Wednesday, 7 December 2005


November 25th. It’s my birthday and instead of celebrating with a breakfast with my Italian friends in Firenze and a dinner with my Dutch friends in Amsterdam (that’s one of the things I simply adore about living in Europe where everything is so close and airports serves almost every major city as if they were metro stations!) I board a train to Roma at six in the morning (!) to finally, after a four weeks chase, meet Sabina Guzzanti.

Sabina is busy lately, very busy. No wonder, since she brought to life the most impressive and important Italian documentary to date.
It started small and quietly, until the buzz about her new film, in one single blow, broke all expectations: an Italian documentary that sells throughout the world! (distributed by Wild Bunch, the same of Fahrenheit 9/11) It's like a mythological oddity, it's like nothing seen before; while national Cinema lives in perpetual anguish, Sabina Guzzanti makes an award winning Documentary.

Hailed as the Italian Michael Moore, Guzzanti titled her reel Viva Zapatero! (watch trailer) in praise of Spanish Prime Minister's liberal reforms. The film is, first and foremost, a rare pearl for Italy, still non-fiction filmmaking virgin-ground. Apart from being a stroke in the chest of the Berlusconi government and his control over the country's mediated media, Guzzanti’s virtuoso excursion in Documentary-Land is a well constructed, brave little work of genius. A little thing of beauty which masters filmmaking best tradition and potentials to tell a personal story that turns to be a perfect polaroid of the Italian current political predicament, and goes all the way to spring into a universal tale, which simple language makes it accessible to just about everybody. Accounting for Italy’s lost freedom of speech and information, Viva Zapatero! triggers laughter and anger, it brings out sorrow and irony, starts with misery and ends up with hope, and does exactly what good films do: it shakes you right in your blood, it stirs your consciousness, bestows awareness and inspires the masses, all this while providing top class entertainment.

Personally, I was shocked by the fact that such an anti-establishment reel could even get a distribution deal in Berlusconi’s Italy, a supposedly democratic country where the dej√†-odd Prime Minister can and does “fire” (among many others) Enzo Biagi, a mythical figure in journalists’ circles: a man with the longest and most brilliant career in his field was suddenly “purged” out of public television guilty of interviewing Oscar winning director/comedian Roberto Benigni during the 2001 Electoral Campaign. A few years later, in 2003, brilliant comedy queen Sabina Guzzanti shares the same fate: her satirical program RAIOT, weapons of mass distraction broadcast on public television gets cancelled after the first hugely successful episode. Why? The answer lays in the simple fact that regimes dislike comedians, because they are like children: they cannot help to tell the truth.

Viva Zapatero!
tells the truth about Guzzanti’s unfair dismissal with disarming simplicity, and in doing so the film unveils the devastation of a western-capitalist political system going sour, a noiseless catastrophe in which every single individual is involved without even being fully aware of the extends of their drama.

I wanted to give evidence on how a Democracy turns into something else, right under everyone’s nose
Says Sabina who at the beginning of the film describes herself as just a jester, one that makes governments shudder in fear!

The film won a buck-full of prizes around the world and will be screened at the coming International Film Festival Rotterdam, worldwide home to best independent films.

related links:
video RAIOT, weapons of mass distraction (in italian) – Viva Zapatero! on wikipediaarticle in VARIETYarticle in INDIEWIRERIOT on wikipedia (in italian)

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