Thursday, September 3, 2009

Cinematic CHUTZPAH

When it comes to chutzpah in the world of filmmaking, many of us have a natural tendency to think of Michael Moore; and, unless I am mistaken (or the Blogger search engine has moderate, if not serious, problems), Moore now holds two Chutzpah of the Week awards. Also, back in May of 2007, I acknowledged Florian Opitz as a "German Michael Moore;" but he never rose to the level of a Chutzpah award. It now appears that we have a strong contender for a "Swedish Michael Moore" in Erik Gandini. Gandini has directed at least two films that would have earned him a Chutzpah of the Week award, had they not both predated the awarding process. The earlier film was the 2003 Surplus: Terrorized Into Being Consumers, which offers one of the more interesting takes on a subject dear to my heart. This was followed in 2005 by Gitmo – The New Rules of War, hardly the only effort to shine a light on our practices in Guantanamo Bay but still one with a healthy dose of chutzpah.

Now Gandini is in a position to be properly recognized. His latest film is entitled Videocracy; and his targets are Silvio Berlusconi, the media businesses he continues to dominate, even while serving as Prime Minister of Italy, and his impact on the "media culture" of Italy. Indeed, Arifa Akbar, Arts Correspondent for The Independent, observed that the trailer that Gandini prepared for his film "blamed Berlusconi for creating a frivolous media culture filled with 'half-naked women' and chauvinistic images." Taking on Berlusconi would be grounds for chutzpah in itself; but, as is often the case with acts of chutzpah, one good deed begets another. Today happens to be the day that Videocracy screened on Berlusconi's "turf" at the Venice Film Festival.

It is interesting to see that Berlusconi reacted to these multiple acts of chutzpah in a manner that basically strengthened Gandini's hand. Most important was a ban against showing the Videocracy trailer that was exercised by both RAI (the state-owned Italian television channel) and the three private channels run by Berlusconi's company Mediaset. This had the fortunate inverse effect of increasing the buzz around the film at the Venice Festival as well as the viral distribution of the trailer through Facebook. Gandini has thus honored both the spirit of chutzpah and its sense of magnitude and therefore deserves to be honored with the Chutzpah of the Week award.

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