Cinema Paradiso

At Venice Film Fest, Suicide, Mafia and Mountain Climbing

A not-quite-dead Michel Houellebecq in "Near Death Experience." Source: Ad Vitam
A not-quite-dead Michel Houellebecq in "Near Death Experience."
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    Venice is the oldest film festival in the world. Alongside Cannes and Berlin, it is one of Europe’s most prestigious competitions.

  • Facts


    • “The State-Mafia Pact” is an Italian documentary about political corruption.
    • Swedish director Roy Andersson’s new film has draw comparisons to Finland’s Aki Kaurismäki.
    • “Near Death Experience” is based on a Michel Houellebecq novel.
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Evidence disappears, confessions are extorted, principal witnesses are shot, investigators bombed — it’s hard to keep up.

The Italian film maker Sabina Guzzanti studied countless court files detailing the connection between the Mafia and the Italian government for her documentary “The State-Mafia Pact.”

Uncovering the deals made between politicians and organized crime, the film meticulously reports circumstantial evidence for the Mafia-controlled rise of Forza Italia after the murder of the judges Falcone and Borsellino in the ’90’s.

Italy’s disgraced former prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, depicted as a creature of the Cosa Nostra.

The deal went: the more power, the fewer murders.

The film, which was viewed at the 71st Venice Film Festival, but is not in competition, features archive material, sometimes anonymously conducted interviews, and staged scenes of interrogations and secret negotiations, of which each sentence has been documented.

At its screening, the press corps offered long applause. The director Ms. Guzzanti belongs to one of the few fearless citizens in her country.

Maybe her films are overloaded with information because the Italian public otherwise learns hardly anything about the structural connections between politics, the economy and the mafia.

In “Draquila,” her lampoon against the corruption involved in the crisis management after the earthquake in L’Aquila, Ms. Guzzanti chose to use farce as her framework. In “The State-Mafia Pact,” she let the facts speak for themselves.

It is not that Italians keep silent on the topic of the Mafia. It is just accepted as a force of nature, as something which cannot be changed.

Those who ask about the construction scandal in Venice on the narrow strip of land called the Lido, about the giant hole instead of a new festival palace, about the dilapidated Hotel des Bains and the empty Ospedale al Mare, get a shrug in return.


A close shave with the Godfather: “The State-Mafia Pact” at this year’s Venice Film Festival. Source: MAILA IACOVELLI – FABIO ZAYED/FESTIVAL


But Italy doesn’t have great chances in the film festival’s competition. Francesco Munzi’s Calabrian drama “Anime Nere”(“Black Souls”) is yet another Calabrian vendetta and Mafiosi-make-good-fathers story. Mario Martone’s “Il Giovane Favoloso” (“The Fabulous Young Man”) is a straight costume drama about the poet Giacomo Leopardi.

And Alba Rohrwacher is irritating in Saverio Costanzo’s New York film “Hungry Hearts” as a young mother who almost lets her baby starve to death out of fear of the harmful world.

Does Italy only have the choice between defeatism and fatalism? “Italy in a Day”creates a different picture. The project, which is not in competition, is loosely based on Ridley Scott’s production “Life in a Day” from 2011.

The director Gabriele Salvatore asked Italians to send in videos from October 26, 2013, and he promptly received 44,197 entries.

Mr. Salvatore filtered 75 minutes out of those, and created a patchwork of survival in daily life, a manifest of the collective unconsciousness, of the longings, fights and solitude of Italians.

They are mostly simple folk, school children, people from the country, from small towns, the middle class, more than 600 “directors.”

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