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.
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 values—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 experts, 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 friends were kicked out of government due to a series of corruption scandals, Berlusconi decided to become the government, and he dominated Italian politics for the next two decades.
Using a feminist lens focused on gender, minority voices, and their relationships to power, the film reveals how Berlusconi sold himself as an anti-politician and bon vivant avatar of the patriarchy. He shattered political and social norms with a smile and a laugh, dismissing his critics as unable to take a joke. [EVENTUAL FALL OF SB]
[ROLE OF WOMEN]
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 nationalist, populist 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. How can the lenses of gender and power enhance our understanding of politics, truth, and hope? What is the role of satire in political action, and what is satire’s impact if the court jester has already been crowned king?
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).