As a visual historian, Bertellini is interested in film aesthetics in the context of the dense artistic and cultural exchanges across the Atlantic. In his first book in English, Italy in Early American Cinema: Race, Landscape, and the Picturesque (2009), he followed the historical and geographic journeys of an aesthetic form, the picturesque, from 17th century paintings and 18th century prints to turn-of-the-20th-century films, and from the Italian to the North American racial culture. In the process, he also followed the picturesque’s original subjects, Southern Italians, as both protagonists and consumers of picturesque works. In the end, his research sought to recast established time-centered notions of cinematic modernity by mobilizing pressingly modern notions of geographic variance, racial difference, and migration.
In his latest monograph, entitled The Divo and the Duce: Promoting Film Stardom and Political Leadership in 1920's America, he focused on a historically narrower type of Atlantic exchange, the 1920s American popularity of Hollywood star Rudolph Valentino and dictator Benito Mussolini. Based again on a wide variety of sources and documents, Divo/Duce studied the historical convergences of celebrity culture, charismatic leadership and national sovereignty and in the process identified novel relationships between star studies and political science. The volume won the 2019 American Association for Italian Studies book award, for the category "Film/Media."
Over the years, Bertellini has published essays in such scholarly journals as Cinema Journal, Film Quarterly, Film History, The Velvet Light Trap, Urban History, The Journal of Urban History, Agalma: Rivista di Cultura ed Estetica; Italian American Review; Italica; Kintop; Comunicazioni Sociali, and NEMLA Italian Studies. Finding it difficult to stop writing in Italian, he has contributed articles and essays to daily newspapers and academic periodicals. More recently he has revised and expanded his 1996 monograph on Emir Kusturica, published in the series Il Castoro Cinema (Milan, 2011). The volume has appeared in English in 2015 in the "Contemporary Directors Series" of the University of Illinois Press. In 2017, Cristina Radu translated the English edition into Romanian for IBU Publishing (Bucharest). A Chinese translation of sections of the monograph are also due to appear, censorship permitting, in an anthology published by the Chinese Film Publishing House.
Bertellini is Associate Editor of the Journal of Italian Cinema and Media Studies and Co-Editor (with Richard Abel and Matthew Solomon) of the University of California Press book series "Cinema Cultures in Contact."
- Department of Romance Languages and Literatures
- Co-Winner, Italian American Studies Association, Book Award, 2020
- Finalist, Limina Book Award, Best International Film Studies Book Award, 2020
- Winner, American Association for Italian Studies Book Award, 2019
- Winner, Southwest Popular and American Culture Association’s 2015 Peter C. Rollins Book Award/Film and Television
- Winner, American Association of Italian Studies Book Award, 2010
- Winner, Robert K. Martin Prize for Best Book (Canadian Association for American Studies), 2010
- Finalist, American Studies Association/Lora Romero Book Prize, 2010
- Finalist, Modernist Studies Association Book Prize, 2010