The Peasant and the Priest

with director Esther Podemski
Saturday, January 17, 2015 - 7:00pm


Introduction by Rebecca West, William R. Kenan, Jr. Distinguished Service Professor Emerita, Department of Cinema and Media Studies and Department of Romance Languages and Literatures.

Connoisseurs of the good life go to Northern Italy in search of art, olive groves and good wine. But on the roads alongside the legendary fields, evidence of the forces of globalization is becoming apparent. In Tuscany, one of the most idealized areas of the world, human trafficking, chemicals in the wine, and contaminated olive oil are among the global effects of governmental indifference.

The Peasant and the Priest offers a reinterpretation of this much-loved region, a landscape shaped and transformed by co-existing extremes of human labor, cultivation and exploitation. Sergio, a sharecropper, uses ancient farming methods that have become overshadowed by corporate agriculture. Father Oreste fights the tide of sexual slavery, which grows each day as more and more women from Africa and Europe are forced into prostitution in Italy. The point of departure for exploring the two parallel lives is a 14th century fresco, The Allegory of Good and Bad Government, by Ambrogio Lorenzetti. Uniquely secular for its time, it tells a cautionary tale of struggles that are necessary to establish and maintain a republican form of government.

Esther Podemski is a filmmaker and visual artist whose works have been exhibited in galleries, film festivals and academic venues. House of the World, her documentary about the aftermath of the Holocaust, has been showcased in European and American art centers and festivals, including Human Rights Watch International Film Festival, Lincoln Center, and Los Angeles International Jewish Film Festival. Discovery Communication and Jewish Broadcast Network purchased the film for broadcast. Her grants include the New York State Council on the Arts, The Jerome Foundation, The Soros Foundation, The Memorial Foundation For Jewish Culture, the Yaddo and the Ucross Residency Programs. She has taught at Parsons School of Design in New York, Pacific Northwest College of Art, and Sarah Lawrence College. Recent exhibitions include 5 Days in July, a two-screen projection that revisits the Newark riots of 1967, which won the director’s choice award at the Black Maria Film Festival and the jury award for best short at The Langston Hughes African American Film Festival.  

Rebecca West is the William R. Kenan, Jr. Distinguished Service Professor Emerita. She was a member of the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures, and the Department of Cinema and Media Studies, specializing in modern Italian literature and culture, gender studies, and, in film studies, adaptation and stardom.

(Esther Podemski, 2010, DVD, 47 min, Italian and English)

Co-sponsored by the Department of Cinema and Media Studies.