Women of the World  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

La donna nel mondo (English-language title: Women of the World) is a 1963 mondo documentary film made by Italians Gualtiero Jacopetti, Paolo Cavara and Franco Prosperi. Original music was composed by Riz Ortolani and Nino Oliviero. The film is a series of segments profiling many interesting or unusual activities done by women in different countries.

Among those featured are women training in the Israel Army, a female priest in Sweden, window prostitutes in Hamburg's red light district, bed models in Hollywood California, professional mourners in Sardinia, Lamaze classes in Switzerland, a fashion show given to the Maasai, divorce ranches in Nevada, United States Treasurer Elizabeth Rudel Smith, eyelid-shaping surgery in Japan, and spent ordnance scavengers in Western Sahara.

Released first in Italy on January 30 1963, most of the footage was shot in 1962. Its original uncut length is 107 minutes. Narration for the Italian version was done by Stefano Sibaldi, while English narration was provided by Peter Ustinov.

Title Variations

English Women of the World
Finnish Maailman naiset
French La femme dans le monde
German Alle Frauen dieser Welt
Greek I gynaika s' olo ton kosmo
Italian La donna nel mondo
Portugese Mundo Mulher
Turkish Dünya kadinlari


As it’s possible to argue by these rare 1961’ old articles, Mondo Cane and Women of the World were a unique project in realization, then divided in two parts, and two films. When this news were published Mondo Cane was too far to issue and last immediately Cineriz’ success remembered was “The Sweet Life”(1960). They are important documents testifyin’ director Paolo Cavara’s and his supervisor Stanis Nievo’s interviews on film.


  • What makes Hawaii’s women tick? An Italian film company intends to let the world in on the secret when it completes a two–part technicolor documentary in time for competition at the Venice Film Festival in September. «There’s a kind of plot», dapper Paolo Cavara, director for Produzione Cineriz of Rome, confined here yesterday. «It’s baring the secret of woman’s survival. Woman is born less sturdy than man. But here she is! The woman chooses a different way to reach success in her fight against man’s superior strength. Sometimes she wins». «This is a factual film. It will be very beautiful. We are tracing woman from the primitive to the modern.» Cavara was aboard the President Wilson yesterday. He will set the Hawaii sequence before the arrival of an eight–man crew including directors, cameramen and production managers now shooting in the South Pacific. They are due Feb.1 for a month’s shooting. Just who will be the modern Hawaiian woman or where the filming will take place, Cavara does not know. He has completed the Japanese woman’s role in the film. All European segments, excluding Iron curtain areas, were completed in the past nine months. Women from the most primitive parts of New Guinea have been recorded. Africa, said Cavara, will come after “the American parts”. Cavara hopes the film titled “The Woman of the world,” will be another winner for Produzione Cineriz which took first prize at the 1960 Cannes Film Festival with “The Sweet Life”, starring Anita Ekberg and Marcello Mastroianni.


  • Tokyo is currently undergoing a quiet invasion of youthful, gallant movie types from sunny Rome, here on a familiar Latin quest. The gentlemen are in search of the ladies. The chase have taken them to charm schools, bride schools, transistor factories, night clubs, the Kodokan, the Tokyo cocktail school for fledgling bartenders, and the JTB. Out of this diffuse search into the nooks and crannies of modern Japan will come the feature players of a full–length, wide–screen, full color Italian documentary film “La donna nel Mondo” (Women of the world). This week we met the first stage of the Italian film contingent, production manager Stanislao Nievo and director Paolo Cavara, who have been here for the past week or so setting the stage for the camera crew of two and two more directors who arrive in Tokyo in a few days. Before getting down to the plot, or rather purpose of “La Donna”, Mr. Nievo explained why so many directors were involved. «Some of the men have other commitments, and you’re doing a long documentary that will take you all over the world, as this one will, you need to work with more than one director. And besides, several directors are something of a tradition in Italian documentaries. A lot of films are made this way, including the recent film on China. “La Grande Muraglia” “La Donna”, Mr Nievo went on to say, is a Production Cineriz, the company that made this year’s smashing Cannes Festival success, “La Dolce Vita”(…). But “La Donna” will be quite a different sort of affair. Mr Nievo assured to us. «We want to show what the women of today are doing in Europe, America, Asia and Africa, and to catch the particular essence of the women of different countries. In Europe, it will be ‘changing woman’, in India, perhaps we’ll emphasize fashion, and in Japan, we will try to show the graciousness of the women – a traditional graciousness which they manage to preserve even in the most mundane aspects of modern life». Were Mr Nievo and company trying to come up with a combination for the perfect woman, we asked. «Goodness No!» he laughed. «We aren’t looking for a perfect woman, just for a human woman, one who can be admired by women as well as liked by men. As close as we can get to this will be the sign of our success.» And what will Italian women contribute to this winning combination, was our next question. Mr Nievo answered with a sly smile, «that is a problem we intend to avoid. We will simply contrast the generalized northern European and the generalized southern European woman.» Mr Nievo and company are also deftly skirting the question of the role of man in modern woman’s life. Man, he sneaks in at all, will only be a shadowy figure “somewhere in the background.” “La Donna” has three directors but non scriptwriter. «We all write it as we go along», he explained. «A documentary depends on what you see and discover as you go along.» And getting back to the subject of Japan’s women, director Cavara (ho has worked as an assistant director on many made–in–Rome American productions, including John Huston’s “Beat the Devil”) chimed in with one of his discoveries on the local scene. «Here everything I so sweet and gentle. You don’t see any corruption on the faces of the women. In other countries there are women who are tramps and look it. But here if there are any tramps, you can’t tell just by looking at them.» Japan is the first outside Europe. Stop in the movie makers’ itinerary. After several weeks shooting here there are off for Hong Kong, Singapore and Indonesia. With such a long way still to go, the film won’t be ready for release until fall of ’62.

Maggy Burrows

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