An attack on members of a film organisation in Rome reflects the febrile atmosphere in the country
IN JUNE four young men were attacked on the streets of Rome. One victim had his nose broken; another required stitches to his face. They had been targeted as “anti-fascists” for wearing “Cinema America” T-shirts, the name of an organisation which hosts open-air film screenings in the city in the summer months, and they had attended a viewing that evening. When police arrested the suspected attackers, all aged 20, it emerged that two had close ties to CasaPound, a neo-fascist group. A few days later a local actress, the girlfriend of Cinema America’s president, was also harassed.
Several politicians decried the assaults, including Virginia Raggi, the mayor of Rome and a member of the anti-establishment Five Star Movement, and Matteo Salvini, Italy’s deputy prime minister and interior minister, of the right-wing Northern League. Jeremy Irons, an English actor, appeared at Cinema America’s screening of “Stealing Beauty” (1996) wearing the same T-shirt to denounce the “thuggery” of the attack. An open letter signed by Guillermo del Toro, Francis Ford Coppola and Spike Lee, among others, expressed consternation: “It is unacceptable that there is still someone that thinks they can impose their view through the use of violence.”
The goons were probably emboldened by CasaPound’s success in the suburbs of Rome in the recent local elections as well as the League’s strong showing in the European elections. But this was also an attack on cinema, and an indication of the febrile political atmosphere in the country. Cinema America is not an overtly political body but does sometimes choose to show films which contain political sentiments. “We are under attack because we can talk to the vast majority of people in a very bipartisan way,” Valerio Carocci, the organisation’s president, has said. “We think they’ve been scared because they have seen that we can cross cultures on the right and left by speaking to people through art.”
In fact, the Italian film industry was once closely tied to the fascist regime: the Venice film festival was inaugurated by Benito Mussolini, and Robert Rossellini’s first productions were little more than propaganda. After the second world war film-makers regained some independence, and left-leaning directors such as Bernado Bertolucci and Pier Paolo Pasolini enjoyed success. Nowadays many Italians look to cinema purely for entertainment.
Yet what constitutes left-wing and right-wing in Italy has often been up for debate. Giorgio Gaber, a singer, captured the confusion perfectly in his satirical song “Destra-Sinistra” (“Right-Left”), in which he attempted to list what belonged to each political faction. Swimming pools, tennis shoes and Swiss chocolate were all right-wing, he reckoned, whereas rivers, jeans and Nutella were left-wing. When the song was released in 1994 the traditional parties and divisions—between the Christian Democrats, Italian Socialist Party and Italian Communist Party—had collapsed following the fall of the Berlin Wall and the Mani pulite (“Clean Hands”) corruption scandal, in which more than half of the members of the Italian parliament were indicted. Hastily invented parties were trying to grab the centreground when Silvio Berlusconi stepped into the gap.
Mr Berlusconi’s rise to power disrupted Italian politics, with his various legal tangles and a campaign that was vulgar in tone. But it did have the effect of galvanising an opposition that included culturally powerful figures such as Roberto Benigni and Sabina Guzzanti, two comedians, and writers Umberto Eco and Enzo Biagi. Nanni Moretti, a film director, went so far as to organise a protest movement, the Girotondi, to defend democracy and the rule of law and to compensate for the feeble opposition of the parliamentary left. Another voice of resistance came from Beppe Grillo, a comedian who toured the country and wrote a popular blog of scattergun political screeds. That blog transformed into a “post-ideological” political party, the Five Star Movement, which won the largest share of the vote in the 2018 election and now governs in coalition with Mr Salvini’s League.
The attack in June has taken on a wider significance in Italy, with its echoes of Mussolini’s squadristi. When the young men from Cinema America were accosted, their attackers demanded they take off their T-shirts (they refused); the detail brings to mind the words of Billy Bragg, a British singer, who once said that “the revolution is just a T-shirt away”. The activism of Cinema America and others is beginning to make itself felt. “It has become clear that there is a social block who want to arise once more,” Mr Carocci said, “who want to save this country”.
From Popayan Colombia https://www.pagina100.com
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