Latest Silvio Berlusconi controversy: Italian taxpayers financing 'personal friend' Michelle Bonev & entourage trip to Venice Film Festival?
First there were questions about Sofia Coppola's Somewhere Golden Lion win at the 2010 Venice Film Festival, whose jury was headed by Coppola's former boyfriend Quentin Tarantino. Now, Ben Child reports in The Guardian that an investigation is under way to find out whether Italian taxpayers financed a €400,000 (approx. US$530,000) trip for Bulgarian actress-turned-filmmaker Michelle Bonev, whose 40-strong entourage was invited to the Venice festival so Bonev could be handed an award for her movie Goodbye Mama.
Described as a “personal friend” of beleaguered Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, Bonev was given the Action for Women Award, “dedicated to the 60th anniversary of the European convention for protection of human rights.”
If that weren't all, according to the Italian media the Berlusconi government-controlled state broadcaster RAI – one of the film's financiers – has allegedly paid €1 million (approx. US$1.32 million) for the rights to broadcast Goodbye Mama.
'Intense female family drama'
In its press release, Michelle Bonev's drama is characterized as “an intense female family drama which describes at the same time the transformation of one of the great countries of the East, Bulgaria.”
The release adds that Bonev is a “Goodwill Ambassador for Bulgarian Culture to the World” and that she has been featured in a handful of RAI miniseries, besides having had a previous big-screen role in Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ (as Herod's Court Woman, as per the IMDb.)
One vote per scandal?
In 2008, Silvio Berlusconi was reelected prime minister – for the third time – by millions of Italian voters despite having found himself enmeshed in a series of scandals in the last couple of decades.
Recently, in addition to the Michelle Bonev to-do, Wikileaks has revealed that the 74-year-old businessman/politician may enjoy a “financially enriching relationship” with Russia's former president Vladimir Putin.
Lacking any financially enriching relationships with any major politicians or businesspeople, Italian artists and sympathizers are planning a rally tomorrow in Rome to protest drastic government cuts to the arts.
Born Dragomira Boneva Janeva on Oct. 1, 1971, in Burgas, Bulgaria, Michelle Bonev began her acting career on Italian television in 2004, with a minor role in Giorgio Capitani and Fabio Jephcott's miniseries Mai storie d'amore in cucina, starring Bianca Guaccero and veteran Stefania Sandrelli (Divorce Italian Style, The Conformist).
A handful of other parts followed, including the lead in Umberto Marino's TV movie Operazione pilota and the title character in the miniseries Artemisia Sanchez, both in 2007.
Goodbye Mama marked Michelle Bonev's directorial debut. She also wrote and co-produced the semiautobiographical family drama set in Bulgaria in winter 2005.
'Driving Miss Daisy' Academy Screening
Driving Miss Daisy, Bruce Beresford's 1989 Best Picture Oscar winner, will be the final 2010 presentation in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' “Monday Nights with Oscar” film series.
Starring Best Actress Oscar winner Jessica Tandy, and nominees Morgan Freeman and Dan Aykroyd, Driving Miss Daisy will be screened on Monday, Dec. 13, at 7 p.m. at the Academy Theater at Lighthouse International in New York City.
Alfred Uhry, who won an Oscar for his adaptation of his Pulitzer Prize-winning play – reportedly inspired by the story of his own grandmother – is scheduled to join Bruce Beresford in an onstage discussion about the play's journey from Off-Broadway hit to Best Picture winner.
Dana Ivey & Morgan Freeman in original Off-Broadway cast
Dana Ivey, Morgan Freeman, and Ray Gill starred in the original stage production, while Best Supporting Actress Oscar winner Wendy Hiller (Separate Tables, 1958), Clarke Peters, and Barry Foster toplined the West End cast.
Set in Atlanta at the dawn of the Civil Rights Movement, Uhry's highly sentimental drama tells the story of an elderly Jewish woman (Jessica Tandy) who, after wrecking her car, is befriended by her newly hired black driver (Morgan Freeman). Dan Aykroyd plays the woman's son.
Also in the Driving Miss Daisy cast: Patti LuPone, Esther Rolle, Joann Havrilla, and William Hall Jr.
'Notable bits of Oscar history'
According to the Academy's press release, Driving Miss Daisy “produced two notable bits of Oscar history”:
- It was the first time a movie based on an Off-Broadway play received the Best Picture Academy Award.
- At age 81, Jessica Tandy became the oldest performer to win a competitive Oscar. More than four decades earlier, Tandy had created the role of Blanche DuBois in Tennessee Williams' A Streetcar Named Desire on Broadway. Elia Kazan directed both the play and the 1951 film version starring eventual Best Actress Oscar winner Vivien Leigh.
Tickets for Driving Miss Daisy are $5 for the general public and $3 for Academy members and students with a valid ID.
The Academy Theater is located at 111 East 59th Street in New York City. For more information, visit www.oscars.org or call (212) 821-9251.
'Diary of a Lost Girl': G. W. Pabst & Louise Brooks classic returns
The year 2011 will start with a silent bang in Washington, D.C., as the 1929 silent era classic Diary of a Lost Girl / Tagebuch einer Verlorenen, directed by G.W. Pabst (sometimes billed as Georg Wilhelm Pabst) and starring Louise Brooks, will be screened on Jan. 2 at 4:30 p.m. at Washington's National Gallery of Art.
The presentation will feature live musical accompaniment by the Irish ensemble 3epkano, which will perform their own original score for the film.
Here's what Louise Brooks Society founder Thomas Gladysz has to say at examiner.com:
Diary of a Lost Girl tells the story of Thymian, a young woman forced by circumstance into a life of prostitution. The film was based on a once controversial book by the German novelist Margarete Böhme. Though little known today, The Diary of a Lost Girl was a literary sensation when first published in 1905. One contemporary scholar has called it 'Perhaps the most notorious and certainly the [most commercially] successful autobiographical narrative of the early twentieth century.'
'Louise Brooks edition' of Margarete Böhme's book
The heavily censored Diary of a Lost Girl was the second time Hollywood actress Louise Brooks worked with G.W. Pabst in Germany. The duo had previously collaborated on Pandora's Box / Die Büchse der Pandora (also released in 1929), probably the actress' best-remembered effort.
Gladysz recently edited and wrote the introduction to the “Louise Brooks edition” of Margarete Böhme's book. He will be talking about his new effort at the Village Voice Bookshop in Paris on Jan. 13. That will be followed by a screening of Diary of a Lost Girl at the nearby Action Cinema.
Louise Brooks Society website.
National Gallery of Art website.
Michelle Bonev image via Wikipedia.
Jessica Tandy and Morgan Freeman Driving Miss Daisy image: Courtesy of the Margaret Herrick Library.
Louise Brooks Diary of a Lost Girl image: Pabst-Film.
“Michelle Bonev-Silvio Berlusconi Venice Film Festival Controversy + Louise Brooks & Jessica Tandy Screenings” last updated in July 2018.