Partners Luca Ragazzi and Gustav Hofer. *Photo supplied
Partners Luca Ragazzi and Gustav Hofer. *Photo supplied

Italy: Love it or Leave it


• Directors: Gustav Hofer and Luca Ragazzi

• Run time: 75 minutes

• Country: Germany, Italy

• Showing: 3pm, Oct 21


Lake Como perhaps best explains Italy — beautiful on the surface but ultimately full of sewage.

The area attracts movie stars like George Clooney and Sylvester Stallone but, laments the documentary’s co-director Gustav Hofer, “no one can swim in it, not even George”.

As Hofer’s wry take on the contrasts of Lake Como illustrates, Italy: Love it or Leave It is a jaunty documentary on modern-day Italy. With their nation crumbling around them amid another sex scandal involving the now-ousted Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, Hofer and fellow co-director Luca Ragazzi are divided. Hofer is desperate to leave Rome for Berlin, where he sees a cheaper life and a better future, while Ragazzi still believes in his country.

The pair, therefore, set out on a six-month trip around Italy in a Fiat 500 to decide whether to stay or go.

Partners in life and film-making, they are a charming on-screen double act. Ragazzi’s passion is clear, while Hofer’s dry, sardonic outlook is good fun.

Cleverly, this draws you into some serious issues. Italy, you see, is in the mire. Ragazzi takes Hofer to interview people at a struggling Fiat plant, a closed-down Bialetti espresso-pot making factory and a derelict building that houses immigrants in the south, where they earn a paltry 25 Euros for picking oranges.

They also go to Berlusconi demonstrations and reflect on the negative impact he has had on the nation’s economy, image and psyche, particularly women’s. But the most depressing and interesting interviews centre on the effect of the Mafia. A Sicilian entrepreneur explains how he has been ostracized from society for daring to help police, while the infamous mafia-controlled waste disposal system in Naples also comes under the spotlight.

Hofer, with a heavy heart, feels these examples justify his desire to leave but Ragazzi counters this by lauding the values of Italian food, culture and beauty (the film features some stunning vistas).

However, an interview with Carla Girasole, the major of Capo Rizzuto, goes to the heart of the film.  She, and two colleagues, had their cars burned by Mafioso for simply enforcing the law. Despite the postcard images, do our two storytellers want to stay amid this corruption? The answer, when it comes, is almost incidental because Hofer and Ragazzi had already got their message across ‚ that Italy is in crisis.