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An Introduction to Mondo Films

Although bloody, controversial, and uncomfortable to watch, there is a kind of film-making that takes the notion of a ‘shockmentary’ to new heights. Called ‘mondo’ films, the footage would show shocking and hard-to-watch scenes that showed human and animal behavior at its worst. In this article, you will learn more about this genre of cinema, as well as examples.

The majority of mondo films focus on strange rituals that take place around the world. Some are sacred, while others seem to go against the religious views of the Westerners. What causes a viewer to be in awe of the film, a director often adds ‘authentic’ filming of a death(s). Death scenes in a mondo film are often faked in order to achieve a desired effect of awe and shock. However, films within this genre have displayed actual acts of murder and death.

The concept of a mondo film is that horror exists within everyday life.

The First Mondo Movies

The public first got a taste of mondo film when Gualtiero Jacopetti, Paolo Cavara, and Franco Prosperi created the original flim series called the Mondo Cane. When it became apparent that this type of filming would be a success, many copycats followed suit.

Mondo Cane was released in 1962 and was an Italian production. It ran for 108 minutes in its uncut version and was cut to 85 minutes in order to receive an R-rating. In English, the movie’s title translated into “A Dog’s World.” The film showed a collection of travelogue vignettes that provided glimpses into cultural practices around the world. The intention was to shock or surprise film audiences in the West. While directors claimed that the documentation was authentic, some of the scenes had been staged or enhanced in a creative manner to increase its overall appeal.

Mondo Cane was a success in the theaters across the world. The movies that followed became known as a genre called ‘mondo films,’ which were named after Mondo Cane. Directors Jacopetti and Prosperi would go on to make additional films included in the genre, including Mondo cane 2 in 1966. While the exploitation-related film was condemned by the typical critic, it still won awards for best production and other accolades.

Another film directed by Jacopetti and Prosperi was called “Africa Addio” (1966), which focuses on the end of the colonial era in Africa and was shot over the course of three years. In the United States, the movie was released as ‘Africa Blood and Guts.’ In the United Kingdom, the movie was called ‘Farewell Africa.’ Africa Addio was not met without controversy.

In West Germany, the movie was protested against, which consisted of the Socialist German Student Union (SDS) and groups of African students. A West Berlin distributor refused to show the movie following a couple of demonstrations and property damage sustained to the theaters. Looking back, people feel the protects against “Africa Addio” was seen as the first anti-racist movement in German history.

Italians banned the film as racist.
The co-director Jacopetti was actually accused of murder and tried in Italy because there was a rumor that one of the executions that appeared in the film was staged for the camera. In the end, he was acquitted.

Additional mondo movies made by Jacopetti and Prosperi included:

·    La Donna nel Mondo (1963)
·    Addio Zio Tom (1971)