The history of the birth of an icon, the Borsalino hat. From the factory where it was conceived in a small Italian town, to the glamorous world of Hollywood. 



Starring: Robert Redford, Piero Tosi, Massimo Pieroni, Jean-Claude Carrière, Deborah Nadoolman Landis, Eddie Muller, Marilyn Vance, Alberto Barbera, Dante Spinotti

Film genre: creative documentary - Film director: Enrica Viola - Duration: 78 min. - Release date in Italy: 13th April, Alessandria




“Dear Vittorio, you may remember me…, my name is Robert Redford”, wrote the actor in a letter to a Borsalino family member in which he wished for himself the same hat that Marcello Mastroianni was wearing in Fellini's . This letter epitomizes the history of the Borsalino, a hat that became an iconic garment all over the world but was produced with love and passion in Alessandria, a small town in Northern Italy.

The film narrative is told by means of a commentary, partly in voice-over and partly spoken by a shadow – a hint to the imaginary world of movies associated with the hat. While depicting the destiny of a family company, the film leads us through the creation and consolidation of a brand that owes so much to the cinema. From the interviews with direct and indirect witnesses the picture of two different worlds emerges: the small provincial town with its entrepreneurs, its workers and local historians, and on the other hand the movie star system with its celebrities and luminaries (Robert Redford, Jean Claude Carrière, Piero Tosi, Deborah Nadoolman Landis). These two worlds merge into one dialogue, whose trait d'union is in fact the Borsalino.

The hat owes its name to Giuseppe Borsalino, who in 1857, right after having obtained the title of “Qualified Master Hatmaker” in Paris, founded the first fulling plant in Alessandria together with his brother Lazzaro. Production rose fast, from 35 hats a day to 2000 at the end of the century. Giuseppe had two great intuitions: industrial mass production and the opening of new markets. He himself made many long journeys to promote his new hat, from Europe to Latin America, from the United States to New Zealand. Thanks to an efficient salesmen network, by the end of the Nineteenth century the reputation of the hat's high quality was established. Teresio Borsalino took over the company at his father’s death in 1900; still the road to success was paved with obstacles. His cousin Giovanni Battista, who felt betrayed after being pushed out of the family business, opened a rival hat company in Alessandria – “G.B. Borsalino fu Lazzaro & C.”. The two companies engaged in a commercial battle fought with manifestos and industrial films, a battle that endured until the Antica casa madre bought the Nuova Borsalino in 1938. In the first two decades of the Twentieth century Borsalino’s fame grew in every continent, boosted by ad campaigns aimed at consolidating its traditional middle-class clientele, as well as reaching the expanding cultural and movie industries. From that moment on, the company looked at new ways of brand promotion, amongst which modern industrial movies of the highest quality.

The new course of Borsalino coincided with the birth of Hollywood's star system, together with the explosion of mob films with their fascinating gangster characters. The likes of Al Capone, Lucky Luciano and John Dillinger wore Borsalinos, and the movie industry looked at them for inspiration. It was through the film noir genre that the Borsalino entered into mainstream culture, becoming a synonym for “hat”. Gangsters, cops and private eyes all wore a fedora, a wide-brim hat that cast a dark and mysterious shadow on the actor's face. The Borsalino rapidly spread across all genres, appearing in adventure films, romantic comedies or musicals – it defined roles, professions, style and class. The hat became an object with unique gesture's capacity. It could trigger passions, tears or laughter. More than that: it was a purveyor of symbols that were becoming essential in the cinema industry. In 1939, at the outburst of World War II, Nino Usuelli followed his granduncle Teresio at the helm of the company: it was the worst time ever for Borsalino, which had to go through the hardships of war, the German occupation, the bombings of 1944 and foreign markets closure. But the real decline would come after the war, and mostly during the 60’s, as the cultural revolution and the onset of individualism began to replace a patriarchal and conservative society. With the economic boom and the subsequent automobile mass consumption, the hat loses its role as a daily use garment, and sales sink in few years.

The company is sold in 1979, and for Alessandria this means the downfall of generations of hatmakers. Cinema too experiences a big change in both its aesthetics and values, yet, disregarding the hat’s fate, it doesn't cast it off. Indeed, cinema will build the myth of Borsalino as we now know it.


News and events

August 2020

Screened worldwide, premiered at the 33° Torino Film Festival, broadcasted on Rai Cinema, Sky Arte, ARTE France, and many other European channels and presented in festivals from Brazil to Portugal, from Japan to Australia, “Borsalino City”, the creative documentary by the Italian director Enrica Viola, lands on your home screens in a new unreleased English version available on Vimeo on-demand!

Follow this link:

Torino, Torino Film Festival – 21st, 22nd, 24th November 2015

Melbourne, ACMI – 25th February → 11th March 2016

Barcelona, Moritz Feed Dog Festival – 11th, 12th March 2016

Alessandria, Premiere Teatro Alessandrino – 13th April 2016 at 19:00

Alessandria, Cinema Kristalli – 14th → 21th April 2016

Bologna, Cinema Lumière – 14th April 2016 at 18:00

Napoli, Cinema Modernissimo – 15th April 2016 at 20:30

Genova, Cinema Club Amici del Cinema – 18th April 2016 at 21:00

Torino, Cinema Centrale – 19th April 2016 at 20:30

Milano, Cinema Mexico – 20th April 2016 at 19:30

Roma, Cinema Adriano – 21th April 2016 at 20:30

Venezia, Cinema Giorgione – 22th April 2016 at 21:00

Firenze, Cinema Odeon – 28th April 2016 at 21:00


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Cast and credits


  • in order of appearance

    Robert Redford

    Vittorio Vaccarino

    Paolo Vaccarino

    Elena Vitelli

    Massimo Arlotta

    Maria Vaccarino

    Jacopo Gardella

    Giancarlo Subbrero

    Marie-Laure Gutton

    Piero Tosi

    Massimo Pieroni

    Ugo Boccassi

    Giovanna Raisini Usuelli

    Jean-Claude Carrière

    Deborah Nadoolman Landis

    Eddie Muller

    Marilyn Vance

    Alberto Barbera

    Dante Spinotti

    Mariella Vaccarino


    voices of Borsalinos workers

    Gianni Coscia

    Ombretta Zaglio

    Giorgio Boccassi

    Donata Boggio Sola

    Ferruccio Reposi

    Silvia Ferro

    Bruna Buonadonna

    Graziella Bertazzello

    Alessio Sabetta

    Pozzoli Ernesto

    Bruna Cassol

    Bruno Aldo


    narrator voice

    Dario Penne


    mime actor

    Guido Ruffa


  • written by

    Enrica Viola

    Paola Rota

    Erica Liffredo


    narrator voice written by

    Paola Rota



    Enrico Giovannone


    director of photography

    Luciano Federici


    music by

    Giorgio Li Calzi


    produced by

    Enrica Viola

    in collaboration with

    Virginie Guibbaud

    Simone Bachini


    directed by

    Enrica Viola


    graphic and animation

    Nicolas Lichtle



    Katell Djian


    sound design


    Vito Martinelli

    Paolo Armao


    post-production supervisor

    Paolo Favaro








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