Frieze Zona Maco

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My girl friend is in a coma
(Christina Magnanelli Weitensfelder, no.63 Rubin Red - The Style)

«I robbed for the good of the State». (Paphlagon - Greece, 4th century B.C.)

Love letter to Annalisa Piras, director of Girlfriend in a Coma.
I appeal to you, you who have sat lovingly at Italy’s bedside with Bill Emmott, observing every symptom of worsening or improvement in its condition.

The quotation from Paphlagon is an example of self-justifying manipulation of the truth, and the question is this: mass corruption, which is basically what your documentary talks about, goes far back into the past. Why has it taken root in Italy more than in other countries?
«According to the classification of Transparency International, Italy is the most corrupt country in Europe, and 72nd in the world, between Ghana and Samoa. How has it earned this sad record? It’s impossible to find just one reason. But in our film, many of the people interviewed offer clues. Umberto Eco says the main sin of Italians is their lack of the sense of state. And corruption is always connected to the failure of institutions, to the lack of a culture of respect for the common good. It’s clear that Italy has a congenital defect. The nation of the “thousand bell-towers” (i.e. of the parochial mentality) was only recently unified; it’s afflicted by constant fragmentation into thousands of individual interests; it’s an immature state, still far from a nationally-shared civic consciousness. To make things worse, there’s the Catholic culture, which tends to encourage a dual morality, a public one and a private one; this makes people think they can constantly make compromises with impunity».
Change, a word which in Italy almost sounds like a mantra – who should it start from? Politics? Civil society? Or actions like Girlfriend in a Coma?
«Gandhi said “Be the change you wish to see in the world”, and I think this is the fundamental message of our film. Indolence is the enemy Italians have to fight within themselves. The film also tried to contribute to this examination of its own conscience which Italy balks at. Change must come from all of us, today, now. We can’t always blame someone else, or wait expectantly for a future leader».
This film was made in England but talks about Italy, underlining aspects which have been kept hidden and avoided in our peninsula for decades. How can we rebuild a history which has been taken away from us? How can we make the new generations understand the importance of the civil rights we have fought for, and the toughness of those fights, which we should never forget, as you have emphasised in your documentary?

«By showing them Girlfriend in a Coma maybe? Joking apart, I believe a total cultural battle is necessary and urgent. Starting from the schools and universities. In this regard, what filled us with hope was seeing how civil society responded to our film, above all with the independent projections in the universities, organised by the students. We saw with our own eyes that there are many, many people who are aware of Italy’s cultural barbarisation. They need to stand up and be counted, join forces, and make their voices heard».
Don’t you think the lack of a post-industrial cultural literacy which for one reason or another has not been created in Italy represents a serious problem?
«No doubt about it. We often forget that culturally Italy is an extremely backward country. In 2002, 63% of Italians over 15 years of age had only had early secondary school education at most. In an international study by the OECD (Adult Literacy and Life Skills), we come bottom for literacy, with the greatest inequality over the population. According to the great linguist Tullio De Mauro, Italy got off to a late start in making its population literate and has increased its handicap by underestimating the relapse into illiteracy which has affected all the advanced societies.
All this has taken place with the total indifference of the political class and with general unawareness of what was happening. When making the film, we also realised what a poor knowledge of English the managing classes have in general. How can we really understand the great changes which have taken place in the world in the last 20 years if we only read Italian newspapers? And this obviously also damages the economy, depriving the country of crucial opportunities for re-launching growth».
On 15th July in London a debate was held on servile and informative journalism, a comparison between the Italian and the English press. But in Italy will we have the strength to recuperate a healthy civil conscience?
«We have to want it. The energy is there. There are many civil people in Italy, but we often have the impression that they are silent, smothered by the yelling of the people who are not at all civil. Today however technology helps us. Wrong information can be fought online. Information can be shared, people can meet up and go into action. On our site,, we continue and will continue to encourage interested, active citizens. Also at a European level. The common moral crisis in Europe is the subject of our next film. The battle is a long one and requires everybody’s energies and commitment. There’s a famous French saying, “the only battles you are sure of losing are those you choose not to fight”. We have to really want to wake up our Girlfriend in a Coma».