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FILM

Story of Italy’s celebrated journalist hits screen

The turbo-charged life of one of Italy's most celebrated - and controversial - female journalists has been turned into a television film.

Story of Italy's celebrated journalist hits screen
Before starting her journalism career, Oriana Fallaci joined Italy's anti-fascist resistance movement in the Second World War. Photo: Dominio Público/Wikimedia Commons

L'Oriana, a two-part drama produced by public broadcaster Rai, hits the small screen in Italy this week, introducing a new generation to the life, loves and adventures of Oriana Fallaci, who joined Italy's anti-fascist resistance movement in the Second World War then went on to become a war correspondent, author and a famously provocative interviewer and polemicist.

Born in Florence in 1929, Fallaci died in 2006, her final years having been overshadowed by controversy over her diatribes against Islam in the aftermath of the September 11th 2001 attacks on New York, where she latterly lived for part of the year.

Years earlier, she had made waves by ripping off her chador during an interview with the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, leader of Iran's 1979 Islamic revolution, to protest over the requirement for women to be veiled.

"Telling the story of the life of Oriana Fallaci is a bit like telling the story of the 20th century," said Marco Turco, director of the miniseries. "It is hard to imagine a more cinematic life than hers."

Vittoria Puccini, who plays her in the film, added: "We tried to portray Oriana the journalist, the war correspondent…but also her human, more intimate and sometimes more fragile side, which was revealed in her relationships with men."

'To fight better than to win'

Fallaci had two great loves in her life: French journalist Francois Pelou, whom she met in Vietnam where he was AFP's bureau chief, and Alexandros Panagoulis, a Greek anarchist and poet who was a leading figure in the fight against the "Colonels" military junta and was to die in a car crash in 1976 three years after they met. She told the story of their tumultuous relationship in her novel A Man.  

Fallaci's first steps in journalism involved covering Rome's Dolce Vita set in the 1960s. But she soon changed direction, heading for Vietnam and producing a book of interviews with ordinary American soldiers.

She later applied her interviewing talent to famously long and detailed interviews with world figures such as Indira Gandhi, Haile Selassie and Henry Kissinger. After stints in Latin America and India, her final reporting mission was the first Gulf War, which lasted from 1990 to 1991.

But she enjoyed a second burst of fame in the aftermath of September 11th and her publication of a polemic entitled The Rage and the Pride.

The essay was a virulent diatribe against Islam and observations including the claim that "the sons of Allah breed like rabbits" got her into trouble with the law in France and Switzerland as well as in Italy, where she was due to be sent for trial before her death from cancer. But it appeared to strike a chord with her audience.    

The essay sold 700,000 copies in a month and follow-up publications charting the supposed surrender of the West to Islam did even better. That helped to convince Fallaci of the merits of her controversial stance and her love of a passionate argument: "to fight is better than to win," she once said.

"She was a controversial, very difficult person but I really think her life story was worth telling," said Puccini.

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GENDER EQUALITY

Italian TV show investigated after outrage over ‘sexy shopping’ tutorial

Italian state broadcaster Rai has opened an investigation into why one of its shows on Tuesday offered female viewers advice on how to look sexy while shopping in the supermarket.

Italian TV show investigated after outrage over 'sexy shopping' tutorial
A show on Italian public television advised women on how to be seductive at the supermarket. Screenshot: Detto Fatto, Rai 2.
Viewers took to social media to express their anger and disbelief after the “Detto Fatto” show on Rai offered a tutorial on pushing a supermarket trolley while wearing high heels, instructed women on the most “sensual” way to pick up items dropped on the floor, and offered tips on seducing fellow shoppers.
 
“Is it 1970? No, 2020, almost 2021,” said one Twitter user.
 

Many pointed out the poor timing of the episode, aired just before the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women on November 25th.

 
“If this is what public television thinks it should teach women, we are troubled as a society,” wrote another Italian Twitter user.
 
“As a woman I would not have participated in this farce. As a TV viewer I have mixed feelings: disgust for the show, shame for the broadcaster, anger because I pay the license fee,” commented another.
 
Many social media users from outside Italy questioned whether  the clip was real, or a parody.
The public broadcaster announced it would be investigating how and why the segment was allowed to be aired, after government ministers asked for an explanation from the channel’s management.
 
“How long must we continue talking about women in a fake, stereotypical way, with stiletto heels, sexy movements, always perfect, mermaids or witches?” asked Italy's agricultural minister Teresa Bellanova on Twitter.

 
“Obviously I’ve begun an investigation to ascertain responsibility and we are evaluating the future of this programme,” Rai’s CEO Fabrizio Salini said in a statement to the media on Wednesday
 
He said the segment had “nothing to do with the spirit of the public service and with the editorial line of Rai.”
 
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