Sept. 13, 2:30 p.m., Ryerson; Sept. 15, 4 p.m., Winter Garden; Sept. 19, 12:15 p.m., Scotiabank 3
Erik Gandini (Sweden)
Italian authorities have already banned the trailers and TV ads for this documentary, thereby confirming its thesis that, under Prime Minister/media mogul Silvio Berlusconi, Italy has become a quasi-fascist nation of mass-media zombies where political power and the power of television "are one and the same." Gandini's disturbing, blackly funny film isn't an attack on or even a biography of Berlusconi, who owns Italy's three biggest private broadcasters and its largest magazine and book publisher; it's an anatomy of the deleterious effects of Berlusconi-ism on Italian society. There's plenty of footage, of course, of the ever-smiling Berlusconi (who delivers this great quote: "Dedicating 50 per cent of your time to make Italy a credible nation is extremely hard work.") but Videocracy is at its creepiest when it's on the trail of guys like Lele Mora, a Mussolini-loving pal of the PM and Italy's most powerful TV agent, and Fabrizio Corona, a cruelly handsome paparazzo/extortionist-turned-celebrity. J.A.
Sept. 15, 10 p.m., Varsity 3; Sept. 17, 8 p.m., Varsity 1; Sept. 19, 2:30 p.m., Varsity 4
Marco Bellocchio (Italy)
The recent revelation that Benito Mussolini had a first wife and secret son has inspired a number of Italian TV movies, and now Marco Bellocchio, who has spent a lifetime bulldozing Italian institutions like the family and fascism, proves a natural fit for this salacious saga. Vincere is an operatic tour de force about the struggle of Ida Dalser (Giovanna Mezzogiorno) to have her son's paternity recognized. With the womanizing Il Duce coming of age as a newspaper publisher, it's easy to read Vincere as a trenchant critique of Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, but Bellocchio's triumph is foremost a moving portrait of a driven woman who would not compromise. Mark Peranson
Sept. 15, 5:30 p.m., Varsity 8; Sept. 18, 8:30 a.m., Scotiabank 2
The White Ribbon
Michael Haneke (Austria)
Haneke ( Code Inconnu, Caché) once more probes hidden evil behind apparently well-ordered lives in this startlingly shot black-and-white film set in Austria in 1914. Winner of the Palme d'or at Cannes this year, the film is a multicharacter portrait of an apparently peaceful German village in the months leading up to the First World War, recalled by a former school teacher in the village. A series of strange and violent incidents happen in the town, whose most prominent citizens include a baron who employs half the community, a zealous pastor and a corrupt doctor. Sexual repression, patriarchal authoritarianism and various forms of abuse control the women and children, but gradually it becomes apparent that the children are not only the victims, but perhaps the perpetrators of some of the crimes. What actually happens remains ambiguous, but we know this generation will grow up to commit much worse offences. L.L.
Sept. 12, 5:15 p.m., Scotiabank 1; Sept. 18, 1 p.m., Scotiabank 4