California Italian Studies
Rhino / Rhinoceros: Experimental Cinema and the Migrant Condition
- Author(s): Greene, Shelleen
- et al.
This essay examines two films by Kevin Jerome Everson: Rhinoceros (2013) and Rhino (2017). Rhinoceros is an imagined staging of the last speech of the first Duke of Florence, Alessandro de’ Medici (1510-1537), also known as the first black European head of state due to his mixed Italian and African ancestry. For de’ Medici’s speech, Rhinoceros uses one of the last communiqués of Mummar al-Gaddafi, then recently deposed as head of the Libyan state by the Arab Spring. Once staunchly anti-imperialist, Gaddafi’s last years were marked by new political and economic relations with Western nations, notably the 2008 “friendship treaty” orchestrated with then Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. By having de’ Medici speak the words of one of the most polarizing African leaders of the last forty years, Rhinoceros merges the politics of early modern Italy with the country’s colonial legacies in north and east Africa. Rhino imagines the final days leading up to Duke Alessandro’s 1537 assassination, with de’ Medici’s narrative told alongside interviews with African migrants in present-day Florence. In Rhino, the historic presence of Africans within the Italian peninsula is paralleled to contemporary African migration to Italy. I argue Rhinoceros and Rhino not only reveal the ironies of postcolonial Italy at the beginning of the 21st century, but also participates in the construction of the archive of Black Italy.