DENUNCIA: Speaking Up in Modern Italy

Screening of Viva Zapatero!

Posted in Documentary Film Festival by nyudenuncia on March 14, 2009

On Thursday March 12 Viva Zapatero! was screened at the Casa Italiana Zerilli-Marimò as part of the “Denuncia in Documentary” series.  Jonathan Mullins presented the film. 

Jonathan Mullins presents the documentary.

Jonathan Mullins presents the documentary.

The film takes aim squarely at Silvio Berlusconi, examining how his stranglehold on the Italian media effectively eliminates voices of opposition in Italian public life.

Guzzanti, an actress, writer and director known for her penetrating satire, has personal experience with Berlusconi’s control of public discourse in Italy through his media empire.  In late 2003 she appeared on what was to be the first episode of Raiot, a late night political satire show on Rai Tre.  Her caricature of Berlusconi–complete with a double breasted suit, a wig with his dyed maroon hair and signature disregard for everyone that is not him–was spot-on. In fact, it was so good that Raiot’s first episode was also its last. Rai Tre pulled the show immediately. 

Soon thereafter, Berlusconi’s attorneys sued Guzzanti for 20 million euros, citing her “lies and insinuation” that they alleged constituted a personal attack on Berlusconi. At the heart of their lawsuit was a tenuous definition of satire, “quella cosa che tende a sdrammatizzare e a rendere simpatico un politico, a diminiure le tensioni sociali” (that which tends to make light of and render likable a politician, to diminish social tensions), Their definition of satire eliminates the critique essential to the form’s ludic potential, that   comically reveals social tensions while making its audience think hard through humor about how these tensions are structured. In its account of the censoring of her caricature of Berlusconi and resulting legal scuffle, Viva Zapatero puts into relief the dangerous challenges to free speech that exist in Berlusconi’s Italy.  Article 21 of the Italian constitution guarantees the citizen’s right to free expression with word, either in written form or through any other mean of disseminationsatire included–in order to assure democracy in the Italian Republic.  Guzzanti’s documentary illuminates the precarious state of democracy in contemporary Italy, where the multiplicity of voices are being silenced through Berlusconi’s univocal control of public discourse through Mediaset. 


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