Culture minister boycotts Cannes over film critical of Berlusconi

When Italian standup-comic-turned-director Sabina Guzzanti strolls down the red carpet this evening for “Draquila – Italy Trembles,” which criticizes Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s handling of relief efforts surrounding the April 2009 L’Aquila earthquake, expect the paparazzi to go into a feeding frenzy.

That’s because “Draquila,” which was released this weekend via BIM in Italy, where it is among the top box office draws, has sparked a media storm before even hitting the Croisette. Italian culture minister Sandro Bondi announced Saturday that he’d boycott Cannes in protest against the pic, claiming fest shouldn’t have selected “Draquila” because “it offends the truth and the Italian people.”

News of Bondi’s boycott rapidly reverberated outside the country, creating tensions with France.

The film, which unspools in Cannes as a special event, exposes an alleged monopoly over the reconstruction effort in the wake of the quake, which killed 308 people and left some 80,000 homeless.

“Draquila” also suggests that Berlusconi exploited the earthquake to boost his popularity at a time when he was hit by sex scandals.

But Guzzanti, who made an international splash in 2005 with “Viva Zapatero!” which blasted the government’s efforts to censor comedians, said she really tried not to let her feelings against Berlusconi shape this film.

“I was constantly asking myself, am I doing this because I don’t like Berlusconi? Am I saying that things aren’t going well here just because his camp is saying that everything is going good?” she said. Guzzanti, who so far has not responded to Bondi’s reactions to her film, said she was also struck by what she termed a climate of “underlying snaking authoritarianism” she came across in the quake refugee camps. “Many people were afraid to be interviewed by me and many refused, including journalists, which I found indicative of Italy not being a free country.”

Guzzanti does not claim “Draquila” represents the only p.o.v. on the earthquake.

“Like Michael Moore, I make movies; not documentaries,” she said. “My main goal was to understand what was going on. To be rigorous in my research, to try to be objective. But of course this reflects my viewpoint.”

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