In love with Italy and its happy-go-lucky natives, good food, beautiful monuments and art? See “Videocracy.” And weep.

Produced by 32-year-old Erik Gandini, an Italian filmmaker who lives in Sweden, the documentary won top honors in its category at the Toronto Film Festival. How it fared in Italy is another matter. The film, which focuses on the country’s obsession with TV and Prime Minster Silvio Berlusconi’s power over the medium, came and went fast, with private and state-owned channels declining to show its trailers. That may have less to do with Berlusconi and more with Italians not having the stomach to see who Berlusconi’s supporters are and what they’re up to.

Here’s what:

  • TV super-agent Lele Mora, tattooed Adonises lounging around his Sardinian pool, shows off his mobile phone’s Mussolini-themed images and ring-tones (To Mora, Berlusconi and Mussolini are in the same class).
  • Notorious paparazzo/extortionist Fabrizio Corona soaps up nude in the shower and explains how a modern Robin Hood works (rob from rich/celebrities and give it to yourself).
  • Young women gyrate during mass castings inside provincial shopping centers, the participants convinced that TV appearances will yield husband and desired lifestyles.
  • A blue-collar martial arts champion dreams of moving up from a variety show audience member to the stage itself. He says that would make him immortal. Or at least get him a girl. Meanwhile, his mother goes with him on dates.

Some of the scenes are vulgar, perverse, others sad. Gandini melds images of Italian youth (the country’s future) with a short history of Berlusconi’s rise through the ranks of private television, one that coincides with the “adult” lives of the movie’s subjects. In the 1980s, Socialist Prime Minister Bettino Craxi, a Berlusconi friend, oversaw legislation that helped the “nationalization” of local channels heavy on sex and game-shows.

The message is less vitriolic than disheartening, and at times amateurish, which may explain why the seamy Mora and others let down their guard for Gandini. They probably doubted the movie would ever be made. Gandini says he felt the same way about Berlusconi’s amateurish local TV stations. He never dreamed they’d evolve into a social and political force. He says he hopes his low-budget effort can have the same potent effect.

Give him a hand: See it, and tell your friends.

Reviewed by: Madeleine Johnson