DIRECTORS: Gustav Hofer and Luca Ragazzi

CAST: Gustav Hofer, Luca Ragazzi, the people of Italia


RUNNING TIME: 80 minutes

RATING: ****

Shot over six months, this docutrip is a diary of two Italians, trying to figure out if they want to stay or leave the country as so many of their friends have done.

Gustav Hofer and Luca Ragazzi made the award-winning documentary Suddenly, Last Winter three years ago, which saw them film a documentary about the fight for a law which would allow civil unions for gay couples in Italy.

Here they follow the same style, following political proceedings, seeking interviews with people in power, checking out political rallies and talking to people on the streets.

This time though, they have a different agenda – they’re trying to figure out if it makes more sense to follow their friends, or just stay put.

The film is narrated from Ragazzi’s perspective, a born and bred Roman, trying to show his South Tyrol-born partner all the good things in Italy.

Ragazzi is the kind of person who believes traffic signs are open to interpretation, that they are merely suggestions, while Hofer does things like stop at a red traffic light.

The film starts off with the two of them packing up their Rome flat after six years and then shows us how Ragazzi has been trying to persuade Hofer that they should stay put.

Ragazzi takes Hofer around the country to various iconic sites, buildings and places in the hope of showing him the beauty of the country. Instead, he ends up showing him everything that has gone wrong.

Once Italy may have led the world as a hot-house of ideas and yes, it’s still beautiful, but so what, asks Hofer.

They drive around in a Fiat 500 which changes colour all the time, probably because the distances they were travelling, they had to keep on changing cars. “It’s not very comfortable, but it’s a classic,” says Ragazzi as they get into the car.

“We can’t stay in Italy for the aquaducts,” says Hofer, but he allows himself to be dragged around the Italian countryside in the name of documentary film-making.

Monty Python-esque animation sequences depict their actual travelling, along with photo snapshots of times gone by.

Because the film was made in the middle of the investigation into the scandal over the underage call girl, the fight over the legacy of Berlusconi is just starting and we get a glimpse into a country obsessed with appearance, dominated by television and governed by ageing politicians.

Though Hofer does all the driving because Ragazzi doesn’t have a licence, it turns out Ragazzi does have a pilot’s licence and they end up flying around Giarre in Sicily, checking out illegal construction and unfinished buildings.

“On the surface, everything looks beautiful,” says Hofer when they stop at Lake Como, the most polluted lake in Italy, beautiful, but not a place to swim.

What they decide is the family is the safety net, food is important because that is how Italians create a social society – not because they’ve necessarily got the best food in the world – and that Italy is a place of contradictions.

How they get to these conclusions is interesting though and you get a better understanding of how regular people live, not just the beautiful people you see in adverts.

What happened to Italy and when did everyone become so cynical is a question they ask, but there’s no real answer. Instead, what we do get is a portrait of the issues facing the young people of Italy, a country of iconic beauty and massive economic and socio-political problems.

lItaly: Love it, or Leave it plays at the Labia on Orange.