For much of the world, Primo Levi's voice is the only one we've heard from Jewish Italy. His books, "The Monkey Wrench," "If This is a Man" and "The Drowned and the Saved" give us insight into the Holocaust and life for Jews in early 20th century Italy.
Levi's works are accepted as some of the most moving of the century. Born in Turin, Levi studied to be a chemist. As an anti-fascist he was arrested and in 1944 sent to Auschwitz. When the camp was liberated, Levi began an eight-month journey back to Turin that led him through Poland, Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, Romania, Hungary, Slovakia, Austria and, finally, Italy.
"Primo Levi's Journey," a film by Davide Ferrario -- an Italian known for his popular movies (like "After Midnight") as well as for his documentaries -- follows Levi's route.
The 92-minute film mixes history, travelogue and current events as Ferrario traces Levi's route, adds some voice over readings from Levi's book "The Truce" and paints contemporary portraits of the towns and locations that Levi visited during his journey.
Ferrario begins with some interesting footage of Levi himself visiting Auschwitz. Watching Levi walk through the exhibits and around the grounds of the camp -- the former prisoner as a tourist -- is surreal.
As the journey progresses, we see what Chernobyl is like today. In L'vov, Ferrario looks at the murder of Igor Bilozir for his devotion to national songs sung in Ukranian. In Kazatin, we learn of Levi's yearning for a Russian girl he knew.
And, sadly, in the end, we are of course reminded of the way in which Levi remained haunted and terrorized by his life. And of how he took his own life by throwing himself down the stairs of the Turin building in which he lived.
"Primo Levi's Journey" is a film about a man who was a powerful part of our collective conscience in the 20th century, but it also is an unflinching portrait of a changing Europe.
In an interview Ferrario pointed out that in most small towns, locals were eager to point out what was new (read: what the West had brought), whereas he and his colleagues were eager to capture the exact opposite.
His ability to wrap his lens around that dichotomy is part of what makes "Primo Levi's Journey" so engrossing.
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.
He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.
With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.
He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.
In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.
He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.