Viva Zapatero!

Italy, video (beta), 2005, 80’

So, what is Italian journalist Sabina Guzzanti actually doing in her documentary, which, by way of its very title – Viva Zapatero! – proposes a toast to the Spanish prime minister? First off, Guzzanti documents the problems she faced at Italian state television during Berlusconi’s reign. Commissioned to write, direct and feature in a late-night satirical television series, the show was axed immediately after the airing of its first episode, as the result of political pressure applied as a consequence of her lampooning the Italian premier. This decision to pull the series was based on – as we can see from her documentary – some very diverse arguments, namely: Guzzanti was telling untruths, Guzzanti was being offensive; Guzzanti was mixing information and commentary…

Viva Zapatero! provides Sabina Guzzanti’s side of the story. And as is revealed in this documentary – as well as through the statements of all the politicians involved, together with those of media experts, theorists and practitioners of satire - it can be deemed that all the aforementioned arguments most certainly apply. But a most crucial fact must also be considered; namely: that this was satire, which by its very definition mandates ‘untruths’ – i.e. exaggeration, transposition, caricaturing, as well as ridiculing the established order – a genre which has been a most powerful leveller since Aristophanes. At the same time the limits of ’good taste' are – as has been well explained by Dario Fo, a man whose very satire earned him a Nobel Prize – certainly not determined by the satire's victim, but only and exclusively by the audience, which can either reject the satire as primitive or lacking bite, or support it – despite its cruelty – because it has hit the very nail on the head.

Politicians who attempt to ban satire on their own account are, by definition, intrinsically weak, as English satirist Rory Bremner – a man famous for his impersonations of politicians, including Tony Blair – reflects in the documentary. And he is so bloody right: Berlusconi has been history for six months, and everybody should live happily ever after. But, it’s not as simple as that. Through an examination of her own case Guzzanti reveals a series of mechanisms which facilitated the ascension of a new “Caesar”, instruments that had been established by the previous centre-left government that was instantaneously transformed into an anaemic opposition following Berlusconi's victory. And this is what is most frightening. When explicitly asked why they passed laws that allowed Berlusconi to control the media, a minister of the pre-Berlusconi government shrugged his shoulders in embarrassment. It is obvious that they were speculating; and failed. Realising that they couldn’t win the next elections, they may also have consciously pushed the country into the arms of a lunatic who brought it to its knees politically, economically and socially. …And this spring they were again able to mount throne as the great saviour…?

And last – but by no means least – how did Guzzanti’s journalist colleagues react to Berlusconi's media censorship? Unfortunately, not that honourably. As with the left-wing politicians they too distanced themselves, and sniped at her perceived lack of objectivity. This is indeed a very enlightening story, especially for a callow neighbour.
Tanja Lesničar-Pučko

Moderated by: Tanja Lesničar-Pučko 

Organisation: City of Women
In collaboration with: Kinodvor
With the support of: Istituto Italiano di Cultura


Date and time of event: 
Oct 10th 19:00
Place of event: