One of the best of the good things about German-language television (there are bad things as well) is the arte channel, a French-German cooperative channel which is heavy on culture, literature, the arts, education. Late last night I stumbled upon a new documentary by Gustav Hofer and Luca Ragazzi titled “Italy — Love it or Leave it”. The general set-up of the film is this — Hofer and Ragazzi, who are a couple, are moving, and argue about whether to stay in Rome or move to Berlin. Gustav has had it with Italy, but Luca wants him to see the good things that Italy has to offer. They decide to use the next six months on a sort of Road Trip Italian Style, taking a classic little Fiat 500 up and down through their country, looking for the good and the bad (the Fiat keeps changing color with each trip, much like that horse in “The Wizard of Oz”.)
What they find is sobering. 21st-century-Italy is in bad shape — divided perhaps even more dramatically than America. The young leave in droves for greener EU pastures and work, the old right-leaning defend Berlusconi and speak fondly of Mussolini (it was all that Hitler’s fault!) The media dishes out regular and frequent doses of homophobia, women as sex objects, and sensationalism. The garbage piles up. The Mafia is still very much around. African immigrants are left to drown off the coast. Even Bialetti has shut down its last Moka Express percolator factory and now produces them in Romania.
But there are reasons to hope. There are people in all regions of Italy who are trying to improve the situation, who are sticking up for what they believe, for the benefit of others and often at a cost to their own way of life. I have no idea when and if this film will reach America, but if you can, find a way to see it.
* words spoken by author Andrea Camilleri, in a brief appearance in which he makes an argument for staying to make the country better.