Draquila - L'Italia che trema (Draquila - Italy Trembles), on the hunt for Italian corruption, takes no prisoners. There are a few cultural differences, and some overarching imperfections throughout, but one can't possibly fault the noble crusade director Sabina Guzzanti has embarked upon. She absolutely skewers Italian Prime Minister Berlusconi and Guido Bertolaso, the civil protection chief. Bertolaso is currently under investigation, making the documentary a well-timed knockout punch.
On April 6, 2009, an earthquake hit the town of L'Aquila. That much is certain. The aftermath is the subject of the Italian documentary, alleging censorship, corruption, profiteering, coercion, prostitution, and flat-out embezzlement. It's not a pretty picture. Director Guzzanti is at her best when using political cartoon-style graphics to illustrate the shenanigans the ruling party has been up to. The film does slide a bit when the "person on the street" interview method is used, a more subdued and subtle look at a topic that clearly needs a jackhammer.
If the documentary is to be trusted a viewer is asked to accept the following:
1) Authorities knew a major quake was going to occur, but didn't warn the populace.
2) They took advantage of the "emergency" to remove 60,000 people from their homes, all in a ruse to build new homes while handing out inflated construction contracts to the mafia.
3) Furthermore, they've modified the Italian constitution to allow a broad use of antiliberty tactics, ushering in an era where only Berlusconi rules with impunity.
4) They attempted to privatize Italian government, turning it into a quasi-private corporation.
5) Free speech and demonstration were met with a strong military hand.
6) Mafia contacts ushered Berlusconi into power, and he's still under their influence.
7) The Italian television is merely an accepted state conduit of information.
That's a lot to chew on, no? And if you believe all of it, you're forced to admit that the highest levels of Italian government are only in business to bilk people. All this in 90 minutes -- therein lies an issue. Even if it's 100 percent accurate, Guzzanti would have been better off providing a singular focus. It's almost a self-defeating piece of art in that it throws the kitchen sink, the kitchen, and entire neighborhood on the head of the prime minister. Damning? Certainly. Depressing? Undoubtedly. An advocate for real change? Ah, I'm not so sure there. As the movie itself points out, some people still believe in Berlusconi, that the charges against him are fabricated. Perhaps by removing the charged emotional aspect Guzzanti could have focused solely on the facts.
There's also a slight cultural divide at play here. The European model of "the government will provide" stands in stark contrast to the American "fix it yourself" ideal. Neither way is the "right" way, of course; I'm just pointing out that certain viewers will find themselves confused as to why people truly thought the government was going to build them a new house.
Still, for the courage shown and the massiveness of the topic considered, Guzzanti deserves accolades. It's a brave piece of filmmaking, just the sort you'd hope Cannes would highlight.