French actor Cécile Cassel shocked by 'hijack' of film by Italy's far right

From Guardian UK

Cécile Cassel said she had not been aware of the film’s ‘political ghosts’. Photograph: Chris Jackson/Getty Images

A leading French actor who backs immigrants' rights has said she was shocked to discover that her latest film, an Italian historical epic, is being used as a propaganda tool by Italy's xenophobic Northern League party, an ally of Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi.

Cécile Cassel, the sister of actor Vincent Cassel, is starring in Barbarossa, a $30m (£19m) production part-funded by the Italian government which celebrates the military defeat in 1167 of the German Holy Roman emperor Frederick I, known as Frederick Barbarossa, by a league of rebellious northern Italian cities – an event celebrated by the modern-day Northern League.

Umberto Bossi, the league's leader, who once suggested opening fire on boats of migrants arriving from Africa, has been showing clips of the film at rallies and urging supporters to see the film, which premieres on Friday.

"I knew nothing of the political ghosts behind Barbarossa," said Cassel, who plays Frederick Barbarossa's wife in the film. "Let's just say that if I had known, I probably would not have accepted the part."

The league, which calls for autonomy for northern Italy and a crackdown on immigration from abroad, features on its flag a depiction of Alberto da Giussano, the legendary warrior who led his fellow Italians against Frederick.

Bossi has claimed he is the modern-day equivalent of Da Giussano and that Barbarossa, played by Rutger Hauer in the film, represents the Italian state that the league is seeking freedom from.

Da Giussano is played by an Israeli actor and the film's crucial battle scene was filmed in Romania to cut costs.

Renzo Martinelli, the director of Barbarossa who claims Bossi inspired him to make the film, reacted to Cassel's discomfort by saying he would think twice about hiring her again.

"Like many French people, she has an enormous sense of self-importance," he told Corriere della Sera.


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