'GIRLFRIEND IN A COMA:' The Banned Documentary That Showed Why Italian Voters Were The First To Rebel

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Photo: Bill Emmott/Girlfriend In A Coma

A day before election day two weeks ago, Italian authorities halted a screening of a documentary by the former editor of The Economist about the country’s society-wide crisis.The film, “Girlfriend In A Coma” — a play on the Smiths’ song speaking to Emmott’s formerly intimate relationship with the country — had already been viewed in other parts of the country and hailed by the Italian press, but a screening in advance of the polls was deemed to threaten the country’s election laws. 

Emmott of course blasted the decision, and the FT’s Fernando Giugliano called the ban “an act of intellectual cowardice.” 

The elections themselves produced two major surprises: comedian and activist Beppe Grillo’s party gained as much as 30 per cent in some regions. And former prime minister’s Silvio Berlusconi’s party also made strong gains. But the technical outcome was more disaster: a deadlocked parliament whose majority leader, Pier Luigi Bersani, is struggling to put together a ruling coalition.

We wanted to see what all the fuss in the film was about. After seeing it, you’ll better understand why Italian voters are so upset. (Via @pawelmorski)

To check out the film in its entirety, go here.

We begin with the bad.

Its GDP is 180th.

Corruption: 64th.

Emmott sees Silvio Berlusconi not so much as the problem but the symptom of a country gone to rot.

Emmott actually encounters Berlusconi...

And invites him to appear in it. Berlusconi accepts!

But turns out not to have been serious.

Italy's ruling class is depicted as craven and louche.

The movement has been indirectly reinforced by the state's near-monopoly on televised news.

Umberto Eco, the most important living writer in Italy, says Italians are guilty as well for supporting Berlusconi's easy morality.

Emmott muses on what the country's founders would now think.

Though we also learn the problem is not quite so recent.

Recent protests have been brutally repressed.

It's a longstanding issue that has not improved.

Italy also remains beset by mafia influence.

While many family bosses are in jail, their money continues to flow freely across Europe, according to this prosecutor.

The facts: 10 per cent of its GDP is said to be mafia-based.

And the problem goes right to the top.

Arguably the country's most serious problem is its treatment of women.

Domestic violence remains a huge problem.

And its ranking on gender equality is atrocious.

It's rare to see women in the workforce...

Rather, they're expected to be wives and mothers.

Yes — not everyone is lying down.

It's quite courageous, and the homes' residents are grateful.

It's run by a group called GOEL, which employs disadvantaged people.

Fiat CEO Sergio Marchione is upheld as the paragon of Emmott's vision for the country.

Emmott also says Ferrero's old-school family values are a strong example for the rest of the country.

For Emmott, Italy's salvation lies in its post-war industrial glory years.

But the odds are incredibly slim, because it has produced a massive diaspora.

This has caused its most promising citizens to move abroad.

This London-based artist explains why.

The country is in danger of ossifying into a land of beaches and ice cream, Emmott concludes.

More worldwide perspective...

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