Thursday, October 28, 2010

LFF: Power, Lies and Corruption

Still from CaranchoMy final instalment from this year's London Film Festival focusses on two very different films that highlight the dangers of the abuse of power.

Sabina Guzzanti's excoriating documentary, Draquila, Italy Trembles, takes as its starting point the devastating 2009 earthquake that led to the abandonment of the Italian town of Aquila. But, as the film makes clear, much of the devastation was due to the incompetence or possibly abuse of power of the country's Civil Protection Service, under the direct control of controversial prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi. Guzzanti's disaffection with Berlusconi is well-known, and she has satirised him on numerous occasions. This film, though a polemic, is well-made and forceful in its criticism of his government's actions or, rather, inaction, in warning the town's residents of impending disaster and then effectively requisitioning the town for development, using emergency powers. The film then delves deeper into Berlusconi's construction background and unsavoury connections. Reminiscent of Michael Moore's salvos at ex-president Bush, the film is by turns funny and very, very sad. Clearly, Guzzanti feels Berlusconi is destroying the fabric of Italian society and her conclusion is not optimistic.

From Draquila to "tranquilo", the much-repeated interjection in Carancho, the latest drama from the Pablo Trapero-Martina Gusman team, he directing, she producing and starring. While I very much enjoyed Lion's Den, another collaboration by the couple, Carancho fell short of my expectations. Starting out as a tense character study of Gusman's ambulance worker and Ricardo Darin's "vulture" (ambulance-chasing lawyer), the film degenerated in the last quarter into an absurd bloodbath, with gun battles and multiple car crashes that defied credulity. A shame. But, it also made clear the insidious influence of crime bosses on the burgeoning compensation free-for-all in Buenos Aires, in which poor people are pushed into staging accidents in return for paltry sums. The Trapero-Gusman message in this film seems to be that inhumanity is only a step away for even the most superficially honest.

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