‘Homophobic’ Italian bishops curtail release of gay film

British film "Weekend" was restricted to just ten cinemas on its release in Italy on Thursday after the country's bishops branded Andrew Haigh's acclaimed gay love story "indecent" and "unusable" in the country's many Church-owned film theatres.

'Homophobic' Italian bishops curtail release of gay film
The Church has been branded homophobic for limiting the release of a gay love film in Italy. Photo: Alberto Pizzoli/AFP

In an unusual move that prompted accusations of homophobic censorship, the Italian Conference of Bishops' Film Evaluation Commission classified the film as “not advised, unusable and scabrous (indecent or salacious).”
The Commission listed the film's principal themes – described by critics as love and identity – as drugs and homosexuality.
The result, according to its distributor Teodora Film, was that the film was shunned by the more than 1,100 cinemas which are owned by the Church and make up the bulk of Italy's network of independent/arthouse theatres.
The country's official film board approved Haigh's Nottingham-set drama for audiences over 14.
“I cannot see any other explanation than a problem of homophobia in the Church,” Teodora's president, Cesare Petrillo, told AFP.
“They decided it was unacceptable, that it should be censored and they have used their power to paralyze the distribution.
“Normally a film like this would have been picked up by many of these cinemas. Instead there are whole regions and big cities like Florence, Bergamo and Padova where we have not been able to get it put on. And the only reason for that is that the main characters are gay.”
Made in 2011, “Weekend” was brought to Italy for a cinema release as a result of Haigh's recent success with “45 Years”, for which Charlotte Rampling was nominated for the best actress Oscar.
The latter film, a story about a long-married couple being confronted with an unsettling secret from the past, was enthusiastically endorsed by the Church.
“After the success of '45 Years', it is a terrible shame that so few people get to see “Weekend” and I'm really quite angry about it because there are fundamental values at stake,” said Petrillo.
“For me, 'Weekend' has nothing scandalous about it — it is a story about love.”

Priest censors

The large number of Italian cinemas owned by the Church are a legacy of the days when every parish had its own cinema and local priests controlled projections, regularly cutting sections of films they deemed unsuitable for parishioners.
Most of these cinemas are now rented out to operators who do not have to be religious but do have to sign a contract which, according to Petrillo, includes a clause agreeing to go along with the guidance issued by the bishops.
The Commission evaluates every film released in Italy. Often it will approve a film as “recommended” but signal that it is also “problematic” and might be best viewed in the context of a debate or a discussion on the issues raised.
Recent examples in this category include “The Danish Girl”, a drama about a transgender artist, and Oscar-winner “Spotlight” which deals with clerical sex abuse in Boston and was classified as “complex.”
Only very rarely does the guidance make it clear the Church does not want a film shown at all with the only other recent example being Chilean director Pablo Larrain's “El Club”, in which the main characters are all Catholic priests, including one with a history of sexually abusing children.
The Church's lingering influence in Italian public life was underlined in recent weeks when a bill to legalise gay civil unions was shorn of provisions guaranteeing same-sex couples equal adoption rights to their heterosexual counterparts.
The watering-down of the draft law followed Church lobbying of lawmakers which was sufficiently intense for Prime Minister Matteo Renzi to publicly warn the bishops to stop meddling.
Italy's Union of Atheists, Agnostics and Rationalists said the treatment of “Weekend” was telling. “The influence of the Church means that even niche films like this which deal with issues that are 'uncomfortable' or 'immoral' end up being subject to de facto censorship,” the organisation said on its website.

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‘No exceptions’: Italy and UK warn England fans against travel to Rome for Euro quarter final

The Italian government on Wednesday reminded England fans not to travel to Rome for Saturday's Euro 2020 quarter final match against Ukraine amid ongoing coronavirus travel restrictions.

‘No exceptions’: Italy and UK warn England fans against travel to Rome for Euro quarter final
Photo: Oli Scarff/AFP

Italy is expected to increase checks and strictly enforce its quarantine rules amid concerns that thousands of people could arrive in Rome from the UK for the match despite the country’s travel restrictions.

All arrivals in Italy from the UK have to quarantine for five days and take two coronavirus tests under current health measures – but there are reportedly concerns that some fans will be unaware of the rules.

EXPLAINED: How has Italy changed its rules on travel from the UK? 

“I am clear and unequivocal – the English fans will not be able to come to Italy to watch the match at the Olimpico against Ukraine on July 3rd,” Andrea Costa, a junior Italian health minister, told Radio Kiss Kiss Napoli on Wednesday.

“There are five days of quarantine, the rule must be respected. We cannot take risks. If an English fan leaves today, he won’t see the game. Same for those who left yesterday.”

The Italian Embassy in London also said in posts on its social media channels on Wednesday that “Fans travelling to Euro 2020 matches are not exempted” from Italy’s quarantine rules.

Meanwhile, UK Trade Minister Anne Marie Trevelyan said: “our request is to support the national team from your home, to cheer in front of the TV as loud as you can”.

Italy’s Interior Ministry is reportedly planning to step up police checks at airports and train stations and road checkpoints in case fans attempt to travel, Italian news agency Ansa reports.

Ansa cited government sources who said the quarantine rules “will be enforced to the letter” and “no exceptions will be granted”.

England fans living in Italy on Wednesday were scrambling to buy tickets for the match after the FA stated that it aimed to “facilitate as many ticket sales to English residents in Italy as possible” while fans in the UK were unable to travel.

Dozens of readers contacted The Local on Wednesday asking where they could get tickets, after UK media reports stated that the British Embassy would be distributing them.

The FA had stated that it was “working with Uefa and the British embassy in Italy” to facilitate sales.

However, the British Embassy in Rome confirmed to The Local on Wednesday morning that it “is not selling or distributing tickets for the match on Saturday in Rome”.

READ ALSO: Bars, house parties and fan zones: Where and how can you watch Euro 2020 matches in Italy?

The British Embassy said in a statement to The Local: “Under the UK Government’s traffic light system Italy is currently listed as an amber country.

“The UK Government’s travel advice clearly states that fans should not travel to red and amber countries to protect public health in the UK from new Covid variants.

“The Italian authorities are responsible for setting and enforcing the rules for entry into Italy. Its current guidance states that from June 21st, people travelling from the UK or those who have been in the UK in the previous 14 days must self-isolate for 5 days upon arrival in Italy, after which they must take a rapid antigenic or molecular swab test for Covid-19 and test negative for release.

“This means that fans travelling from the UK to Italy after June 28th will not arrive in time to be able to watch the Euro 2020 quarter-final in Rome on July 3rd 2021.”

Britain is experiencing a surge in new coronavirus cases, blamed on the Delta variant that was first detected in India.