forgiven for thinking that Italian cinema is in a healthy state. But you‘d be wrong.
Two words: Silvio Berlusconi. Berlusconi the media magnate-turned-prime minister of Italy. Berlusconi the multi- billion dollar tycoon who owns around ()5 per cent of Italy‘s television companies. as well as newspapers. radio stations. web software. video rental chains and publishing houses. 'I‘hese business interests played a large part in getting him into power and keeping him there. Berluscoui. known as I] (‘avaliere or the Knight. the leader of the centre-right liorza ltalia ((io Italy) party. Berlusconi the man who shook hands with Tony Blair and offended the Arab nations with xenophobic comments.
Many of ltaly"s filmmakers are left wing: .Vloretti. for example. In his 1998 semi-documentary Aprilv Moretti mocked a number of politicians including Berlusconi (when The Son's Room failed to receive its expected Oscar nomination. Berlusconi’s boys were delighted). Also on the left are many of the Italian film industry‘s executives. Or. rather. they were. Since coming to power last May. Berlusconi's government has systematically gone about replacing leftist executives with centre-right ones. The Venice Iiilm Festival‘s head (the artistic director) has also been Iopped off. and with just four months to go before the country‘s premiere festival gets underway no new director has been appointed ( Berlusconi wanted Scorsese. but Matty said no). In this political climate. many of Italy‘s filmmakers. left—leaning and otherwise. are pessimistic about the future of Italian cinema.
I'm sitting in Rome‘s (‘ampo I)e’ I‘iori drinking cappuccino with Vincenzo Marra. whose Achilles' heel is still giving him jip. 'I'he busker‘s still playing. The sun‘s still shining. But everything isn‘t fine. ‘Iiverything belongs to him.‘ Marra mutters under his breath. ‘In Italy. there are limited ways to fund movies.‘ he says. ‘I’roducers investing their own money are extremely rare. 'I‘here's Medusa [big production outfit]. a financing contingent belonging to Berlusconi. or contributions from the Ministry of ('ultural Affairs — but who‘s the State now'." Quite.
Iiarlier I visited the home of I’upi Avati. an older more conservative man. But even Avati railed against regulation and institution. ‘Money isn‘t the greatest problem.‘ he says. sitting in his well-appointed city centre flat. ‘lt‘s bureaucracy.‘ Which.
presumably. would work against you were you attempting to make the kind of film Berlusconi wouldn’t favour.
Later that evening. while sharing a bottle of vino with Giuseppe Piccioni in his trendy little 'I‘rastevere flat. I find out what kind of films Berlusconi is likely to favour. ‘Action blockbusters. where he plays the superhero.’ says Piccioni with a mix of gravity and humour. That would rule out the entire Italian Iiilm I‘estival programme. You best enjoy these fine films while you still can.
I glance over my shoulder for the man with the mirrored shades and a wire in his ear. but I still don’t see him.
The Italian Film Festival runs at the GFT, Glasgow; Filmhouse, Edinburgh; DCA, Dundee; The Belmont, Abderdeen Fri 5-Thu 25 Apr. See Film index.
From left to right: Dancing, Salo, The Son’s Room, Baby Story, La Dolce Vita, Mama Roma, Help? and The Conformist
ll-—2f) Apr 9002 THE LIST 27