New Documentary on Overseas Chinese in Italy

The film “Miss Little China,” a documentary about Chinese immigrants in Italy, has scarcely been noticed north of the Alps since its release this past July, but I found this documentary to be completely fascinating.  At least the parts I could understand.  Here is the trailer:

Much more of the film is available on La Repubblica’s television program here (program preceded by a harmless 15-second milk advertisement in Italian).  This program runs about 37 minutes, and is much recommended over the trailer.  For the benefit of readers who wish to skip over La Repubblica’s criticism of the film in favor of watching excepts of the documentary itself, I recommend the following sections (marked in minutes and seconds):

4:54-11:15  (sections in Chinese from 5:50-6:40 // along with a very intriguing sample of something that sounds like Italian/Chinese rap at 7:25, any leads would be appreciated)

13:30-15:00 (more Chinese dialog, including the complaint that Italians are so oblivious to Chinese individual appearances, that all Chinese males could share a single passport for getting into and out of the country and no one would notice)

19:40-21:50 (a rather humorous classroom sequence where a Chinese instructor tells a mute class that Eastern Europe is bad because it was communist, then admits that China must be really poor if people are having to come to economically struggling Italy to make money)

25:54-28:00 (on commerce)

32:15-34:40 (with a short excerpt at 33:30 of a place which is the spitting image of a Cleveland, USA Chinatown restaurant/karaoke joint on St. Clair Avenue, giving me both a sense of great distance but also intense familiarity, strange enough).

In other news, China is pumping up interest in the Shanghai Expo in Italy.  According to the Global Times:

[China’s National Tourism Office in Italy director] Xiong Shanhua announced the visit of a Chinese delegation of tourism entrepreneurs in Italy later in the year, who for one entire month will be traveling around the country to present China and the Shanghai Expo.

For Caterina Cittadino, the relationship between Italy and China is special with regards to tourism.

“Despite our much diversity, Italy and China feel culturally close to one another. This is why the Italian government has greatly invested in boosting cultural and tourist exchanges and we look forward to a stronger collaboration between tour operators.”

She forgot to mention continuities of cuisine, as well as familiarity with corruption!

Cittadino said that several of Italy’s best practices in tourism will be showcased at the Expo, noting that it stood as an opportunity to strengthen the perception in China of the Italian brand, which is already much loved in the country.

The official presentation of the Shanghai Expo in Rome was the first of a series to be organized across Italy. The same promotion ceremony will take place in coming days as well in Florence, Milan and Parma.

While the U.S. flounders with its own Expo preparations, two soft power giants are meeting in Milan…. And Le Figaro reports that a representative from the Vatican was in Beijing for talks in early March.

7 thoughts on “New Documentary on Overseas Chinese in Italy

  1. Hello,
    Fascinating documentary!! It does my Italian good, haha. I will go back and look at this more in depth after I turn in the paper..

    I’ve listened to the rap part of the video, and I do believe I caught what they were saying in Italian dialect…but I will make sure before I post it.

    1. Thanks Kristiana, glad to see you representing on the front line of intellectual warfare which is the East Asia blogosphere. (Wait a second, did I just use the words “intellectual” and “blogosphere” in the same sentence? Something to think about.)

      Polyglot Europe becomes more polyglot…Turkish rappers in Germany, etc. Globalization of Chinese rap would seem to be the next logical frontier.

  2. You should watch the film Gomorra about the Camorra, the Naples mafia. Part of it has to do with Chinese illegal immigrants working in clothing workshops that are competing with Camorra-controlled businesses. If you have the time, the non-fiction book it’s based on, by Robert Saviano, probably goes into more details about Chinese immigrants in Italy. I’ve only skimmed bits of it, but IIRC it says that the Camorra smuggle in large quantities of clothes and electronics, etc, from China too.

    1. Fantastic! Thanks for the tip. There is always the “Italian yachts to North Korea” story, but that one seems to have been covered pretty well. I’m starting to read the “Im Dienst des Diktators” about the process of export of luxury (and military) goods from Austria to DPRK, no juicy details just yet.

      1. The Naples area is full of little workshops that make clothes for major Italian fashion labels. Because they’re underground operations paying their workers way below the legal minimum wage, they can’t get credit from banks, so they get it from the Camorra instead. One of the characters in the film is the boss of one of these workshops, who starts moonlighting as an instructor for a rival sweatshop run and staffed by Chinese immigrants. The Chinese upstarts threaten the mob’s monopoly over the business, so when they find out what he’s been up to they make an example of him…

  3. I have read Gomorra, and yes, Chinese people make a fairly large experience in the chapters discussing the fashion industries- the book talks about large districts in the north of Naples which are full of grey sweatshops, as well as use of the work done by these shops by the Italian garment and bag trades.

    In my personal experience I can say that Italy is full of people from Southern Zhejiang (i.e. Wenzhou) and to a lesser extent Northern Fujian working in the clothing industries. This is true not only down south but also up north.

    (link to a slightly old Der Speigel article here: http://www.spiegel.de/international/spiegel/0,1518,435703,00.html)

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