La città del sole (1973) takes as its central figure Tommaso Campanella, the Calabrian monk whose utopian vision of an egalitarian community in the seventeenth century anticipated many of the ideals of modern socialism. Amelio’s sympathy with Campanella’s revolutionary version of Christianity, accused of heresy by the Church, is plain. Collision with the feudal order preserved by Spanish rule in Southern Italy was preordained, and the film shows the increasing spiral of violence that resulted. Viewers are invited to reflect on the roots of cultural and economic oppression in the South. This was an extraordinarily bold departure for Italian television at the time, and Amelio was unable to make any more features for some years, teaching instead at the Centro sperimentale—the state film school—in Rome.
Amelio was born in San Pietro di Magisano, province of Catanzaro, Calabria. His father moved to Argentina soon after his birth, and he spent his youth and adolescence with his mother and his grandmother. The absence of a paternal figures will be a constant in Amelio’s future works. During his university studies of philosophy in Messina, Amelio got interested in cinema, writing as film critic for a local magazine. In 1965 he moved to Rome, where he worked as operator and assistant director for figures such as Liliana Cavani and Vittorio De Seta. He also worked for television, directing documentaries and advertisements. Amelio’s first important work is the TV film La città del sole, directed in 1973 for RAI TV and inspired to Tommaso Campanella’s work.