Viva Zapatero! opens a door on a new shameful anomaly (or anomalous shame) typical, and exclusive to Italy, with regard to European norms in relation to satire. It is staggering, during the course of the film, to notice and to reflect on the different modes of organisation and development of satire in the Countries neighbouring Italy: A satirist in France, Germany, Holland, and England is considered an artist, the bearer of information integrated with and 'parallel' to the classical or standard sources of information, the traditional mass-media (television news broadcasts, radio news bulletins, periodicals and daily press).
In a State where the government is clean, honest and untroubled by its own actions, satire is not feared, on the contrary, it's cried out for, as a healthy and ironic, as well as entertaining, food for thought; and the highest governmental bodies are the victims of satire, on every aspect of private and public life, almost as if it was a 'fee' to pay, to measure oneself with, in consideration of the role held. I think it's worth quoting the French example:: Every night at 20:00 (peak audience time slot), on a State channel, a satirical programme is broadcast, Les Guignols de l'info, for a whole hour, which has as its main, if not exclusive, target Chirac… Chirac mocked, held in ridicule, slaughtered while he sits quietly in his armchair by two killers, dressed up as John Travolta and Samuel Jackson in Pulp Fiction because he has not kept the promises he made during the election campaign. Let's try just to imagine what could happen in Italy to whoever dared to do something similar! Having seen what happened variously to Biagi, Santoro, Luttazzi, Guzzanti, Fò, one could expect the guillotine…*
Guzzanti brought her Viva Zapatero!to Venice Film Festival , where it got a 12 minute applause, in order to ask for justice and, most of all, so that everyone knows the real reasons why RAIOT, her last satirical TV programme, was suspended by RAI, with false motivations and purely formal subjective and inexistent pretexts. The tactics used were to bring an action (worth millions of euros) for libel, slander, lack of common sense, vulgarity against Guzzanti, from Mediaset, Fininvest, Canale 5 [all controlled by Berlusconi], … Within the space of a morning, Sabina received suits for 23 milion euros, seasoned with accusations, insults and dissemination of false news. The Supreme Court, after months of enquiries, cleared Sabina of all suspicion, declaring that there was no presupposition either for slander or offence or untold vulgarities.
The title Viva Zapatero!, besides being a quotation from a famous Marlon Brando film, Viva Zapata!, is intended as an homage to the Spanish Premier, primarily for his initiative to prohibit political power managing and invading public information, the State TVs and the national press. Although many would like us to believe that freedom is a luxury, we should not get used tothis idea.
Guzzanti was also welcomed with a flood of applause in the crowded Bolognese cinema, where in Mid September she presented her documentary. The audience, mainly very young, looked enthusiastic, alert, involved, interested, active and concerned; Sabina succeeded in dragging the 'people' with her; in that theatre, there was a longing to know, curiosity and interest.
RAIOT had been appreciated [by the audience] and, following the suspension of its broadcasting on public TV, Guzzanti & Co. organised a sort of popular revolt, staging the show at the Auditorium in Rome, with a satellite link-up (air is still free… LET'S TAKE ADVANTAGE!): the images [of that night] reported in the documentary show 15 thousand people outside the Auditorium itself following RAIOT on the mega-screen; in that occasion, the programme rallied the presence of hundreds of famous personalities, friends and those sympathetic to Sabina (perhaps due to the fact that, like herself, many had already been victims of the 'media regime' …).
In Viva Zapatero!, the encounters and the exchanges of opinions of Guzzanti with European satirical comedians unveil how, once again, our poor little Italy, at the moment devastated on all fronts, represents a 'rara avis' in the whole of Europe, being the only nation where politics deliberately gags satirical comedians. Being confronted with a Country governed by a man, Silvio Berlusconi, who is the living embodiment of conflict of interests, all of Sabina's transalpine colleagues, when interviewed, stated, astonished, that in their Countries, Berlusconi could not even candidate himself for the role that in Italy on the contrary he is allowed to hold.
Sabina however on this point is clear and in front of the Bolognese youngsters, at the Rialto cinema, she adamantly underlines: “Viva Zapatero! is not a film against Berlusconi, it's a film against the Italian system, which is a TV and mass-media system rotten and dominated by a regime. And in fact the movie makes no concessions especially against those who, at least in theory, are supposed to oppose this: it is not by chance that the most exhilarating moments, those that obtained the most applause in the theatre, were when we see the embarrassment and the hesitations of the centre-left exponents in front of censorship. Unforgettable are Sabina's run-ups, along the road underneath the Vigilance Commission**, chasing the various representatives, without EVER obtaining a convincing or even relevant reply: the interview with the current RAI President, Claudio Petruccioli, back then number one in the Vigilance Commission, consists of a series of very embarrassing silences in front of Guzzanti's questions.
In other words, this is not anti-premier propaganda and that's all. Also because, as Santoro reminds us, “censorship was there before him too, and in part it will always be there. The fact is that the method, the Italian system does not work; it is the organisation itself that creates the basis for censorship. In Italy something further happened: a profound malaise, a degeneration. In this sense, the film is not against Berlusconi, but talks about a post-Berlusconi, putting forward a deeply accusatory critique of 'our' political side, too [the left]; of all those politicians in the opposition who should have battled, interpreting the will of the citizens and they didn't”.
The criticism of Berlusconi would have been too predictable, as well as too easy… like shooting fish in a barrel! The marked and serious criticism put forward by Viva Zapatero! is against the left, against what they didn't do when they could have solved the conflict of interests, in the period when they could have overset and re-established an innovative system to elect the public TV's board of directors, in a way totally independent from political influences***… To realise these serious faults of ours leaves you with a bitter taste in your mouth at the end of the documentary.
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