Italian director Fausto Brizzi has been placed under investigation by prosecutors in Rome on sexual harassment charges brought by three women, Italian daily Corriere della Sera has reported.
The formal investigation, which is the first known case of this type in Italy since the #MeToo movement started, is preliminary and does not mean Brizzi, who is known locally for churning out hit comedies, will be prosecuted. It follows allegations of sexual misconduct brought against Brizzi by several Italian actresses on Mediaset investigative TV show “Le Iene” last November, which made a splash in the Italian media.
Brizzi has vehemently denied having non-consensual sex but said after the allegations surfaced that he was suspending all work and business activities.
According to Corriere della Sera, the case will be difficult to prosecute because two of the unnamed women who filed charges did so past Italy’s six-month statute of limitations on rape and other sexual crimes. The women decided to come forward with the charges two months ago despite the six-month deadline, seeking justice “for what we have been subjected to,” the newspaper said.
Harvey Weinstein accuser Asia Argento has called on Italy to change its legislation on sex crimes. “As long as the statute of limitations stays at 6 months predators and harassers will go unpunished,” she tweeted. “We need to change this law that was created before the unification of Italy!”
Brizzi is alleged to have harassed as many as 10 actresses or aspiring actresses in the Rome loft where he conducted auditions. The accusations did not negatively impact the box-office performance of his 2017 Christmas comedy “Poveri ma Ricchissimi,” which was the top-grossing local comedy during the holiday period.
Warner Bros. Italy, which released the film, distanced itself from the director by removing his name from all promotional material, and he did not do any press for the film. The release went ahead, but Warner Bros. said it would “put on hold any future plans” to work with Brizzi.
Brizzi reportedly pulled out of Italian production company Wildside last year – a company in which he held a small stake as a founding partner – and signed a three-year deal with actor-producer Luca Barbareschi’s Casanova Multimedia film and TV production company. Barbareschi has lashed out against Brizzi’s accusers, calling them “loonies” in a recent interview with Italian news agency ANSA.