Back in 2003, something was rotten in the State of Europe – and possibly still is. Sabina Guzzatini is a satirical impressionist. The Italian equivalent of Rory Bremner, she aimed to take on her country’s prime minister Silvio Berlusconi over his TV corporation ownership.

This is because – unlike good old independent Auntie Beeb - Berlusconi’s company Finninvest owns three television stations, making up half of the Italian televisual options and, according to Guzzanti, its control extends to a whopping 90 per cent of the entire Italian media output.

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Guzzatini, who once in make-up does a very passable impression of Berlusconi, aimed a satirical side-swipe at his control of the media in her RAI channel show RAIot – only to see it whisked off the air after just one episode, despite critical plaudits.

Viva Zapatero! – the title a nod to the Spanish president's programme of reform - is a catalogue of her response as she tracks down and confronts members of the RAI executive, while simultaneously lifting the lid on the reach of Berlusconi throughout other divisions of the media. It quickly becomes apparent that she is not alone in being censored, with several newspaper correspondents citing pressure from Berlusconi to alter their position and some even finding their positions untenable.

Astonishingly, she also reveals that satire has become a violation of the law, with Berlusconi’s defenders saying there is “is no censorship because it isn’t satire… merely a long series of insults”.

Guzzanti also dips back into Italian history, to argue how control of the press can lead to war, citing previous media baby steps which ultimately resulted in the rise of fascism.

She then contrasts the depressing state of Italian events, with the situation in the rest of Europe – where satire is widely accepted and frequently offers some much-needed opposition in countries – such as the UK – where party politics are converging.

This is clearly a polemic in the style of documentary makers such as Michael Moore. There is no attempt to be neutral – but that is not the point of the piece. Guzzanti’s arguments are coherent, although, they will doubtless play best to those with at least some knowledge of Italian politics. Also, although her English is excellent, her strong accent makes some of the more complex arguments she is presenting hard to follow on occasion.

It feels rather long at 80 minutes but, for the most part, her humour and tenacity carries you through. Worth seeing if only to be reminded just how important an independent media is.

Reviewed on: 01 Nov 2006
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An Italian satirist takes on President Berlusconi's control of the media in amusing and shocking documentary. Out to own on DVD now.
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Director: Sabina Guzzanti

Writer: Sabina Guzzanti

Year: 2005

Runtime: 80 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: Italy


Sundance 2006

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