Bye Bye Berlusconi: Local biz mulls life after Silvio

Politics and movies intertwine in Eternal City

On the eve of Italy’s April 9 and 10 national vote, posters publicizing Nanni Moretti’s satirical anti-Berlusconi pic “The Cayman” vied for space on Roman walls with airbrushed images of the white-toothed billionaire media-mogul-turned-pol.

But Moretti, who self-produced and released the hit pic (titled after a South American alligator adopted by leftists as a nickname for Berlusconi), did not want his film to play on Berlusconi-owned screens in the political capital, or across the country at large.

“It’s a legitimate position and I respect it. But it’s odd when politics enter distribution choices; ultimately I think it’s inappropriate,” comments Giampaolo Letta, topper of Berlusconi’s Medusa Cinema, which had asked Moretti’s Sacher Distribuzione to program “The Cayman” in its cinemas.

Politics and the movies have long been linked in Rome. The still-mysterious 1975 death of gay poet and filmmaker Pier Paolo Pasolini is believed by some to have been plotted by the country’s secret services, anxious to stamp out his subversive influence. The helmer’s works, including “Mamma Roma,” in which Anna Magnani plays a Roman prostitute trying to start over as a fruit vendor, have been restored and re-released by Medusa on DVD.

The elections appear to have resulted in Berlusconi being replaced as prime minister by center-leftist Romano Prodi, marking the end of a conservative government that came under fire from the film industry for failing to introduce tax incentives, but was also praised by some for a film law geared towards a more market-oriented mentality, despite draconian funding cuts.

Over the years, Medusa has operated successfully under governments of various ilks and produced pics by a host of leftist filmmakers, including Bernardo Bertolucci, Gabriele Medusa Salvatores and Giuseppe Tornatore. “We have always left politics outside the door,” says Letta. “What we are interested in are quality movies and our company’s results.”

In Rome’s film community, leaving out the leftists would be impossible because there would be too few talents left to work with. But aside from Moretti, a bi-partisan spirit often prevails.

While Prodi’s probable government, which has a razor-slim majority, is expected to increase film subsidies, at this stage little else is known about how its policies will affect the industry.

One clear advantage of having Berlusconi out of the picture is that the city’s municipal and regional administrations, and now central government, are of the same center-left political persuasion.

“Regardless of political color, having legislators and administrators all from the same political side will certainly help to get things pushed through,” says Warner Bros. Italy chief Paolo Ferrari, who also heads Italo motion picture association ANICA.

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