Italy | 80 MINUTES | Italian |
Though Spanish Prime Minister Rodríquez Zapatero is never actually mentioned in comedienne Sabina Guzzanti's bitingly funny documentary, his name-synonymous with honor and civility throughout Europe-is used in the title to mock Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, whose anti-democratic dictates are numerous and well-documented. But mocking, as it turns out, is not the only thing Guzzanti is good at. Famed for her Berlusconi impersonations, Guzzanti uses her comedic chops to expose the worrisome rise of censorship in Italy. The idea, we soon learn, was borne out of tragedy. In 2003, Guzzanti created a TV show for RAI TV aimed at satirizing Italian politics, but after the first episode aired Berlusconi's media company filed a multi-million euro lawsuit for defamation of character; the following day, RAI cancelled Guzzanti's show. With humor, tenacity, and chutzpah, Guzzanti goes after the conservatives and RAI executives who helped sabotage her show. Why, she wonders aloud, is political satire labelled libellous in Italy, while in England and France it's considered a cornerstone of free speech? Using effective graphics and interviews with the press, the documentary shows how both the public broadcaster RAI and the private chain Mediaset are under media magnate/prime minister Berlusconi's control; and that over the past four years, Italy's press ranking has gone from "free" to "partly free," putting the country on par with Mongolia. To offset such sobering statistics, Guzzanti, along with French writer/comedian Bruno Gaccio and British humorist Rory Bremner, provide some much needed comic relief. The total effect is at once shocking and sidesplitting. Viva Zapatero! has championed a new brand of comedic activism that is hard to find, even in a Michael Moore film.