The Italian neorealist movement refers to an aesthetic of film, that gained prominence in the 1940s. The subject of neorealist films tends to be working class citizens and their everyday struggles. According to Nichols (1991), neorealism places its faith in reality, but attempts to convey reality through aesthetics over logic. Neorealism, “accepted the documentary challenge to organize its aesthetics around the representation of everyday life not simply in terms of topics and character types but in the very organization of the image, scene, and story.”

Neorealism can be interpreted as a counterculture movement, in the sense that it positioned itself in opposition to the telefono bianco films and Hollywood films stemming from profit-driven organizations. For inspiration, the neorealists turned to French poetic realism, as well as documentary film style.

Neorealist films normally contain the following characteristics:

  • Use of nonprofessional actors.
  • Shot almost exclusively on-location, in working-class neighborhoods or the countryside.
  • Subject matter involves issues considered “banal” in Hollywood terms.
  • Children often featured in major roles.


Nichols, B. (1991). The fact of realism and the fiction of objectivity. In Representing Reality: Issues and Concepts in Documentary. Bloomington: Indiana UP.