ROME – Italian Culture Minister Sandro Bondi will be conspicuous by his absence Thursday when the Cannes film festival screens a documentary critical of the Rome government.
Slamming Sabina Guzzanti's "Draquila" as a "propaganda film that offends the truth of all Italians," Bondi cancelled his planned appearance at the grande dame of film festivals' opening Wednesday.
"Draquila - Trembling Italy" criticises the Italian government's response to last year's earthquake in central Italy in a style similar to that of American documentary guru Michael Moore.
The film exposes an apparent monopoly over reconstruction projects in quake-hit L'Aquila by business leaders with ties to the Italian government, notably to public safety chief Guido Bertolaso.
Guzzanti, 46, already took aim at Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi in "Viva Zapatero!" (2005), which documented the cancellation of a political satire show on Italian late-night television.
Bertolaso, who has the rank of a minister, defended himself on Monday, saying Guzzanti's new film provides only "a partial view of things and does not reflect the spirit and the feelings of the inhabitants of L'Aquila" towards his agency.
The April 6, 2009, earthquake killed 308 people and devastated the medieval town of L'Aquila, leaving 80,000 people homeless.
Most of central L'Aquila is still an off-limits "red zone" because of the dangerous state of the buildings and the rubble-strewn streets, while lodging has been built far from the city at three times the projected cost.
Bertolaso was initially lionised for the civil protection agency's rapid response to the disaster, but he is now under investigation for corruption over the awarding of reconstruction contracts.
The movie suggests that Berlusconi himself used the earthquake to boost his image at a time when it was tarnished by a series of sex scandals.
Berlusconi, 73, was forced to deny paying for sex after a call-girl disclosed publicly that she had spent the night with him, just weeks after his wife Veronica Lario filed for divorce after revelations that the media tycoon had attended the 18th birthday party of an aspiring model.
Guzzanti, who would not comment to foreign media before the film festival, told the Italian press that "the movie is a reflection on the authoritarian drift in this country."
Last week, before the movie opened at a Rome theatre, Guzzanti asked viewers to share their opinions on her blog.
"It's an intelligent and effective film that mirrors the reality of Italy today," said Massimo Moi, a 46-year-old optician.
Psychologist Gianluigi Lepri said the movie shows "the habit in Italy today of running public affairs as if they were private."
Daniele Lucchetti, the only Italian director in the official selection at Cannes with "La Nostra Vita" (Our Life), criticised Bondi's decision to snub the festival.
"One should be proud of bringing such a display of (artistic) freedom abroad," he said.
On Facebook, hundreds of people have already joined an anti-Draquila group.
The documentary, which debuted in Italian movie theatres last Friday, made 263,000 euros (335,000 dollars) at the box office over the weekend.