Our historical memory is sometimes extremely short, and many Italians would rather forget colonialism during the fascist regime of Benito Mussolini. I Only I Were that Warrior was directed by Italian-born and Brooklin based filmmaker Valerio Ciriaci, and it deals with the Italian invasion of Ethiopia in 1935/36.
The most recent symbol of the Italian colonial past is the 2012 monument in Affile (a commune in Rome) dedicated to Rodolfo Graziani, a prominent military officer who acted as Mussolini’s viceroy in Ethiopia. The erection sparked an uproar, voiced by left-wing politicians and national commentators, such as Igiaba Scego, an Italian writer and activist born to Somali parents in Rome, and the collective of Bologna-based writers Wu-Ming. Scego even launched a petition. This monument stands at the centre of Ciriaci’s documentary as Graziani himself; unlike their German and Japanese counterparts, Italian war criminals never faced trial.
For many years, Ethiopia tried to put the officer on trial, but these efforts were halted by Italian and British authorities, despite the fact that his name was on the UN list of war criminals. The British Foreign Office vehemently opposed Ethiopia’s inclusion in the UN War Crimes Commission and the trial on Italian crimes committed during the 1935/36 invasion.
The doc combines Italian and Ethiopian voices, exposing a wide spectrum of the perspectives of the brutal occupation. Ethiopians and second-generation Italians born to parents of the African Horn are aware of this horrible chapter of history, but many ordinary Italians are fully ignorant of the events, and still support the old Italian war motto “Italiani, brava gente” (“Italians, good people”). Take a journey through history with the support of historians and facist propaganda (which presented Ethiopia as an opportunity to find a new home and start a new life). Official documents reveal the strength of the brutal fascist iron fist before and after the Ethiopian invasion, as well as the use of chemical warfare.
The Italian historian Angelo Del Boca denounced these crimes for years after World War II and he quickly came under fire from many people, including the late journalist Indro Montanelli, founder of one of the Italian main daily newspapers, the right-wing daily Il Giornale.
There is no filter in If Only I Were that Warrior. We follow Ciriaci, but he does not appear in the documentary and there is a limited use of voiceover; the interviewees also include Ethiopians who have experienced the Italian brutality first-hand.
Docs like If Only I Were that Warrior and Asmarina (Medhin Paolos/Alan Maglio, 2015) raise awareness of Italy’s brutal past, as does the writing of Igiaba Scego. Various activists, historians and organisations such as the Centro Primo Levi played a major role in putting the film together.
If Only I Were that Warrior won the Italian Golden Globe for best documentary, and it also snatched a top prize at Florence’s prestigious Festival dei Popoli (2015). It can be seen on demand on Vimeo as well as on DVD, in Italian and English both. Find out more about the film and how to view right it right now by clicking here.
Don’t forget to watch the film trailer right here: