Television documentary, history and memory. An Analysis of Sergio Zavoli’s The Gardens of Abel

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This article examines a celebrated documentary made for Italian state TV in 1968 and transmitted in 1969 to an audience of millions. The programme – The Gardens of Abel – looked at changes introduced by the radical psychiatrist Franco Basaglia in an asylum in the north-east of Italy (Gorizia). The article examines the content of this programme for the first time, questions some of the claims that have been made for it, and outlines the sources used by the director, Sergio Zavoli. The article argues that the film was as much an expression of Zavoli's vision and ideas as it was linked to those of Franco Basaglia himself. Finally, the article highlights the way that this programme has become part of historical discourse and popular memory.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)603-624
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Modern Italian Studies
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 4 Nov 2014


  • Documentary
  • Italian television
  • Sergio Zavoli
  • Franco Basaglia
  • psychiatry

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