Updated: Friday, 24th November 2017 @ 8:08am

'A wake-up call': Controversial documentary calls for Italian political upheaval during Manchester screening

'A wake-up call': Controversial documentary calls for Italian political upheaval during Manchester screening

By Lance Boyd

The star of a controversial new film blocked by the Italian Government but screened in Manchester on Friday, is calling upon people to demand political change in the struggling country.

Bill Emmott, former editor of The Economist and narrator of the documentary styled Girlfriend in a Coma, made the claim to a packed audience at Manchester Metropolitan University’s screening.

He claimed the film, documenting Italy’s social and political fall from grace in the past 20 years, ‘should get people to understand the declining situation and support Italians who are asking for change’.

Around 150 students and film fans, including a large Italian contingent, attended only the fourth screening of the film in the UK after Emmott and Italian Director Annalisa Piras were invited to showcase their work at MMU by Senior Lecturer Nicoletta Di Ciolla.

Director Piras, who left Italy while Silvio Berlusconi was in power, added a similar sentiment to Emmott.

He said: “The promises made by politicians are atrocious. They say that they’ll cut this tax or that tax [to win votes]. This film should act as a wake-up call. We hope that people will see this and will begin grouping together [in Italy or not] to support change.”

Inspired by Emmott’s book Good Italy, Bad Italy, Piras’s film was recently banned from being shown at The National Museum of the 21st Century Arts (MAXXI) in Rome until after national elections have taken place later this month.

The banning of the film came about following ‘guidance’ from Italy’s Ministry of Culture claiming that the film could affect the election results.

However, during the screening event at MMU news arrived from Italy that the film will be shown to an Italian audience after the Teatro Eliseo in Rome agreed to screen it before the February 25 elections.


SCREENING: MMU's Nicoletta Di Ciolla, narrator Bill Emmott and director Annalisa Piras

The independent film, which shares the name of the 1987 hit by The Smiths, looks at the nation’s deterioration from being a major force in Europe, the political influence of media mogul Berlusconi and the Mafia’s connection to political corruption.

Offering both humorous and tragic insights to events that shaped the political landscape of the Mediterranean nation, the film demonstrates how social division, sexual inequalities and cultural apathy have led to Italy falling behind most other western nations.

It includes interviews with Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti and philosopher and novelist Umberto Eco, and also features a special vocal appearance from Benedict Cumberbatch.

Professor Jim Ewell from the University of Salford, and chairing the private screening, said: “The showing of a political film like this is not only important to students in Manchester who study social sciences, but it’s important to all of us as this situation in Italy affects the EU, and therefore us all.”

The team behind the film told the MMU audience they will continue to hold private screenings of Girlfriend in a Coma to ensure that their message is heard by as many people as possible, with hopes of a wider release in cinemas in the near future.

Those private screenings are taking place at various institutions around Europe and the United States, with Rome now included on the list of cities where it will be shown.

For more information on Girlfriend in a Coma you can visit the film’s website: www.girlfriendinacoma.eu

Berlusconi picture courtesy of rogimmi, with thanks.

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