Report on the Convegno internazionale di studi nel centenario della battaglia di Adua, Piacenza, 10–12 April 1996, now published as, Angeld Del Boca (ed.), Adua. Le ragioni di una sconfitta, Laterza, Rome - Bari, 1997, 468 pp., ISBN 88–420–5196–9, 45,000 Lire.
In April 1987, I turned up at Trento's Centro Santa Chiara expecting to see a screening of Mustapha Akkad's The Lion of the Desert and discovered instead, due to a forced entry into the auditorium and confiscation of the reels by the Digos, that Italy faced its colonial past with real anxiety. This film recounts the life of Omar al-Mukhtar, the man who made Italy's conquest of Libya a vicious and bloody war of attrition complete with the whole set up that empirebuilding required for its cheerful accomplishment: concentration camps, mass deportations, massacres of civilians, carpet bombing of villages, etc. Omar al-Mukhtar was hanged, of course, and for Gheddafi Libyan patriotism was born, hence his pleasure in pouring enough oil money into the film to attract big names like Anthony Quinn and Irene Papas. But in Italy the film was banned because considered ‘damaging to the army's honour’. It is strange, but perhaps not altogether without logic, that the Italian army should feel threatened by people being able to see soldiers of Fascist Italy behaving as the soldiers of Fascist Italy behaved, when taking into consideration that the Italian Republic was born, like Libya, out of the Resistance. As in Germany (or so goes the story), the army remained impervious to the excesses of fascist ideology and, of course, played an important part in countering it. But if there was a project that the Italian army (before and during Fascism) made very much its own it was the colonization of Africa.