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. 


Screening of Improvvisamente l’inverno Scorso

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

On Tuesday March 3 Improvvisamente l’inverno scorso was screened at the Casa Italiana Zerilli-Marimò as part of the “Denuncia in Documentary” series.  

Since 1994 the European Parliament has adopted resolutions in order to compel the member States of the European Union to eliminate any kind of discrimination against homosexuals. But because no country legally recognized same sex couples, in 1997 another parliamentary resolution considered this discrimination. In 2000 as part of a resolution on human rights, the Parliament directly requested that the States grant rights to unmarried and same sex couples equal to those of traditional marriages. Many countries in Europe complied. In 2006 the Parliament passed an official condemnation of homophobia. 

In the same year, Romano Prodi won the national election in Italy. Legal civil partnerships were part of his political platform. The following year, the Minister of Equal Opportunities proposed a bill named DiCo, a law intended to create these civil unions.

Departing from their own situation, Luca and Gustav, who have been a couple for 8 years, decided to follow the resulting debate over DiCo as it unfolded. Their documentary captures the wide-spread homophobia that emerged in reaction to DiCo across the political, religious, and social fabric of Italy. The film is also the story about their discovery and reaction to a deep-rooted anti-gay mentality that they hadn’t expected to find.  Theirs is a journey through an un-accepting Italy where they have the courage to ask the simple question, “why not?” — a question to which they often hear no real answer. Despite the bitter reality they confronted, they were able to narrate the events with irony and even lightness.

DiCo does not pass—due in no small part to the intervention of the Catholic Church—and Italy remains one of the few members of the European Union with no recognized civil partnerships.

Improvvisamente l’inverno scorso has been awarded in many film festivals around the world and gained immediate distribution abroad. But not in Italy. It hasn’t even been shown at a movie theater. Besides this, it has traveled across Italy when specifically invited to do a screening by particular organizations. However, the DVD, along with a book written by Luca and Gustav, is now available in bookstores because it was a successful film even if never given a proper reception in Italy.

Luca and Gustav kindly sent to us a short video in order to open the screening. We would like to warmly thank them for their participation.  


Audience in the auditorum of the Casa Italiana

Audience in the auditorum of the Casa Italiana


Alessandra Montalbano presents the documentary.  In the background you can see the video message that Luca and Gustav sent to introduce the screening.

Alessandra Montalbano presents the documentary. In the background you can see the video message that Luca and Gustav sent to introduce the screening.






Denuncia in Documentary: Two Film Screenings

Posted in Documentary Film Festival by nyudenuncia on February 27, 2009

In the last few weeks leading up to the Conference, two documentary films will be screened at NYU’s Casa Italiana.  Like Maccioni’s Stato di eccezione which was presented by Valeria Castelli in late January at the Casa Italiana, these documentaries’ themes are linked to the problematic of the Italian Graduate Student Association’s conference of Denuncia. Ph.D. students from the Department of Italian Studies will introduce each film.

The schedule is as follows:

March 3 at 6pm: Improvvisamente l’inverno scorso  (Suddenly, Last Winter)   improvvisamente

(2008, 80 min, In English and Italian with English subtitles)

By Gustav Hofer and Luca Ragazzi

Beginning with the proposal of DiCo, a law intended to grant civil partnerships to homosexual as well as heterosexual couples, this film documents the reactions of public and political opinion across Italy and in the Church. Told with both lightness and solemnity from the perspectives of Gustav and Luca and their relationship, the documentary reveals a homophobic impulse that surprises even the directors themselves.

The film will be presented by Alessandra Montalbano.

March 12 at 6pm:  Viva Zapatero! 

(2005, 80 min, In English and Italian with English subtitles)

By Sabina Guzzantizapatero1

In this documentary film, Sabina Guzzanti chronicles her conflict with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi over her political satire show, Raiot, broadcasted on RAI-3 in November 2003. The show was canceled after the first episode in which Guzzanti criticized Berlusconi’s media empire. The comedian was later sued for 20 million euros. Her documentary comments on the limited freedom of speech, censorship and information control in Italy.

The film will be presented by Jonathan Mullins.

Those participating in the Conference from the New York/tri-state area are urged to attend the screenings. There will be a discussion after each screening with NYU Italian Studies graduate students.

Maccioni’s “Lo stato di eccezione. Processo per Monte Sole 62 anni dopo” (2007).

Posted in Documentary Film Festival by nyudenuncia on January 30, 2009

locandina1As part of the Casa Italiana’s programming for the Giorno della Memoria, Germano Maccioni’s Lo stato di eccezione was shown on January 28th.  The film was also the first screening of the Denuncia Documentary Film Festival (stay tuned for details on future showings in late February and March). The director, Germano Maccioni, was present for the screening and answered questions from the audience.

Lo stato di eccezione. Processo per Monte Sole 62 anni dopo was made in 2007 for the Regione Emilia Romagna. It has already been presented to important Italian film festivals, like Venice, and has won the Jury Special Prize at the “Libero Bizzarri” Festival in 2008.

An extraordinary documentary, Maccioni’s Lo stato di eccezione records the trial against 17 ex-SS German soldiers held in the Military Court of La Spezia between 2006 and 2007. These soldiers were accused for bringing about the 1944 Monte Sole Massacre, which took place 10 miles South of Bologna along the Gothic Line. German soldiers, lead by Walter Reder and aided by Italian Fascists, killed 770 people. Among them there were children, elders, and women. The massacre was carried out in over 100 locations, where houses, churches, roads, livestock were burnt down together with the victims. The communities of three small towns, Marzabotto, Monzuno and Grizzana, were completely destroyed and entire families were annihilated. Should we exclude the final solution inflicted upon the Jews, we could say that the Monte Sole massacre constituted the biggest extermination of civilians perpetrated by the Nazi troops in Italy and Western Europe. Not only its massive proportion, but also the brutality, the ferocity that drove the German soldiers to indiscriminately kill children, seniors, women and to transform those territories in a “macelleria” (a butchery) as survivors would repeatedly describe them, characterized this massacre.

The title of Maccioni’s documentary film has different meanings. First of all, it refers to Giorgio Agamben’s well known Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and the Bare Life, where a state of exception is defined by the “suspension of the juridical order”. The title also refers to the “exception” of no trial conducted against the soldiers responsible for such a massacre from the end of World War II until this trial in La Spezia. Only Walter Reder was sentenced to life imprisonment in 1951 by the Bologna Military Court and then released in 1985 because of the intercession of the Austrian government. However, there is also another “exception”: 695 trial files hidden for decades in the so-called armadio della vergogna (“the closet of shame”) at the Military Court of Rome, which also contained information related to ex-SS criminals involved in the Monte Sole massacre. Finally, the absence of all 17 defendants accused of aggravated assault and murder is the exception of such a trial, which took place in absentia.

The necessity of securing a judgment shapes the survivors’ narration in their role of “superstiti”, survivors, and “supertestes,” in its Latin meaning, as people who have experienced an event and can bear witness to it. Therefore, in the context of the trial, memory becomes a means for the acquisition of facts and the decision of a legal judgment. The survivors’ language makes clear how painful this operation becomes. Not only does their use of dialect clash against the precise judicial language of the court, but the trauma of recollecting such tragic events after more than sixty years becomes palpable. Indeed, the survivors’ lives are still affected by the memory of the events that hurt and shocked them irreparably. Maccioni’s camera eye records their eyes still filled with the horror they witnessed and felt in front of the Nazis’ indiscriminate violence, whose aim was not “simply” to kill, but rather to de-humanize their victims. Maccioni’s documentary constitutes a testament to the victims’ memory; it records and empowers the survivors’ voices, while also denouncing the attempts to suppress the legal evidence about these war crimes and the much-delayed legal process.


Interview with Germano Maccioni:

Website of the film:

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