March 23, 2006

Italian director brings Berlusconi to big screen

By Silvia Aloisi

ROME (Reuters) - Italian director Nanni Moretti brings
Silvio Berlusconi to the big screen in "The Cayman," a
bitter-sweet critique of the tycoon-turned-politician but also
of those who demonise him.

"The Cayman" hits the screens in Italy on Friday, just two
weeks before an April 9-10 election which opinion polls say the
prime minister's centre-right bloc is likely to lose.

Its release has been hotly anticipated in Italy, both
because of the proximity to the ballot and the mystery which
has surrounded its contents -- actors were sworn to secrecy by

"The Cayman" -- a reptile resembling a crocodile, and the
nickname given to Berlusconi by the left-wing press -- tells
the story of a B-movie producer and a young woman film director
who want to make a film about the premier but cannot find an
actor daring enough to play it.

When the sole aspirant to the role backs out at the last
minute the project falls apart, but the producer manages to put
together enough money to shoot just one scene: the conviction
of Berlusconi, impersonated by Moretti, in a corruption trial.

The film marks a return to politics for diehard leftist
Moretti, one of Italy's best known directors.

It contains excerpts of controversial speeches given by the
real Berlusconi, including his likening of a German lawmaker to
a Nazi concentration camp guard at the start of the last
Italian presidency of the European Union in 2003.


But "The Cayman," Moretti's first film since his intimate
drama "The Son's Room" won the Palme D'Or top prize at the
Cannes festival in 2001, also takes a more subtle swipe at
those who portray Berlusconi as the cause of all of Italy's

In one scene, Moretti at first turns down a proposal to
play the prime minister in the highly critical film the
passionate young director wants to make.

"Everything has already been said. And it's what the left
wants to hear," he tells her.

"He's blaming the left for being obsessed with Berlusconi,"
said film critic Piera Detassis after a press screening on

As expected, the film entered the political debate as soon
as details of it began to emerge.

Berlusconi said he would not go to see it. One of his
allies said "The Cayman" was "quintessentially full of hatred
and rancour" and would backfire.

"It is a film that will win a lot of votes for the
centre-right," said Michele Bonatesta of the National Alliance,
the second biggest party in Berlusconi's coalition.

Asked whether he thought the film would have an impact on
the vote, centre-left leader Romano Prodi was non-committal.

"Moretti's films are always worth watching. Whether it's
damaging or useful for the electoral campaign, we'll see."