Connecting the West to the East: Giuliano Montaldo’s Marco Polo as the first Italian and Chinese film co-production | Intellect Skip to content
Volume 2, Issue 3
  • ISSN: 2047-7368
  • E-ISSN: 2047-7376



A recent bilateral film co-production agreement between Italy and the People’s Republic of China (PRC), ratified in September 2012 by the Italian Parliament, will hopefully bring fruitful cooperations between these two national film and television industries. However, Chinese and Italian film co-productions are not an unprecedented phenomenon. The first co-production between these two film industries actually happened in 1982, when mini-series Marco Polo was produced by Italian television network RAI along with Chinese Company Cinematic Co-Production (CCCC). The aim of this article is to examine the production history of Marco Polo and its complex transnational dimension, through the analysis of issues previously highlighted by theoretical works about the crisis of national cinema and of issues of identity in European co-productions. Moreover, the article will analyze RAI’s production policy of the late 1970s and early 1980s, a watershed era that marks a move from the production of works of international film-makers of modern cinema, to more spectacular and marketable productions for the new global television market. Finally, I will discuss Marco Polo’s relationship with the Italian political film, an important production trend in 1970s Italian cinema, to which director Giuliano Montaldo contributed with at least three of his films. I will suggest that the Italian political film was extremely apt at narrating a story focused on intercultural communication, and that Montaldo had been hired by RAI because of his experience in this genre.


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