Luigie Lursh G. Almojano on Cabiria (1915)
The film Cabiria relates to this notion of identity and racial representation which can be seen on the peculiarity on the way the film has presented its characterization. More particularly, I find it interesting how the film represented the characters of the slaves. I observed that it is a problematic attempt most specially when it touches sensitive discourse on identity and racial representation. It could be a mirror of how the film, through its story telling and artistic depiction of the existing reality, introduces critical issues on how characterization of the slaves in Cabiria is translating to a larger discourse on misrepresented identities. I felt a little uncomfortable in the way Maciste and his identity as a slave was built on an interesting and critical demonstration of biopolitics and racial typology at that time. His character represented as a slave, a political representation, is coupled with his skin color, translating as representation based on race and skin color. However, this initial depiction contradicted his overall impact as an interesting character due to his overall strength as elaborated by the spectacle of his muscular body built. This overturn is fueled by an important trend of nationalism and identity building thus resulting to a need to reformulate Maciste overall characterization -his “blackness” as an artistic display. As described by Reich, “Maciste takes pains to reinforce his whiteness through a complete collapse of the character-actor dichotomy and by constituting Maciste’s previous onscreen blackness in Cabiria as masquerade.” For somebody coming from the anthropological discipline, discourse on racial discrimination and biopolitics is part of the persisting stereotypes fueled by the colonialist past of anthropology.
Overall, I felt that the discourse representing slaves in the case of the film Cabiria represents an interesting phenomenon of reformulation and rediscovery of its characterization. To put it simply, Reich said that “The racial discourses at work in that metamorphosis popularized current anthropological tenets of northern Italian and white superiority through the classic cinematic devices of heroic sacrifice, spectacular feats, and moral righteousness—all embodied in Maciste’s muscled, newly white physique.” More than the issue of this characterization as an issue of power over identities, I think it evokes a certain nationalistic consciousness thus requiring to stage Maciste’s blackness as an artistic display. Movies like Cabiria, doesn’t only provoke and enjoin the artistic eyes of the viewers but more importantly it made me, as a spectator, question some motives and themes it projects to overall social experience of film watching.