ROBERTO BENIGNI's small Italian movie Life Is Beautiful has been nominated for seven Oscars, putting it in competition with America’s big guns. The words David and Goliath spring to mind. ,
. . “ﬁrst: Words: Miles Fielder , "(ﬂ-‘75 . . .
It's a wrap . . .
NO DOUBT MANY horror fans have already set their videos for the TV screening of Zombie Flesh Eaters, part of Channel 4's 'Censored Weekend' (see feature). But those wanting a fuller helping of Lucio Fulci's schlocker should note that it's the Italian print that's promised at the Dead By Dawn horror film festival, running at Filmhouse in Edinburgh from 5—7 Mar. Tickets
(f 12 two days: £15 three days) from 0131 229 6690 and 0131 623 8020. and full line-up next issue.
FILM, PERFORMANCE ART and choreography fuse in Metacorpus, but it's costume design that takes centre-screen in the shape of body sculptures by Jeanette Sendler and Anna Cocciadiferro. Sunni O'Connor's short film, which dazzles the eye and ear with visual tricks and a post-industrial soundtrack, screens at the Lumiere in Edinburgh along with Night Watch on Fri 26 Feb at 8.30pm. Definitely more ICA than C&A.
THE STRUGGLE OF the Mayan people against the Mexican government doesn't consume the front pages of British newspapers. It is, however, the subject of Zapatista, a documentary which argues that an indigenous people are defined by their culture and that, for a peasant community, that culture is the land they work and live upon.
In 1994, the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) sprang
In spite of the international acclaim that goes hand-in-hand with Academy Award nominations. Roberto Benigni — director. star and co-writer of Life Is Beautiful — is engagingly self-effaeing. ‘This is unbelievable.’ exclaims Benigni in an amused. richly accented voice direct down the phone line from Rome, a few hours after the Oscar list has been announced. ‘I thought it was a joke when they told me. Seven nominations - ha! l was expectingjust one. you know.’ The film has also been v . M receiving media attention for its ‘ " ' use of comedy [0 deal with its Bicycle chief: Roberto Benigni and Giorgio Cantarini in Life Is Beautiful serious subject matter — the
Holocaust. Like Schindler '5' List. Life Is Beautiful has also been derided for ‘trivialising’ its subject. But Benigni‘s response to his detractors is typically humble: ‘I respect them because we are talking about the biggest. most unbearable and most unspeakable tragedy in history.‘
However. Benigni. who is thus far best known in Britain for his motormouth performances in two Jim larmuseh films (Down By Law and Night On [fart/t). qualifies his response. couldn‘t betray my nature as a comedian. but this is not a comedy about the Holocaust: it’s a comedian who made a movie about the Holocaust.’ says the man who is a national institution in his home country. where a previous film. Johnny Siece/tino holds the Italian box office record.
Benigni‘s performance has been likened to Charlie Chaplin. one of his idols. If you‘ve yet to experience him. try imagining all three Marx brothers rolled into one. ‘My way. my style is not to show violence directly.’ he explains. ‘I think only survivors or a documentary can show or explain exactly what happened. Otherwise. it is better to stay very far away from the reality. This is just a movie about a wonderful father who is a little clown in the most extreme situation. I love the simplicity of the idea. because it‘s so human to protect purity and innocencef
Benigni has personal connections with the
ii 'Fellini said clowns or comedians are benefactors, like saints. They give you hope.’
Holocaust — his (non-Jewish) father was imprisoned in a German labour camp during the war and he was friends with the late writer and camp survivor Primo Levi — but the film‘s origins lie in a monologue the director improvised to his co-writer. In it Benigni’s character. Guido. protects his son‘s innocence by convincing the child their imprisonment in a concentration camp is a game. It‘s an audacious conceit and one Benigni passionately defends: ‘I fell in love so deeply with the idea that I couldn’t change the subject. Guido telling his son it is a game is absolutely the truth. This is absolutely human. :1 very natural thing, because it was too much. It's unbelievable. unspeakable. lt had to be a game.‘
There‘s no denying Benigni‘s conviction. nor how seriously he takes his comedy. 'Fellini said clowns or comedians are benefactors. like saints.‘ he muses. ‘They give you hope. They are animals. ghosts . . . we do not know what they are.‘
L'sing comedy. Benigni has found another way to speak about an unspeakable subject and his efforts have been met with approval. ‘In Italy I received many letters from parents. They told me: “Thank you. this is first time I can talk about the Holocaust to my children". The Holocaust belongs to everybody. It‘s part of our history.‘
Glasgow Film Theatre and Edinburgh Filmhouse from Fri 26 Feb. See review.
up in response to the exploitation of
the natives of the Chipas region, who were being 'sold out' in the name of foreign trade. The film juxtaposes damning interviews (Noam Chomsky and Zach de la
Rocha of Rage Against The Machine
are featured) with scenes of angry confrontation between locals and soldiers.
An eye-opening blend of CNN and MTV, Zapatista screens at Edinburgh
College of Art at 7pm on Mon 22 Feb and George Square Theatre, Edinburgh, at 7pm on Tue 23 Feb.
Tickets cost £3.50, with profits going
to human rights organisations.
Zach de la Rocha: raging against the
l8 Feb—4 Mar 1999 THE L|3T21