release 2015

The Borsalino hat is an icon created by the stylish film noir. During Hollywood's golden years, everyone wore a Borsalino. What few people know is that these hats were made in Alessandria, a provincial town in Northern ltaly, in a factory headed by the same family for over 120 years. It all started with Giuseppe Borsalino who, after having obtained the title of «maître Chapelier» in Paris in 1857, opened the first hat workshop in Alessandria. The hat production roses in a few years. The skilled Borsalino vendors were trained to find new markets, following the example of their master, Giuseppe Borsalino, a tireless world traveler. ln the early 20th century, the high-quality reputation of the Borsalino hat had already reached the entire world.
Teresio Borsalino, who inherited his father's company business in 1900, followed a dynamic commercial strategy, targeting new markets in the world of arts and cinema. This direction coincides in the twenties with the birth of a wealthy film industry in Hollywood and the rise of gangster figures, such as Lucky Luciano, Al Capone and John Dillinger who all wore a Borsalino. Through the noir genre films, the «Borsalino» captivated collective imagination, becoming synonymous of «hat». The common point between gangsters, and private investigators is the fedora, the police wide brimmed hat, whose shadow-making effect creates obscure characters thus increasing the sense of mystery.
Very quickly, the Borsalino spread to all the cinema genres, appearing in adventure films, romantic films, musicals. The hat defines roles, professions, styles and social classes. lt can be handled in a way that no other piece of clothing can. The hat is able to trigger passions, tears or laughter. Above all, it is a trendsetter and an essential prop in the film industry. In 1939, Teresio Usuelli succeeds his uncle as head of the brand and manages to maintain the company in spite of difficult times during WWII. However, this success slows significantly in the sixties when a cultural revolution occurs: with the move from a formal, conformist society to one of individuality and creative expression, the economic boom and the mass adoption of the car, the hat loses its daily function and sales drop within a few years. A whole generation of hatters ends, along with the family business, which is sold in 1979. Meanwhile, and thanks to the cinema, the «Borsalino» has now become a myth.

Borsalino City is a story about "family capitalism" and its domination over the life of a small town for over 120 years.  What  is  striking  about  Borsalino  nowadays is that,  on  one  hand,  Alessandria   doesn't   have  any outward sign of  its former  glory,  while,  on the  other hand, all over the world there exists a powerful legacy  of fantasy and mystique surrounding the Borsalino brand.
We'll explore the intense lives of the three men of the family who ran the company. Their common point is an indisputable sense of  business  with  a touch  of paternalism, but also their  faith in "their civilizing mission", expressed through the production of an accessory different from the others, endowed with a strong symbolic potential: the hat.
By interviewing descendants from the Borsalino family, retired workers, great figures of the film industry, experts and intellectuals, we'll bring to light the building of a success story, based on the marriage of worlds as different as the backstage of a provincial town and the footlights of a film set.
We will spice our conversations with irony by juxtaposing the most popular noir movies with our eyewitness accounts and interviews. The same irony, mixed with a touch of nostalgia, will guide the projection of archives on the walls of the old factory building of what was, in the past, a one-company town. 

Enrica Viola
Enrica Viola, Paola Rota, Erica Liffredo
Enrica Viola, Paola Rota, Erica Liffredo
Director of photography
Luciano Frederici
Original Music
Giorgio Li Calzi
Mirko Guerra, Vito Martinelli con Zero dB, Dana Farzanehpour, Joshua Wilkinson
Altri credits

Paola Rota (co regista) Archivio Nazionale Cinema d'Impresa (immagini di archivio).

Cast and characters

Robert Redford, Eddie Muller, Deborah Nadoolman Landis, Marilyn Vance, Dante Spinotti, Jean-Claude Carriere, Piero Tosi, Massimo Pieroni, Vittorio Vaccarino, Paolo Vaccarino, Alberto Barbera, Cinzia Bianchi, Giancarlo Subbrero, Marie Laure Gutton, Maria Vaccarino, Giovanna Raisini Usuelli, Mariella Vaccarino, Massimo Arlotta, Jacopo Gardella, Ugo Boccassi e gli ex operai della Borsalino spa.

Production Director
Adriano Bassi, Stefano Basso, Stefano Masera, Angele Le Nevé
Organizzatore generale
Adriano Bassi
Executive production
Una Film (Torino)
Enrica Viola, Simone Bachini, Virginie Guibbaud
Virginie Guibbaud, Simone Bachini per Apapaja e Les Films d'Ici 2 (Francia)
Film riconosciuto di interesse culturale con il contributo economico del Ministero dei beni e delle attività culturali e del turismo / con il sostegno di MEDIA programme / Arte France / Film Commission Torino Piemonte (Piemonte Doc Film Fund - Fondo regionale per il documentario - produzione dicembre 2014) con il Patrocinio del Comune di Alessandria e del Museo Nazionale del Cinema
Cinecittà Luce
Assistente al montaggio
Voce narrante
Guido Ruffa
Enrica Viola (Una film)
Last update: 31 July 2023