Politically committed documentary makers like Michael Moore do not hesitate to present their own views as truth; Moore makes just as much use of propaganda techniques as the persons and institutions he criticizes in his work. In “Videocracy”, the Italian-Swedish Erik Gandini uses a similar method to portray the media power of the Italian prime minister-cum-television magnate Silvio Berlusconi.
Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World” comes close with the picture sketched in “Videocracy”: according to Gandini, television à la Berlusconi – superficial shows with carefully selected beautiful girls who don’t speak a word (“veline”) – is the purest opium for the people. “La televisione del presidente” promises that any Italian can lead Berlusconi’s life, according to Gandini, and suggests that any Italian will, too, which would cunningly bolster the prime minister’s power.
The Italians portrayed in “Videocracy” – such as wannabe celeb Ricky, paperazzo Fabrizio Corona and star maker Lele Mora – do indeed lead you to believe that Italy has become a land of archetypal Berlusconi puppets. Ricky is a bank worker who still lives with his mother and thinks his clownish Ricky Martin impersonation is going to bring him happiness on TV; Corona is a crook who receives money from the rich to withhold photos of their escapades, and Mora trains unknown Italians in fame from an all-white villa in Sardinia, while his cell phone rings with battle songs from Mussolini.
Critics of Berlusconi – portrayed only indirectly – get their concerns served ready in “Videocracy”, an otherwise cleverly made documentary about personality cult. It is particularly nice that powerful people like Corona and Mora allow themselves to be put to Gandini’s cart so easily; vanity seems to blind them to the image created of them; likeable is the silly ambition of Ricky – an “ordinary” Italian who seems to do his best with the norms and values that have been given to him. Despite the one-sidedness, the roaring music and ditto imagery, it makes “Videocracy” worthwhile.