In 2007, I was still a college student. In one of the lessons the following question fell in my mind: Who were the Levantines? Reading reference books did not satisfy me, I wanted to meet the individuals. One of my friends introduced me to Mr. Ruggero. Ruggero in turn I introduce me to Mr. Giovanni Scognamillo who nevertheless had one condition; you will have to pronounce his last name correctly. He knew I had no Italian, and after certain tries I was able to correctly pronounce the surname and thus was entitled for this visit. In fact, I was quite nervous. Giovanni Scognamillo had many books printed in Turkey, who was considered a film critic, and indeed of such stature that if you are a researcher on Turkish film history and your conclusions did not seem to overlap that of the old master you risked being ostrasised! Anyway, I called him on the phone and in a voice full of infinite love, he invited me to his house that day and the impression since then is that the door to the house was always open to me.
He was my Levantine light. He set me on a quest with such a good start, that I persued my later research tenaciously. I felt like I was visiting a family elder each time I was in his presence. I always carried in my heart his courtesy, beautiful heart, and smiling eyes. I do not think death is the appropriate word here, he has gone for a rest and still smiling to us from somewhere.
Scognamillo was born to a family of Italian Levantines; his father was the son of an immigrant from Naples and his mother nee Filipucci was descended from Genoese settlers of Tinos, an island to which many Turkish Levantines have ancestral roots to. Since his father Leone was the manager of the prestigious movie theatre Elhamra Sineması in Beyoğlu, he became acquainted with cinema in early years of his life. After graduation from the Italian Lycee of Istanbul, he started to write cinema articles for various Italian-language media. By 1961, he began his career in Turkish language press. He has published numerous books and probably the one he will be remembered the most is an autobiography Beyoğlu’nda Bir Levanten [A Levantine of Beyoğlu], that was also filmed a documentary in 2006. He has also translated numerous books. He also acted in various films in mostly minor roles through a major portion of his life. He was also a surreal artist and also featured in the documentary titled The Colours of Cultural Diversity (2010). Almost till he died, aged 87, he was active and he gave lectures on Turkish cinema history in a local university.
I am grateful for showing my secret way since we met. From now on we will meet in what you refer to in your book as “my last address” in the Feriköy Latin Catholic cemetery as well! Rest in peace “origins and source in the West, whose feet are in Turkey” the beloved Giovanni...
Giovanni Scognamillo, 25 April 1929 – 8 October 2016, Istanbul.
Further information on Giovanni: