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By Michael Ferraro | January 26, 2006

Sabina Guzzanti’s “Viva Zapatero!” documents the suppression of her highly popular television show, “RAlot.” The show aired on Italy’s public television channel, RAI, and mixed political news with satire. A good mix of SNL and The Daily Show, The show was canceled instantaneously (even though the first episode pulled in almost 2,000,000 viewers); a decision brought on by governmental pressure. Upon this decision, Guzzanti heads out to find out the truth in the mischievous nature of Michael Moore. Only she is more determined to get interviews with the people involved of such a ridiculous decision. There are a lot of concepts about the freedom of press in Italy that are worthy of note, it’s just the fashion at which the facts are compiled is a little less than comprehendible.

Government interfering with media (by putting their own people into positions of network power) is something that’s all too common these days. Over the past three years in Italy, one man has had his hand in a giant chunk of the media outlets. This one-man Clear Channel czar is also the prime minister of Italy – Silvio Berlusconi. So when Guzzanti and others put together RAlot, the Berlusconi-owned Mediaset corporation sued the network for defamation of character. The show is instantly canceled.

Political satire works so well because it challenges ideals, takes fact and makes it all laughable. This show clearly succeeded in all of these areas but the officials in charge of bringing it down claim satire is okay as long as you don’t hurt anyone’s feelings or insult them. How pointless would satire be if it didn’t involve people being ridiculed?

“Viva Zapatero!” is a very funny look at freedom and censorship. Hunting down representatives in the street, the clueless nature of these people caught off guard is hilarious.

During the course of the last few years, Italy transformed from one of the most liberated societies in the world, to one losing its freedoms rapidly. The transition is devastating enough for its own documentary. The accepting of censorship is a lot more common than not these days, had this film focused more on the ease of government interfering, it would have had a greater impact.

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