Director Dubbed the "Italian Weinstein" Under Investigation for Sexual Violence

Fausto Brizzi - Forever Young Photocall 2016 - Getty - H 2017
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Three women have brought charges against Fausto Brizzi, accusing him of forcing them to have sex against their will.

Director Fausto Brizzi is being investigated for charges of sexual harassment brought forward by three young women, as first reported by newspaper Corriere della Sera. The case was formalized by the public prosecutor's office in Rome.

Under Italian law the case would be a difficult one to prosecute, as two of the complaints took place more than six months ago, which, incredibly, is beyond the statue of limitations in Italy. The third complaint is believed to lack sufficient evidence to convict. The women have come forward despite the six-month deadline, seeking justice with the magistrate "for what we have suffered."

The three women allege that Brizzi invited them to audition for roles at his apartment and proceeded to force them into sexual intercourse. The decision on the case is expected this week. While a guilty ruling is considered unlikely, given Italian law, the accusers still have recourse to bring a civil case against Brizzi.

Activist and director Asia Argento responded to the news by calling on Italy to reform its outdated laws, specifically the current six-month statute of limitations on rape cases. She tweeted, "Predators and harassers will go unpunished. We need to change this law that was created before the unification of Italy!" 

Brizzi, a box-office success in Italy, has directed several local comedy hits for Warner Bros. At least 10 women have come forward accusing him of sexual harassment, including former Miss Italy Clarissa Marchese and model Alessandra Guilia Bassi. He maintains that he's never had nonconsensual sexual relations. 

Last November, Mediaset TV show Le Iene did a piece on sexual harassment, and it was revealed that 10 of the 30 women interviewed had accusations against Brizzi. The allegations, ranging from unsolicited massages to using physical force when women resisted his advances, prompted local media to dub him the "Italian Weinstein."

The Italian industry has overall stood by Brizzi, with Warner Bros. going forward with releasing his latest blockbuster last December, Poor but Very Rich, although it ultimately took his name off of promotional materials and has suspended further work with him. 

Brizzi currently has a three-year contract with cinema and theatrical producer Luca Barbareschi, who said in an interview with ANSA, "Brizzi is a genius. He has a wonderful mind. The #MeToo gang are loonies. It's comical." 

The #MeToo movement has been slow to gain much ground in Italy. And those who come forward as victims of sexual violence continue to be ridiculed by the media and pundits who often label them as opportunists, or criticize them for having waited to come forward. 

Many of the women who had originally spoken out on Le lene indeed said that given the climate in Italy, they were afraid of coming forward for fear of not being believed or for feeling ashamed of what had happened to them.