News Column

Italians have to endure subtitles as film industry is hit by dubbers' strike

June 28, 2014

Lizzy Davies,

Italians settling down to watch their favourite US sitcoms this week have been given what for some was an unwelcome surprise: the actors were speaking English.

A 15-day strike by the country's formidable army of dubbers means several shows, such as the sitcom Parenthood and the fantasy cop drama Grimm, have been broadcast in their original language with Italian subtitles.

Fox Italy, which shows the award-winning series Modern Family on Sky Italia, announced that it would not even be showing Thursday's episode, preferring to postpone it until the strike was over.

"We apologise for the disruption," it wrote on Twitter.

Dubbers have a powerful role in Italy, where films and television programmes are rarely shown in their original language and the Italians who lend their voices to Hollywood's finest are sometimes stars in their own right.

When Claudio Capone the man who was the Italian voice not only of John Travolta but of Ronn Moss, star of The Bold and the Beautiful died in 2008, tributes poured in.

But at the moment the dubbers are involved in a fractious dispute over renewal of their sector's national contract. On 12 June, several unions issued a joint statement under the umbrella of the National Association of Actors and Dubbers, announcing industrial action and bemoaning a rise in both "underpaid work and 'black' work" in the industry. The strike is being carried out not only by dubbing actors, but by their dialogue writers, assistants and directors.

It is not the first time the sector has shown its clout. In 1998, dubbers downed tools for two months until viewers inundated a television channel with complaints for having the nerve to broadcast a US soap opera in English with subtitles. Dozens of Hollywood films had their Italian releases delayed because of the strike.

But this time, at least one commentator voiced approval of the new array of subtitled shows, declaring the dubbers' strike "a blessing". "Finally, for example, I saw Revolution [a US science fiction drama] with the real voices and real behaviour of the actors," wrote blogger Aldo Lastella on "I'm not saying we have to all be chained to the subtitles, but at least give us the option of choosing."

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Source: Guardian Web

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