“If people cannot feel Shoeshine, what can they feel?” Pauline Kael once asked when recalling her tear-blurred first encounter with De Sica’s wrenching drama Shoeshine, a game-changing neorealist text from De Sica and screenwriter/ theorist Cesare Zavattini, about two boys scraping out an existence in devastated post-WWII Italy by shining the shoes of American G.I.’s, only allowed to be truly young when they can manage to afford an hour of horseback riding. The first international film recognized by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, celebrated as a product of “a country scarred by war” that offered “proof to the world that the creative spirit can triumph over adversity.” The film’s Special Award in 1948 was a precursor to Italy’s impressive run in the competitive Best Foreign Language Film category created in 1956, going on to score more wins than any other country. 35mm print courtesy of the Blackhawk Film Collection at the Academy Film Archive.
Preceding Shoeshine are two short films, which also celebrate the year 1947 on screen. Tweetie Pie, a Looney Tunes adventure featuring Sylvester the Cat and Tweetie Bird, won the Oscar® for Best Short Subject (Cartoon). World Series 1947 Newsreel, a historic document of the New York Yankees vs. Brooklyn Dodgers, features Jackie Robinson in the year he broke the color line, with the games held in the long-vanished Ebbets Field and old Yankee Stadium. Combined, all three films form a program, representing what could easily have been playing on screens in New York in 1947.