Tie and collar tightly tightened, with his big black glasses, the Italian Minister of Culture Gennaro Sangiuliano, present at the launch of the Venice Film Festival on August 30, speaks to journalists: “I came to highlight the he importance of cinema, cinema is a wonderful instrument for expressing the positive imagination of our nation (…). The Italian imagination is our soft power and Italians must live up to their great past. »
A speech strewn with rather vague concepts, which could have seemed banal if it did not fit into a particular context, namely the renewal of the leaders of cultural institutions, in the name of a project clearly stated by Giorgia Meloni: putting an end to “the cultural hegemony of the left” to forge a new national narrative. Ironically, this notion of “cultural hegemony”, according to which the conquest of power involves the conquest of ideas, a new fad of European populists, was theorized by the Italian communist intellectual Antonio Gramsci.
It would therefore be necessary to “liberate Italian culture from a system in which one could only work by declaring oneself from a certain political camp”, as the President of the Council affirmed during a political meeting in Catania, the May 26 and build “a new Italian imagination”, based on the rehabilitation of a national feeling that the left would have damaged. Direct artistic creation to conquer the minds and votes of Italians.
Several appointments or decrees can be viewed under this prism. Starting with that of the new tandem at the head of public broadcasting, last May, composed of Roberto Sergio and Giampaolo Rossi. The first, who headed public radio from 2015 to 2019, is historically rather affiliated with Christian democracy but has moved closer to the more radical right in recent years. The second is very close to Giorgia Meloni. RAI executive and audiovisual strategy advisor to the far-right Fratelli d’Italia party, he has taken many conspiratorial positions in recent years. As for Alessandro Giuli, a former right-wing journalist and also a member of the head of government’s inner circle, he was appointed president of the Maxxi Foundation, the National Museum of 21st Century Arts in Rome, in November 2022.
Last May, there was also this astonishing decree adopted by the Council of Ministers which sets the retirement age for foreign directors of opera theaters at 70 years old, leading to the immediate or imminent departure of many of them. . Such as Stéphane Lissner, the French director of the Naples Opera, who had to leave his post in June – before being reinstated in September following a court decision. Or soon, Dominique Meyer, at the head of La Scala in Milan, who will leave his place, followed by the directors of the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, the Pinacoteca in Milan and the great Neapolitan museum Capodimonte.
More recently, another decree went unnoticed during the summer. He aims to direct the Experimental Cinematography Center (CSC), in Rome, a foundation which brings together a film school of excellence and the archives of the Italian National Cinematheque. Founded in 1935, the CSC has trained many figures of Italian cinema, including Roberto Rossellini, Claudia Cardinale, Raffaella Carrà and Marco Bellocchio.
In this decree intended to take the measures to be taken for the organization of the 2025 Jubilee, an amendment, adopted on August 3, provides for placing the appointments of members of the scientific committee of the institution under the direct control of the executive and to give the latter more power over its operation. Furthermore, the text ends the mandate of its current leaders, which was to end in 2025. On August 4, the president of the foundation, Marta Donzelli, as well as three other members of the management, resigned in protest.
Is Giorgia Meloni nevertheless in the process of implementing her great national narrative project? Piero Ignazi, professor at the University of Bologna responds without hesitation: “To build cultural hegemony, you would already have to have intellectuals and ideas. Here we are talking about control of the media and communication, that is different. »
Massimo Scaglioni, professor of media history at the Catholic University of Milan, is also skeptical. “The spoil system (placing relatives in positions of influence, Editor’s note) is not new in Italy. This is a common practice, especially for RAI which, historically, has always been very controlled by governments. And then, can we really think about building a national narrative when we see the crisis that the media and Italian cinema are going through today? » According to him, the great national narrative project comes down to a much more classic populist strategy: “Create a little media smoke so as not to talk about the real problems. »
The president of a national theater – who preferred to remain anonymous – shares this opinion. “We talk about it more today because it’s Giorgia Meloni, but it’s always been like that,” confides the director who doesn’t seem particularly worried about the idea of a cultural conquest. Those who are denouncing this today are those who have benefited from this system for years, that is the real problem. »
Nothing but very classic in Italy? This is also the theory of Lorenzo Castellani, professor of political history at La Luiss in Rome: “There is no cultural project, nor desire to create anything, it is simply an opposition to this which they describe as a single thought. They do not want to leave the monopoly of ideas to the left. » And, he continues, there is no more public than there is a project. “Meloni is a political strategist, she is interested in votes, in what Italians think. However, most of them, particularly the right-wing electorate, don’t care about culture. They don’t want to be told what to think, they just want to pay less taxes, continue to use their scooters and not have too many migrants. »