Italia,Tunisia, Libia: le ultime domande

Devo ringraziare @rafik, amico tunisino di Twitter, per avermi distolto dall’abbuffata televisiva di soap opera arabe e fatto notare la più bella messa in scena di questa stagione 2009. “Ehi, c’è Berlusconi, il vostro Presidente, sulla tv tunisina!”. Ah, si?! Domenica scorsa, a fare gli auguri agli arabi per l’inizio del mese sacro di Ramadan, c’era il nostro Presidente in persona. Anzi, in realtà gli auguri erano tutti per il lancio della “sua” tivvù, Nessma, sede in Tunisia: “Una televisione che nasce è sempre un miracolo. Nell’epoca moderna niente può influenzare la gente come la televisione..la stampa è ben lontana dal farlo”, dice Berlusconi tutto fiero, in francese (il video integrale dell’intervista, durata 40 minuti, è visibile online all’indirizzo http://www.nessma.tv/ness_nessma_replay.php?ep=20&open=0).

La settimana scorsa Berlusconi è volato in Tunisia per incontrare il Presidente Ben Ali e visitare il set dove è stato ricostruito il villaggio siciliano di “Baaria”, il film di Tornatore che aprirà la Mostra del Cinema di Venezia e che il premier ha prodotto insieme al magnate tunisino Tarek Ben Ammar. Berlusconi è legato a Ben Ammar da lunga data: “Ci conosciamo da 25 anni, abbiamo in comune una lunga amicizia e la passione per “l’altra metà del cielo”, le donne”, scherza il premier sugli schermi della “sua” Nessma TV. Nessma TV è infatti l’ultimo affare che il premier ha messo in piedi con il magnate tunisino, già tramite fra Berlusconi e il Principe saudita Al Waleed Bin Talal –che acquistò nel 1995 una partecipazione in Mediaset, abbandonata nel 2003- e suo ex rappresentante all’interno del cda della rete. Ben Ammar controlla inoltre il 51% di D-free, il bouquet digitale terrestre che ospita anche reti Mediaset –a suo tempo acquistò le frequenze di Sportitalia, amministrato da Angelo Codignoni, ex direttore generale della berlusconiana ‘la Cinq‘ ed ex segretario generale di Forza Italia-.

Ma il piatto forte dell’amicizia ventennale fra Berlusconi e Ben Ammar è la Quinta Communications, creata nel 1990 dall’incontro fra i due –come celebra il sito www.quintaindustries.com -. Il gruppo Quinta, presieduto da Ben Ammar stesso, “propone un’offerta audiovisiva verticale che va dagli studios alla postproduzione passando per la produzione e la distribuzione”. Quinta ha coprodotto con la Lux Vide di Bernabei serie televisive importanti come La Bibbia o Gesù di Nazareth, e opere cinematografiche insieme a Dino de Laurentis.

Insomma, un cerchio che unisce da sempre Italia e Tunisia, ma che oggi si completa con la Libia. Il blog del vicedirettore del settimanale Famiglia Cristiana, Fulvio Scaglione, riporta che “Gheddafi ha speso 19 milioni di euro per sottoscrivere, in occasione di un aumento di capitale, 258,433 azioni di Quinta Communications e ottenere così una quota del 10% della società”. Del resto, la notizia è pubblicata anche dal Sole24ore del 29 giugno scorso: “la libica Lafitrade è entrata nel capitale di Quinta Communications, società francese di produzione cinematografica di Tarek Ben Ammar, di cui è socio di rilievo anche il gruppo Fininvest (..). L’entrata dei libici è avvenuta il mese scorso tramite un aumento di capitale, come riporta il verbale del cda di Quinta Communications del 26 maggio”.

Torniamo alla performance berlusconiana di inizio Ramadan su Nessma TV. Il conduttore dello show, Fawez Ben Tmessek, ricorda alla platea araba che Berlusconi è il primo leader europeo a chiedere ufficialmente scusa per il colonialismo, cosa che Inghilterra o Francia non hanno mai fatto. Berlusconi precisa: “non ho presentato scuse, ho chiesto scusa davanti al Parlamento libico per la sottomissione di un popolo libero, cosa che non si deve accettare né ripetere”. Lo studio ricorda che i libici erano tutti in lacrime di fronte a queste parole, e applaude a non finire.

Non è difficile fare il collegamento successivo: Berlusconi vola a Tripoli  il 30 agosto per l’anniversario del trattato Italia-Libia e la posa della prima pietra dell’autostrada del “risarcimento”. Dopo l’iftar del Ramadan tornerà a casa, per evitare un’ambigua presenza il 1 settembre, giorno delle celebrazioni della rivoluzione di Gheddafi, celebrazioni alle quali tutti i capi di stato e governo europei hanno declinato la partecipazione.

Nei suoi piani per il Nord Africa –strategico per troppi motivi: sicurezza, immigrazione, gas, petrolio, etc- Berlusconi ha adesso anche la sua tribuna mediatica, dalla quale proverà ad ammaliare i maghrebini (un bacino potenziale di 90milioni di spettatori, più 6 milioni in Francia e 2 in Italia) così come ha fatto con noi italiani. E non importa che Nessma sia stata un affare in perdita –esisteva sui satelliti arabi dal 2007, controllata dal gruppo tunisino dei fratelli Karaoui– e che Berlusconi e Ben Ammar abbiano annunciato a Cannes 2008 il loro aumento di capitale per arrivare al totale del 50% e dare ossigeno alla rete (informazioni contenute nello stesso sito di Ben Ammar, http://www.tarakbenammar.com/fr/actualites#3).

Berlusconi sa bene che, seppur in perdita, la televisione è un investimento sul futuro.

“Crede che Nessma TV riuscirà a cambiare il Maghreb così come lei ha cambiato l’Italia?”, gli chiede candido il conduttore. Il progetto della rete è un “mondo arabo moderato”, aggiunge.

Ben Ammar sul suo sito lo chiama il Grande Maghreb tollerante”. A questo punto sarebbe il caso di far partire le domande: di quale tolleranza parla, signor Presidente? Di quella della Tunisia di Ben Ali, un “vero democratico”, come lo chiama lei davanti a tutti gli arabi? Una Tunisia che è fanalino di coda delle libertà d’espressione, che –tanto per citare solo l’ultima- riportata da Reporters Sans Frontiers lo scorso 7 agosto- ha ingaggiato una battaglia durissima contro Al Jazeera, chiudendo l’ufficio di Tunisi e impedendo al suo corrispondente Lotfi Haji di incontrare gli attivisti dei diritti umani, tagliandogli la connessione Internet a casa, etc etc. Ma la lista è lunga, purtroppo.

In Italia le cose sono diverse, piuttosto si portano i giornali in tribunale, come succede a Repubblica per le sue dieci domande. Il punto, cari colleghi di Repubblica che giustamente insistete su questa battaglia, non sono tanto le Noemi Letizia, la D’Addario, i presunti festini: le domande da fare al nostro premier sarebbero altre.

Per esempio si potrebbe chiedergli, dopo aver ascoltato la sua intervista su Nessma TV, di spiegare la frase: “il governo italiano dà a chi perde il suo lavoro l’80% del suo salario, più tutto ciò che serve per evitare che una famiglia non entri nella miseria”, pronunciata in risposta al conduttore che gli domanda delle misure anti-crisi finanziaria in Italia. Si potrebbe chiedergli che vuol dire: “Dobbiamo condannare le organizzazioni criminali che si approfittano della gente (..) e incoraggiare il desiderio di trovare migliori opportunità all’interno della legalità”, a proposito dell’immigrazione, mentre tace tutte le ultime sparate dei suoi alleati di governo sulle badanti “immigrate privilegiate”, sul reato di clandestinità, sui cpt dove si internano non le organizzazioni criminali, come le chiama il Presidente, ma gli individui. E poi, ancora: signor Berlusconi, come spiega lo stigma messo per anni su Gheddafi quando tutta la sinistra chiedeva a gran voce di fare le scuse alla Libia per le colpe del colonialismo e il presidente libico invece era solo un “dittatore”, mentre oggi è amico, alleato e socio in affari? Ed è possibile insistere, così candidamente, alla luce del sole, sulla commistione di interessi, pubblico-privato, governo e compagnie private, un modello che adesso si esporta pure all’estero?

Arriva sempre il momento di una domanda finale, quella da “un milione di dollari”, e quella di Nessma TV è spiazzante: “Perché..perchè..perchè…ha venduto Kakà?!”.

“Perché, abbiamo venduto Kakà!?” risponde Berlusconi candido. Temo che con lo stesso candore risponderebbe a tutte le altre, di domande finali.

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Berlusconi’s “musalsal” aired on Tunisian Nessma TV

I have to thank my friend @rafik to have distracted me from the tons of Syrian musalsalat I was passionately watching during this first week of Holy Ramadan. Thanks to him I watched today for the first time in my life an Italian musalsal aired on an Arab TV channel. The leading character was “Mr President” (that’s how they called him sometime: wait shabbab, he is the Prime Minister, not the President..yet!) Silvio Berlusconi.

Last 23 august, Berlusconi was visiting Tunisia to meet President Ben Ali and his friend and business partner Tarek Ben Ammar, with whom he coproduced Baaria, the latest Giuseppe Tornatore‘s movie to premiere at Venice Film Festival.

After a tour to the set of the movie, Berlusconi went for an exclusive interview to “Ness Nessma”, the flagship talk show programme of the new born Nessma TV, the Tunisian TV channel aimed at North African audiences. The channel is a partnership between Ben Ammar, the Karoui brother (that produced many successful shows, including the Maghrebi version of Star Academy) and Berlusconi himself.

Forthy minutes of an exclusive interview, the first time ever a Prime Minister of an EU country goes live to address  the North African audiences and to wish the TV the best of success.  However, Berlusconi is not new to use the broadcast media to address his fellow citizens -or “target audiences”- and he is not new to go live on his own TV stations to deliver public speeches. What is really new -stunning news- is that this time Berlusconi is doing this with Arabs. After Spain and France, this is the first time ever he goes to invest money abroad to set a TV operation. The news is even bigger since he is doing this with the Arab world, a target that he never cared so much about in the past.

The Arab world is strategic for Mr Berlusconi: he is about to visit Lybia on the 30th of august, while President Gheddafi was in Italy few months ago. His relation with Tunisian President Ben Ali has always been  in a good shape – in his interview, he calles him “a true friend, whom I met at Bettino Craxi’s time when I was not in politics (..) and a real democrat”- and his commercial ties with Ben Ammar are longtime, back to 25 years ago – “we have in common a long term friendship and the passion for the “other half of the sky”, i.e. women”, says in the interview, which can be viewed on Nessma TV website.

Speaking about Lybia, when the host of the show reminds that he was the first European leader to officially apologize for colonialism, something that UK or France never did, he corrects him: “I did not apologize, I asked in front of Lybian Parliament to be apologized for having oppressed free people like the Lybians are, which is something that we shall not accept or repeat in the future”. Applauses from the audience.

The host, Fawez Ben Tmessek, asked him about Italy and its immigration policy, probably referring to the latest agreements between Berlusconi and Gheddafi on this issue.  He answered that “we should condemn the criminal organisations that take advantages of people, and we have to fight them!whereas we should encourage the wish of finding better job opportunities within legality..this is the policy of my government”.

Then, speaking about the financial crisis, he says that “the government will never leave anybody alone not even during the crisis..that’s what we did in Italy..nobody will loose his job without having help and compensations”.

The Italian government gives  to whom looses his job 80% of his former salary, plus everything a family can need not to enter misery”.  “That’s what I told my European colleagues, I was the first to say that we should help banks to recover, and not make the mistake Americans made by leaving Lehman Brothers’ to bankruptcy”.

Then he is asked about Obama: “We are lucky to have such a President..at the beginning we had some doubts, due to his scarce political experience, 4 or 5 years I believe, and at a local level”. “But when we saw him live, we had to change our mind since he says very intelligent things and he has a positive attitude towards the future”.. “Then he knows what irony is..Despite I am number one in this field!”.

If there is something bloody true in this interview is this last sentence.

He tells a joke about himself, mocking himself for being “the most intelligent man in the world”, he plays with the female host of the show by asking her phone number, and when she asks him the million dollar question:

“why…why..why…have you sold Kaka?”

he answers:  “oh, did we sell Kaka??!!”.

This is irony, indeed. But when it comes to other people asking questions he is not really happy about, he can’t be so ironic I am afraid.

Today he sued Repubblica, one of the leading Italian newspapers, for having published the famous “10 questions” addressed to him. Those questions relate to his alleged relation with Noemi Letizia and the escort D’Addario, and at a general level to his peculiar way to mix sex, money and private affairs with the state politics.

He couldnt be so ironic with Repubblica as he was with the Arab audiences.

But the real danger, for Italians as for Arabs, does not lie in this irony or missed irony, and not even in his sex scandals he is not questioned about by Nessma (can you imagine asking this question in front of Arab families in the middle of Ramadan?!). The real danger is not in what he hides or states ironically: on the contrary, it lies in what he states very clearly, like the following sentence to salute the new born Tunisian TV (well, his own TV):

“A new born TV is always a miracle. Nowadays nothing can influence people like TV..the press is so far away from doing it”.

(then why being so bothered by Repubblica!)

The host of the show:  “We believe in the “moderate” Arab world, there is no other private Arab Tv station to be born from a partnership with an European country. We did it, and we did with the emperor of private TV in Europe“.

Do you believe that Nessma TV can change Maghreb just as you changed Italy?”.

Well, Mr President, that’s the question I am really scared for.

Are Tunisians and North Africans going to try the “tele-democracy”, just as we Italians did during the past decades?

Well, then, mabrouk.

However, Berlusconi is not the only one who has in mind a “moderate” channel for Arabs in North-African countries (an audience of 90 millions people, plus 6 millions in France and 2 millions in Italy). Other big players -as his former business partner Prince Al Waleed Bin Talal, who controls Rotana network- has also got some brand new ideas for the Sub-Region soon to be seen on screens.

An eye on the Mossad:Najdat Anzour’s last provocation for Ramadan 2009

Ramadan is about to start, so it is the TV battle that every year surrounds Muslisms’ holy month.

One of the most promising (in terms of raising polemics) musalsal this year will be Najdat Anzour‘s ” Rigal Al Hasm(Decisive Men). Anzour is not new to provocation, having directed many controversial musalsalat on hot topics such as  Al Hur al ayn” (Virgins of Paradise) – on Islamic terrorism and suicide attacks in Saudi Arabia – or “Saqf al alam” (The roof of the world) – on the Arab anger after Danish Jyllands Posten had published Prophet Mohammad’s cartoons-.

But this year musalsal -which is going to be aired by Abu Dhabi TV during the soon to be started month of Ramadan – deals with a real “hot potato”: the Israeli intelligence, the Mossad, and Syrian-Israeli relations during the 1967 war, particularly after the occupation of the Golan heights.

The musalsal focuses on the story of a Syrian man -played by Syrian star Bassel Al Khayat– who seeks revenge for his  family that was killed in the bombardments of Golan. He goes then to Europe where he is able to infiltrate the Mossad with the help of the Israeli female agent Mirage. The story therefore moves to Israel where Bassel is quickly integrated into the Mossad and its interior conflicts and corruption. He starts a relation with Mirage, then with another Israeli female agent, played by Miss Lebanon Nadine, always keeping in his mind his family and his girlfriend left in Syria waiting for him. The plot is somehow interesting but the most interesting part is how Anzour has filmed the musalsal.

Last April, when I was in Syria, I got the chance to be invited to the shootings taking place in Syrian coastal town of Tartous.  The way Najdat and his Jordanian costume designer Hala have recreated the ’68 atmosphere in the West Bank is somehow interesting. They show an intense nightlife, bars and clubs full of music, beautiful women dressed as all the Europeans used to dress during the 68 revolution, an “easy going” and pretty libertine lifestyle. The setting is a kind of “pop” as you can see from the pictures here below.

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Another very interesting part is how he worked on the linguistic part. Having decided to shoot some parts in Hebrew, there was a “linguistic coach” on the set to train actors with the right Hebrew pronunciation (he is a Syrian who has spent a number of years in an Israeli prison). Then, as usual in Anzour’s sets, there were a lot of foreigners -mostly British people- that he invited to Syria to bring technical equiments -like the “truth machine” to shoot the scene when Bassel is questioned by the Mossad about his real identity- and also to play some “cameo” roles.

Being asked about the choice of the topic, Najdat states that he wanted to focus more on the “human side” of the story, rather than on the political one.  He insists he wanted to show the corruption and the intrigues that are hidden under what is considered one of the most powerful intelligence service in the world.

Only the screen could tell us what the result will be, and how “Rigal Al Hasm” will tackle the complicate Arab-Israeli issue. But something is for sure: this year the Mossad will have a face for the Arab audience, which is also the beautiful face of Miss Lebanon. They will see human relations -even if based on lies and double cross- developing between Syrians and Israelis, they will hear Hebrew on their Ramadan TV screen (altough this is not new, having the Syrians done many other musalsalat on the Arab-Israeli issue with some original dialogues in Hebrew).

This is for sure enough to have -at least- some major newspapers and talk shows talking about the musalsal.

“Rigal Al Hasm“, produced by businessman Hany Mokhlef (for a big amount of cash: rumors say between 2.5 and 5 million dollars), will be broadcasted on Abu Dhabi TV and many other Arab channels.

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Virtual Islam is Ramadan’s next “big thing”

Holy month of Ramadan 2009 is about to start (around this saturday) and the media battle has already begun in the Arab-Islamic world. This year is not only about musalsalat (soap operas) that are usually Ramadan’s special, having all Arab countries and TV stations fighting for the best (and more taboos-breaking) fiction.

Virtual worlds and avatars are officially entering the Ramadan media scene, being an effective tool to reach out to Muslim youngsters. That’s probably why Sheikh Ahmad Al-Ghamdi, the Mecca director of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice (Saudi Arabia’s vice police), has decided to deliver a Ramadan sermon from a virtual minbar in Second Life (SL). The sermon -entitled “Ramadan, oh youth!”- will be delivered tonight from a virtual mosque on the Middle East Island, a fictional SL island. Saudi officials are professionals in starting to blame a media and then using it to reach out a certain audience. They have been blaming television for years, at the same time financing the most powerful entertainment oriented private TV channels. But now Sheikh Al-Ghamdi has told the Saudi daily Al-Watan that new tools of communication are part of God’s gifts to mankind.
The sermon to be broadcast on the Middle East Island is not the first time Islam has been mixed with virtual worlds. Islam online, the famous organisation headed by Sheikh Al-Qaradawi (Al Jazeeras top preacher and host of “Sharia wal hayat” TV programme), purchased a SL island in 2007 where you can perform a virtual Hajj. Young generations of Muslisms around the world – like the fashionable bloggers’ avatars on Muslimness.com – are welcoming those kind of experiments, adding some interesting “remixes” like this picture of a virtual Muslim Darth Vader and a sexy young Muslim girl in a mosque “well, sometimes you tend to take that lightly, since it is a *virtual*world” says Madiha M.K.The Diva one of the hosts of Muslimness.

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(picture via Muslimness.com)

For those who are interested in this topic there is an interesting research by Dancing Ink funded by Richard Lounsbery Foundation. “Understanding Islam through Virtual worlds” has been conducted in SL by Dancing Ink Productions’ Rita J. King and Joshua S. Fouts, senior fellows at the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs. Different digital versions of the findings (including some You Tube videos shot in SL) are available here: http://dancinginkproductions.com/projects/understanding-islam-through-virtual-worlds/.