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Girolamo Donzellini and his Heretical Network - A Historical Documentary.
22 backers pledged $3,154 to help bring this project to life.

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We are two historians looking for funding in support of our documentary tentatively titled ‘Thought Crimes in C16 Italy: Girolamo Donzellini and his Heretical Network.’

This project tells the story of Girolamo Donzellini - a ‘heretical’ physician in C16 Italy - and his network. At a time when the Reformation was raging and when confessional disagreements had reached fever pitch, Donzellini found himself first branded a heretic for his Protestant beliefs. After years of avoiding the inquisition and a journey which took him from Padua, to Rome, Venice, and Basel, Donzellini’s ‘heresy’ developed after he witnessed the results of dogma on both sides of the theological divide.  He would eventually meet his end at the hands of the Venetian inquisitors for his unswerving commitment to religious peace, tolerance, and his refusal to stop disseminating knowledge that the authorities deemed heretical.   

We want to tell this story because we think it has many pertinent things to say about the history and importance of freedom thought and expression at a time when these fundamental principles of the western world feel, at times, under threat. 

This documentary will illustrate the experiences of Donzellini and the early modern religious dissenters in his network, who, hopeless and doomed as they were, embodied a small, but vitally important step towards the rise and political acceptance of freedom of thought. The story of Donzellini and his network is an authentic testimony of the most genuine refusal to conform and a sincere defense of peace and intellectual creativity. If history is written by the winners, this documentary hopes to bring to light the legacy of an underground social group whose radical life choices, whilst branding them as “scandalous” in their own time, represent the true banner of freedom today. Their stories encourage us to re-think our own understanding of what that term truly means and its importance. 

What are we asking for?

We are aiming to go into production in Italy in March and are asking for donations (big or small) to help with the costs of this. As this is a non-profit academic endeavor we have a limited budget and are looking for donations in order to be able to give this story the professional treatment we think it deserves . Donations will be put towards the cost of camera and equipment rental,  hiring extra production crew and sketch artists, and post production wages for editing.

We are hoping to raise $3,000 for this project. 

Who are we? 

This documentary is the result of an encounter between two young early modern historians, Alessandra Celati and Emma Hinchliffe. They share the same strong passion for telling stories from the past because they believe they can have significant value in the present. As such, they want these stories to be known outside the academic context. 

Alessandra is an Italian researcher who works between Stanford University and the University of Verona, She has been dealing with the history of religious dissent in sixteenth-century Italy over the past 10 years, receiving a PhD in 2016 for her thesis on “Physicians and heresy in sixteenth-century Italy.” She has long dreamt of the possibility to share her research, and the underground histories she came across in the archives, with a non-specialist audience.

Emma is completing her PhD in early modern British history at The University of Washington. She is currently writing her thesis ‘Foreign Things and the Construction of Cosmopolitan Kingship at the Court of Henry VIII.’ She is a young scholar and film maker whose ultimate career goal is to work in non-fiction production making historical documentaries. 

The two met at a conference at the Huntington Library in 2018. Emma was instantly fascinated by the story of Donzellini and his secret social network of dissenters when she heard Alessandra present on the topic at the Huntington Library in 2018. This non-profit project was born out of this serendipitous, international,  collaboration.

The scope and style of the project: What will it look like?  

The production of this non-profit documentary is in part sponsored by the European Union, under the Horizon 2020, Marie Curie Global Fellowship that Alessandra Celati currently holds. The documentary will mainly be shot in Venice in 2019. Along with the two scholars who conceived the documentary, it will involve several young artists and we also hope to hire a small film crew with the help of your donations.

The documentary will combine fictional  scenes (largely in the form of period style sketches) with verite footage and  scholarly contributions. It is divided into eight sections, each of which describes - thanks to a detailed examination of original historical sources (mostly Inquisition trials) - a phase of Donzellini’s life. These reconstructions will be framed by a team of select historians who will elaborate on the context of Donzellini's actions and lead the audience on a historical trip through C16 Italy in a time of great suspicion, tension and inquisition. We choose this approach to stress the connections between major historical transformations and an individual’s daily life in the past. We expect the film to be around 30mins. 

We hope that you will share our enthusiasm for this project and choose to donate! 

Risks and challenges

The main challenge will be hiring actors and having access to authentic costumes, but we believe this is achievable with the right budget and is why we estimate that we will need a further 5,000 to make this project a success.

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Funding period

- (60 days)