagisa Oshima, Ian Dunlop, Cecilia Mangini, Fred Wiseman, Artavazd Pelechian, and many others.
In particular, we’d like to remember retrospectives dedicated to Jean Renoir, Jean-Luc Godard, John Cassavetes, Ken Loach, Nagisa Oshima, Lindsay Anderson, Aleksandr Sokurov, Jørgen Leth, Claire Simon, Thomas Heise, Peter Mettler, Isaki Lacuesta, Andrés Di Tella, Raymond Depardon e Claudine Nougaret.
Conferences and panel discussions, integral components of our programme, have brought to Florence brilliant exponents of various branches of the social sciences: from Anthropology to Sociology, Architecture and city planning, Comm0unications, and the Evolution of Cinematographic Language in the last fifty years.
Through the use of thematic sections, the Festival dei Popoli has continuosly tackled subjects such as architecture and the evolution of the urban landscape, themes tied to immigration, new cults, the relationship between western medicine and traditional medicine, water as an indispensable resource, and the role of family in the third millenium. Recently the Festival presented the folllowing focuses: "Faces of the Power", "Declining Democracy", "Related to Me: Body, Memory, Identity".
Beginning in 2008, the Festival dei Popoli launched a long-term project to acknowledge the last fifty years of documentary production in various national cinematographies. The aim goal is to not only fully acknowledge the variety of European cultures, exploring their histories, languages, traditions, fashions, politics, and social realities, but also to reflect on the evolution of documentary language over the arc of half a century, from the advent of Direct Cinema to the recent digital revolution.
The first meeting, ""A Baltic Diagonal"" a retrospective presented during the 49th edition—was dedicated to the documentary films of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia; the second one, "Voices from an Inner Space. Swiss Documentary Cinema: Travelers, Militants and Visionaries", was presented during the 51st edition.
On the occasion of its 50th anniversary (in 2009), the Festival presented a retrospective, called "The Feeling of Being There. 1958-1965: Seven Years of Documentary Cinema" a selection of twenty-four short films that changed the history of documentary cinema at a time of great creative fervor coinciding with the birth of the Festival dei Popoli. A significant mapping out of the forces that traversed (and continue to traverse) modern cinema.