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Former Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi is making his first foray into television with Florence, a new documentary series about the history of his hometown. Renzi skipped summer vacation to film the series around the city, including locations such as the Palazzo Vecchio, Uffizi Gallery, Vasari Corridor and Palazzo Medici. For the series he turned to Lucio Presta’s Acrobaleno Tre, the production company that has worked with Roberto Benigni.
Renzi was in Cannes to screen the first episode of the four 90-minute episodes for international buyers and sat down with The Hollywood Reporter to talk about how he conceived of the idea to make a series about his hometown and what implications it has for Italy’s current political landscape and future.
Why follow up your premiership by doing a TV show?
After I resigned from the office of prime minister, I served for three years, and while I continue to be a member of parliament as senator for Florence, my idea was to combine my great love for my city with a message for the new political and cultural challenges of the country today. This project tries to combine the story of Florence — it’s really unbelievable that in a little part of the planet these great geniuses lived together and made many of the most incredible revolutions in — and it’s a message for us today about economy, about culture. When I speak about the history of Florence I present the great successes of economy and finance during the Renaissance as a consequence of what was globalization in the past. The Florentine people invested a lot of money in creating a global process of markets, which was exactly the opposite of the protectionism of today.
Did you make the show to make a counterpoint about the way Italy is being perceived in the international media today?
I think in this moment there is not a bad message of Italy — it is an unbelievable land with a lot of opportunities in culture, in food, in design, in fashion, in everything. But at the same time, we risk as Italians, to see that as normal. We walk in the streets that are unbelievable to the rest of the world, but with a boring approach. My challenge is to try to show the places in which I was born and grew up and studied and worked as places able to give a message of hope and beauty with a narrative that is different. I think it is important also to show Galileo and Leonardo [da Vinci] and Michelangelo with the fashion, design and food of today. Gucci was born in Florence; Ferragamo was created in Florence. Some of the most important fashion brands come from the history of the global market that was created in Florence. So, to use a French expression, a fil rouge, and everything we are experiencing now has a past. My dream is to try to show that history with a different vision of the future to give a message that Italy is not a land with a bad story and a bad narrative.
Do you think you will continue to pursue a career in TV or do you think you may return to politics?
This is a dream achieved. For the future we will see. I continue to be a member of Parliament and I’m really happy for that. I had the great privilege to serve my country as the head of government for three years, through three G20s, through three G7s. Italy is different in respect to other countries. In Italy the turnover, the continuous change of government is a problem. It’s very unbelievable because myself with my government was one that had the most longevity. The only governments with more longevity were Berlusconi, Craxi and Mussolini, just to put it in perspective. I was the youngest prime minister in the history of Italy and now I’m 43 years old. I don’t know what will happen in the future on TV or in politics in my life. I’m happy to present this project to the people around the world.
What issues are you trying to present with this series?
I think the future of the world will need to pay more attention about beauty, about culture. I tried during this [program] to expose a very sad history in Florence [the 1993 via dei Georgofili bombing]. It was a political message from the mafia. The message was that if you destroy the culture, it’s a way to destroy the identity of the country, and it is the same of the terrorists of today, the attack against the Bataclan. So I think the enemies of beauty and the leader of the mafia understood better than us the power of culture. In this moment, with the future of AI, I think beauty is important, culture is important. AI is the challenge of the future and that is also politics. It’s a different type of politics, but it is politics.
What did you learn about the TV business from working on this?
I learned a lot of things with a great team. I used the summer [to film] just to avoid the risk [of conflict] because during the period of political life to be a TV star would be very stupid thing, so we spent August in Florence. I learned a lot of things about being professional on TV. It’s very funny for me to try to use the correct words and I joke about it, but it is more difficult to prepare a speech for TV than to prepare a speech for a public audience because you have to pay attention to the mix. You have to say the very essential thing. In parliament you have a lot of words and very long speeches, but on TV you have to get to the point.
So should we expect Matteo Renzi, TV star?
We will see. For the moment I don’t know. The star of this series is Florence, it is not myself. It’s exactly that, a different perspective of Florence with a message. I’m a citizen who loves his city and thinks his city is an important message for the world today, and for the future. There is something of my life in this project. [The series] is now the point, and then we will see. TV star would be too much.
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