"Spring had just begun along the beautiful peninsula and they were after Berlusconi. It was a shitty day like so many others …" the narrator explains in the clip above from 46-year-old standup-comic-turned-director Sabina Guzzanti's Draquila: L'Italia che trema / Draquila: Italy Trembles. Italy's finances were (and still are) in turmoil and right-wing prime minister-businessman Silvio Berlusconi was embroiled in a series of nasty corruption and sex scandals — the latter involving teenage women.
But then God came to Berlusconi's rescue by making the earth shake underneath the medieval mountain town of L'Aquila. The devastating April 6, 2009, earthquake left 308 people dead and 80,000 homeless. It also gave Berlusconi the chance to recover from his recent scandals. How? By putting on the mantle of The Savior.
While tens of thousands of former L'Aquila residents were living in far-away quarters under military rule, Berlusconi was hosting a G8 meeting in the then resurgent town. Except, of course, that the resurgence has never taken off.
According to an Agence France Presse report, L'Aquila remains a ghost town guarded by Italy's military, while its former residents have been moved to lodgings far from their city and at three times the estimated cost.
Draquila was shown out of competition at the Cannes Film Festival on Thursday, where it received a round of applause at the press screening. "A tragic earthquake, shocking corruption and massive abuse of power," Variety wrote about Guzzanti's Michael Moore-ish documentary. "Even for Italians accustomed to their country's scandals, Draquila is a kick in the gut."
Not everyone is in agreement with that assessment. Referring to Draquila as a "a propaganda film … that insults the truth and the Italian people," Italy's Minister of Culture Sandro Bondi boycotted Cannes. But unlike filmmaker Jafar Panahi, under arrest by the Iran's rabid regime, chances are Bondi wasn't missed at all. (Panahi, on the other hand, has a symbolic chair waiting for him at the festival.)
"The government has been trying at all costs to pass itself off as a victim, and to to twist everything around to its advantage while demonizing in the extreme all those who have arguments against it, even if they're correct," Guzzanti told France 24. "[Therefore,] those who are less well-informed and more easily swayed will think of me as someone who isn't credible, a manipulator."
Five years ago, Guzzanti's Viva Zapatero! denounced the Italian government's attempts to censor comedians. And according to France 24, some Italians present at Cannes predicted that Draquila will be banned from Italian television. In fact, that wouldn't be too surprising, as Berlusconi has an octopus-like grip on the Italian media.
And that's one of Draquila's most damning accusations — and warnings. In her documentary, Guzzanti points out that in case of a national emergency, Italy's Civil Protection Agency, headed by Berlusconi crony Guido Bertolaso (currently under investigation for corruption), has the power to "temporarily" override existing laws.
That power, combined with the backing of the Berlusconi media empire, helped to turn a mammoth disaster into a "Great Event" so as to enhance the dominance of Italy's political-business (and criminal — as in Mafia-related) class. All that, of course, with the eager assistance of the easily manipulated and acquiescent masses.
Draquila sounds like a must-see.