Sandro Bondi boycotting Cannes

Made decision based on officials' choice to screen 'Draquila'

ROME -- Italian Minister of Culture Sandro Bondi said he would boycott the Festival de Cannes in protest over a film that portrayed the Berlusconi administration, a move that by Monday had sparked a wave of criticism from the Italian film community.

Bondi made his decision based on the Cannes officials' choice to screen Sabina Guzzanti's documentary "Draquila -- Italy Trembles." The film, which will screen out of competition, is critical of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's handling of the deadly earthquake that struck the city of L'Aquila last year.

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Guzzanti is the daughter of Paolo Guzzanti, a former parliamentarian and prominent figure in Berlusconi's political coalition.

When Bondi first announced the move, he indicated that other Italians upset over the film might join him. But as of Monday there was no indication that any notable figures in the Italian film world would join in the boycott.

Officials from Medusa, the film production giant that is a key part of Berlusconi's media empire said that they would still be in Cannes in full force, and the Italian pavilion, which is paid for by the Italian government, would still be open as in years past.

Key figures in the film industry blasted Bondi's move as a kind of censorship: Director Marco Bellocchio, who will host a master class at this year's festival and whose film "Vincere" screened in competition at the festival in 2009, criticized Bondi for protesting against the film without having seen it. Mario Monicelli, the 95-year-old director who came of age in Mussolini's Italy, accused Bondi of acting like a Fascist-era minister.

Even members of Bondi's own political party said they disagreed with the move. "The culture minister's role is to represent Italy and to be above polemics," parliamentarian Fabio Granata said. And in France, former culture minister Jack Lang said that Bondi had "a strange concept of freedom" of expression.

But Bondi did enjoy the support of one unlikely ally in noted auteur and opera director Franco Zeffirelli, the 87-year-old director of the 1967 version of "The Taming of the Shrew" starring Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, and "Romeo and Juliet," which earned him an Academy Award nomination a year later.

Now serving in the Italian Senate representing Sicily, Zeffirelli said he supported the minister's decision.

"Why should Bondi give his support to an unworthy film that offends all of Italy?," Zeffirelli asked. "After all, it's a festival famous for putting any kind of garbage on its screens [in order to attract] attention."