‘Rutgers Rome Stories’: RU Classics and Center for Digital Filmmaking join forces, produce four student-directed films on Eternal City


Production still from ‘The Princess of Piombino’, filmed at the famed Villa Aurora in Rome (site of ancient Gardens of Sallust), home of Prince Nicolo’ and Princess Rita Boncompagni Ludovisi. Directed and filmed by Sean Feuer ’14 and Adam Nawrot ’14; co-directors Gabriela Elise ’15 and Shaodi Huang ’16

Rutgers Rome Stories is a student-directed series of four films, each of which seeks to animate an aspect of the idea of the Eternal City. You can see the projects—two theatrical trailers for feature-length documentaries to be released in 2015/6, and two short documentaries now complete—at the website classics.rutgers.edu/rome-stories.

Here Rutgers undergraduate filmmakers explore a Papal family’s efforts to preserve their iconic urban villa (The Princess of Piombino); the memories of an Italian princess whose father invented radio (My Father, Electromagnetic); the reflections of a legendary Italian director and producer of film and opera on the creative process (Zeffirelli); and that of a Baltimore hair stylist who unlocks a fashion secret of the ancient Romans (The Hair Archaeologist: Janet Stephens).


The documentary ‘Zeffirelli’ features an exclusive Rutgers interview with film and opera legend Maestro Franco Zeffirelli. Filmed by Adam Nawrot ’14; directed by Gabriela Gabbidon ’16

Rutgers Rome Stories is the product of a multi-year collaboration between the Rutgers Center for Digital Filmmaking (Mason Gross School of the Arts), represented by its founding director, Dena Seidel; and the Department of Classics (School of Arts and Sciences), through associate professor T. Corey Brennan. The undergraduate student videographers have their academic homes in either Mason Gross or SAS; all are enrolled in the certificate program of the Rutgers Center for Digital Filmmaking.


‘The Hair Archaeologist: Janet Stephens’ was filmed on location at the Walters Art Museum, Baltimore, and at CIC graduate conference ‘Ancient Adornment’, hosted by Rutgers Classics. Directed by Jenny Kim ’16; cinematography by John Riggio ’16 with the assistance of Shaodi Huang ’16

The character-driven narratives that these students have created, and filmed largely on location, offer a particularly innovative way of communicating some vital personal histories of Rome to a broad audience.


‘My Father, Electromagnetic’ focuses on the achievements of Nobel laureate Guglielmo Marconi, inventor of radio, as seen through the eyes of his daughter Princess Elettra Marconi Giovanelli (second from left). Directed by John Riggio ’16; Rome cinematography by Sean Feuer ’14 and Adam Nawrot ’14

A full list of thanks to all the persons who made this series possible—in both Italy and in the United States—would be very long indeed. But special recognition is owed to the Director of the Entrepreneurial Program in Rutgers’ School of Arts and Sciences, Chris Scherer, for supporting the development of the Rutgers online course Papal Rome and its People, 1500-Present: A Select History, which debuted in spring 2014. This course, filmed largely on-site in Rome, provided several hundreds of hours of raw footage that could be reshaped into important parts of the Rutgers Rome Stories described here.

And of course, our warmest thanks to the subjects of the documentaries that comprise the Rutgers Rome Stories: Prince Nicolo’ and Princess Rita Boncompagni Ludovisi; Princess Elettra Marconi Giovanelli and her son Prince Guglielmo Marconi Giovanelli; Maestro Franco Zeffirelli; and Janet Stephens.

To learn more about the interdisciplinary work of the Rutgers Center for Digital Filmmaking and its innovative Film Bureau, you can see its successful strategic planning proposal “Bridging Art, Science and Humanities” here, with a very full list of projects and committed partners. To learn more about its new BFA program (launched Fall 2015) you can read an announcement here.

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