Last night I went to the Notte del Cinema event in my home town of Cesena. This is an enlightened cultural happening in which ten open air piazzas and public spaces are given over to a celebration of cinema with free screenings of movies old and new.

This was the highlight of the second edition of a week-long festival – Piazze di Cinema – and a very civilised way of spending a hot, sultry evening.

One of the positive aspects of living in Italy is that, unlike in Britain, outdoor events of this kind are rarely ruined by inclement weather.

The film I saw was all about finding other good things to say about the Italian way of life at a time when there is a mass exodus of those (mostly young) citizens who have had enough of the endless round of political scandals and economic mismanagement.

Italy, Love It Or Leave It  is a documentary in the form of a road movie made by, and starring, two Italians Gustav Hofer and Luca Ragazzi.

It is a lively and thought-provoking film in which these two travel the length and breadth of the country in a Fiat 500 in a quest to find the definitive answer to the question: ‘should I stay, or should I go?’

They touch upon the sex, lies and corruption of the Berlusconi years (how could they not?) but also look for less obvious examples of a country in crisis – a kind of exploration of Italy’s hidden reverse.

Through interviews with ordinary workers, they show how the struggling Fiat car company and the outsourcing of the Bialletti Moka Express production plant to Eastern Europe exemplify a country unable or unwilling to come to terms with the economic challenges of the 21st century.

They also highlight the outrageous statistic that there are around 400 major building projects throughout Italy which remain incomplete. Just under half of these are in Sicily and in an interview with Claudia D’Aita we hear how she became one of the organisers of the Festival Incompiuto Siciliano (Festival of the Unfinished Sicilian Architecture) to bring wider attention to  these visible symbols of the waste of public resources.

Gustav and Luca are genial hosts throughout and their comic bickering and bantering belies a more serious agenda.

They don’t make a big deal of the fact that they are a gay; this actually only comes to the fore half way through when they focus on the blatant sexism of Italian TV and the homophobic attitudes of the Berlusconi government.

Ultimately they provide more reasons to leave than to remain but they also allow plenty of space to those who argue against deserting a sinking ship.

Passionate advocates in favour of staying include Andrea Camilleri, author of the Montalbano series, and Nichi Vendola, President of Apulia, an openly gay left winger who is one of those rare politicians you feel you can actually trust.

But, unless the voices of reason in the ‘Love It or Leave It’ film speak more loudly, the bigots, fascists, liars and crooks will surely convince more people, myself included, that their future lies elsewhere.

Berlusconi’s recent announcement that he will run again as the unopposed leader of the PDL (pretty damn lame) party and the strong possibility that he will re-elected gives the clear message that too many Italians are unable to learn from the mistakes of the past.

Related links:

How Italy’s Ruins Become Art (Independent.co.uk)

Article on the closure of Bialetti production in Italy

Silvio Berlusconi will run in Italy’s 2013 general election, says party official (guardian.co.uk)

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