Two decades before the Trump presidency, billionaire-turned-prime-minister Silvio Berlusconi used his vast media empire and flamboyant persona to upend Italian politics. With irreverence and wit, THE COMMUNISTS HAVE NO SENSE OF HUMOR presents a female-led retelling of forty years of Italian TV, politics, and satire.
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The film opens with the colorful, frenetic world of Drive In, a hugely successful Italian TV variety show from the 1980s. The show’s rapid-fire humor and scantily-clad showgirls were emblematic of a new age of Italian television, awash in Reagan-era American influence—an era dominated by real estate tycoon and media mogul Silvio Berlusconi. Through a mix of archival footage and engaging, direct-to-camera storytelling by Italian women, we learn how, by the time of Berlusconi’s surprise election victory in 1994, he had already enjoyed over a decade of overwhelming influence in Italy. A billionaire, he was the country’s richest man, with a monopoly over private television and the ear of the prime minister. When his allies were kicked out of government by a series of corruption scandals, Berlusconi decided to become the government—and he dominated Italian politics for the next two decades.
Berlusconi's persona as a playboy and bon vivant avatar of the patriarchy was built upon his financial success and the world it enabled him to create—a world filled with a champion soccer team, dazzling television, and, above all, beautiful women.
We see the women who populated Berlusconi's television networks—the buxom showgirls of Drive In, underage girls dancing on Non è la RAI... and also female comedians who launched the sketch comedy show TV delle ragazze (TV of the Girls), a female answer to Drive In.
...the rise and never-quite-fall of Silvio Berlusconi...
America’s political turmoil and the ongoing rise of populism throughout Europe are the backdrop as Italian women reflect on the past and continue to shape the future. As right-wing parties compete for power in Italy, even Silvio Berlusconi is trying to stage a comeback.
Aimed at American audiences, this feature-length film raises urgent questions about the nature of truth, the complicity of laughter, and the long-term consequences of an “unprecedented” ruler.
Clare is a documentary filmmaker and cinematographer who specializes in stories that illuminate the intersection of cultures and the lives of women and girls. Recent cinematography credits include Belly of the Beast (HRW 2020), Ahead of the Curve (Frameline 2020), and We Are the Radical Monarchs (SXSW 2019). Based in Oakland, California, Clare is currently working on documentaries set in California, Mississippi, Italy, and Haiti.
Rivkah Beth Medow
Rivkah makes character-driven films that deepen social or ecological connections and draw communities together. Her credits include AHEAD OF THE CURVE (2020); SONS OF A GUN (2009; PBS); BEING GEORGE CLOONEY (2016; Netflix); THE NINE by Katy Grannan (2016, Festivals); and THE NEXT FRONTIER (2010, PBS).