Draquila: Bitter laughter headed to Cannes
by Gabriele Barcaro
“I’ve spent €200m in lawyers and judges,” says Silvio Berlusconi on TV, and it’s his first slip, the first comic gem that draws laughs in Draquila – L’Italia Che Trema [+see also:
Interview Sabina Guzzanti [IT]
film profile] (the title of which was chosen by the readers of the filmmaker’s hit blog). Others will follow, both gems and laughs, though bitter ones, for at the heart of Sabina Guzzanti’s political documentary lies a tragedy – the earthquake of April 6, 2009 that destroyed L’Aquila and caused 308 victims – and its political, economic and moral consequences.
Beginning with the political. According to Guzzanti, for the Italian president and his free-falling popularity, the earthquake was an unexpected blessing, “as if God had once again lent him a hand”. What better than an earthquake to revive the rhetoric of a “working-class president” shown “working” among the ruins in various photo-ops? Thus, while the city’s historical centre has been cordoned off from its inhabitants, they began building “new towns” for the evacuees. Some of which the state housed temporarily in seaside hotels and others who, not wanting to leave their towns, chose to live in the camps set up by the national Civil Protective service.
The Civil Protection Department (CPD), with its militarised management of the tent cities – in which it is forbidden to assemble, film, put up signs and banners, and even drink coffee and Coke, “so as to not excite people” – is one of the top indictees of the film. Above all, Director Guido Bertolaso, Berlusconi’s right-hand man and future government minister, before his ascent was curbed (at least for the moment) by a different kind of earthquake, this one comprising kickbacks and sex scandals.
Almost entirely foregoing being at the centre of attention, unlike her earlier film Viva Zapatero! [+see also:
film profile], this time Guzzanti opts for the urgent structure of an investigative documentary. She simultaneously looks at corruption within the CPD, which should handle catastrophes and emergencies, and instead spends its time and resources on clerical visits, sporting events and any other kind of “big event” that generates money and bypasses current laws on contracting and public works; and gives a voice to the earthquake victims. Those who see in Berlusconi “the only great man in the world who works miracles”, and others who behind his promises see a consummate huckster spouting campaign-type slogans.
From the folds of the story, as from the cracks of the broken buildings held up by abandoned beams that no longer hold up much of anything, there emerge personal tragedies (the father who was calming down his small children before the tremors and two hours later lost them both) and collective absurdity. A city’s ruins risks being the ruins of an entire democracy, and while Italians (perhaps) already know the facts and name summed up by Guzzanti, who knows what effect those ruins will have on the international audiences of the Cannes Film Festival, where the film will be presented as a Special Screening.
Draquila will be released in Italy on May 7 by BIM.
(Translated from Italian)
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