The Italian Almanac

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Pier Paolo Pasolini

Celebrating Pasolini

New York is celebrating the life and work of Italian cultural legend Pier Paolo Pasolini with a three-week calendar of plays, workshops, exhibits and screenings. A variety of prestigious New York locations is paying tribute to the controversial director and writer, who was murdered near Rome in 1975.

The tribute kicks off at the Italian Cultural Institute with the premiere of a documentary entitled Pasolini's Voice. Other documentaries will follow until December 18. On Wednesday the Italian Department at New York University will host a round-table conference, to be attended by academics as well as singer-songwriter Patti Smith, a passionate and vocal admirer of Pasolini's work. The Italian Cultural Institute is also focusing on Pasolini's literary achievements. Several readings, exhibitions and conferences are scheduled for coming weeks, starting with an event hosted by Pasolini's niece Graziella Chiarcossi.

The Lincoln Centre is screening a series of Pasolini movies under the title: ''Heretical Epiphanies: the Cinematic Pilgrimages of Pier Paolo Pasolini''. The mini-fest opens Wednesday with his second film, Mamma Roma, which portrays a middle-aged prostitute in Rome played by Anna Magnani.

Pasolini is a renowned figure in Italy but is little known in the US, and this is the first major New York event devoted to his work in 20 years. Born in Bologna in 1922, he courted controversy throughout his career.

The circumstances surrounding Pasolini's death remain a mystery. His battered body was discovered on waste ground outside the seaside town of Ostia near Rome in November 1975. He had been brutally beaten and then run over. Pino Pelosi, a rent-boy at the time, was caught by police at the wheel of Pasolini's blood-smeared car and immediately confessed to murdering the poet. But in 2005, Pelosi retracted his confession, saying Pasolini was beaten to death by a group of thugs who wanted to ''teach him a lesson''.

Pelosi, now in his late 40s and out of jail, said he had decided to ''tell the truth'' because his parents were no longer alive and therefore could not be the victims of retaliation by those who actually killed the director. Magistrates subsequently reopened their files on the murder but shelved the case in November 2005 saying they had found no new evidence.

Pasolini's friends, colleagues and admirers have never accepted the theory that Pelosi acted alone. Many are adamant that he was murdered for the radically 'dangerous' political views he expressed in his novels, books and newspaper editorials.