Cablegate: Lega's Big Night Out: Film Premiere of ""Barbarossa""

DE RUEHMIL #0209/01 2930834
R 200834Z OCT 09

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 MILAN 000209


E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/19/2019


Classified By: Consul General Carol Z. Perez for Reasons 1.4(b) and (d)

1. (U) SUMMARY: Hundreds of local and national politicians,
including PM Berlusconi, attended the Milan premiere of the
colossal Braveheart-like epic film ""Barbarossa."" The movie
tells the story of the birth of northern Italy,s Lombard
League and its defeat of the Holy Roman army at the 12th
century Battle of Legnano. Throughout its production,
Northern League (LN) leader Umberto Bossi and fellow LN
colleagues have supported and eagerly anticipated the film,
which describes in loving, big-blockbuster detail the
quasi-historical origins of their modern political movement.
Regardless of the quality of the film, ""Barbarossa"" brings to
life the populist and traditional imagery that underscores
much of the LN,s increasing popular appeal among northern
Italian voters. END SUMMARY.

2. (U) On October 2, thousands of eager spectators were
treated to a screening of the medieval war epic
""Barbarossa."" The premiere was held in the picturesque
courtyard of Milan,s Castello Sforzesco, illuminated by
candles and torches and populated by dozens of actors dressed
as medieval knights and swordsmen. Unlike a regular movie
premiere, however, the red carpet featured virtually no
actors nor actresses; the guest list was instead a veritable
who,s who of center-right politicians. A beaming Northern
League (LN) leader Umberto Bossi sat in the front row next to
Prime Minister Berlusconi and numerous Cabinet ministers
(Minister of Economy Giulio Tremonti, Minister of Legislative
Simplification Roberto Calderoli, Minister of Agriculture
Luca Zaia, Minister of Defense La Russa, among others) along
with Mayor of Milan Letizia Moratti, Lombardy Regional
President Roberto Formigoni, and hundreds of LN politicians
and supporters, bedecked in the party,s traditional bright
green scarves and ties.

3. (U) ""Barbarossa"" recounts the destruction of Milan in 1162
by the army of Holy Roman Emperor Frederick I in his quest to
dominate northern Italy, and the subsequent birth of the
Lombard League, an alliance of northern Italian cities united
by Milanese blacksmith Alberto da Giussano that successfully
repulsed the much larger imperial army at the Battle of
Legnano. The battle itself serves as the mythical birthplace
of the modern LN party, which (accurately or not) traces its
roots back to the Lombard League and claims as its mandate
those of the original League: northern Italian autonomy and
defense from external threats (though Roman bureaucrats have
replaced the soldiers of the Holy Roman Empire). The movie,
which even features Bossi as an extra, is rich with symbolism
beloved by modern LN supporters; it features a lengthy
montage in which hero da Guissano forges hundreds of steel
rings emblazoned with the shield that serves as the modern
LN,s emblem, and distributes them to eager Lombard League

4. (U) The movie, directed by Bossi,s friend and LN
supporter Renzo Martinelli, has had the firm backing of the
LN throughout its production. The official LN website
featured links to ""Barbarossa"" and other information about
the movie prior to its release, and LN newspaper ""La Padania""
even devoted five pages to coverage of the movie on the day
of its Milan premiere, under the lead title, ""The story of
our people who recaptured their liberty."" Speaking to
journalists at the premiere, Bossi showered praise on the
""modern Alberto da Giussanos"" whose continued fight for
freedom is a ""sign that the desire for liberty will never

5. (C) COMMENT: ""Barbarossa"", much like the political party
that supported the film,s creation, is short on subtlety and
heavily reliant on mythology and folklorist symbolism. This
flair for dramatic imagery has helped the Northern League
stand out among the ever-evolving, and rhetorically boring,
array of political parties in Italy. Furthermore, as
evidenced by the crush of political VIPs at the opening of an
otherwise forgettable war movie, the LN leadership has
managed to create a relevant and important party, at the
national as well as regional level, because beneath its crude
rhetoric and silly rituals, it understands and taps into the
deep-seated and very real concerns of voters in northern
Italy. Many in the affluent north, the traditional economic
and industrial backbone of the country, feel that the central
government in Rome takes their money and uses it to feed its
enormous, inefficient bureaucracy and to subsidize the
chronically underperforming South. Furthermore, the influx
of immigrants to the region makes many northern Italians feel
that their geographical and cultural spaces are under attack
from outsiders. Therefore, for LN supporters ""Barbarossa's""
box office success is beside the point. Its existence alone,
with its big-screen glorification of the Lombard League and

MILAN 00000209 002 OF 002

its noble fight for liberty from outside rule, underscores
the party,s most populist and viscerally resonant themes.

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