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Fireflies Celebrates Pasolini

Pier Paolo Pasolini

From Berkeley to Porto Alegre, from Lausanne to New Delhi, celebrations of the centenary of the birth of Pier Paolo Pasolini carry on around the world. On Friday, Annabel Brady-Brown and Giovanni Marchini Camia, the founders of Fireflies Press, will launch a book, Pier Paolo Pasolini: Writing on Burning Paper, and a film series, Love Meetings: Pasolini & Contemporary Cinema, at the Metrograph in New York.

The uniquely designed book is actually a two-volume set. Bound separately, Stephen Sartarelli’s newly revised translation of Pasolini’s 1966 autobiographical poem “Poet of Ashes” can be slipped out from behind the front cover of the thicker book. As Brady-Brown and Marchini Camia write in their introduction, the verses “seem to contain the entirety of Pasolini’s persona: the restless idealism, the combative zeal, the tortured introspection, the earnestness, the irony, the contradictions, and, above all, the impegno—a word so integral to everything he was and represented, it’s frustrating that it should only translate into English as ‘commitment.’”

The larger volume is an eclectic collection of personal reflections—essays, poems, photographs, drawings—contributed by twenty filmmakers. Films by six of them—Roberto Minervini, Deborah Stratman, Marino Llinás, Catherine Breillat, Angela Schanelec, and Dane Komljen—will screen alongside Pasolini’s in the Love Meetings series running through November 25. Other contributors to Writing on Burning Paper include Jia Zhangke, Mike Leigh, Luc Moullet, Radu Jude, Payal Kapadia, Ben Rivers, and Anocha Suwichakornpong.

When Brady-Brown and Marchini Camia launched Fireflies as a magazine in 2014, the first issue gathered critical and artistic responses to the work of two filmmakers, Pasolini and Apichatpong Weerasethakul. Not long after the founding of Fireflies Press in 2020, the new imprint published Memoria, a beautiful scrapbook between hard covers chronicling the making of Apichatpong’s latest feature. Fireflies is also currently four books into its ten-volume series of Decadent Editions. Each title pairs an outstanding writer with one of the most significant films of the 2000s. The series began with Nick Pinkerton’s book on Tsai Ming-liang’s Goodbye, Dragon Inn (2003), and we can now look forward to Rebecca Harkins-Cross on Lucrecia Martel’s The Headless Woman (2008).

The Press takes its name from “Disappearance of the Fireflies,” an essay that ran in Corriere della Sera in 1975. It was an angry lament for what Pasolini saw as the decay of Italian culture. In his 2009 book Survival of the Fireflies,Georges Didi-Huberman wrote that it was “necessary to understand that the improbable, minuscule splendor of fireflies, in Pasolini’s eyes—eyes skilled in the contemplation of a face or the selection of just the right movements of his friends’ and actors’ bodies—is a metaphor for nothing other than humanity in its essence, humanity reduced to the simplest of its powers: to send us a sign in the night.”

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