The shipyard painter, political activist and razor-sharp cartoonist Bob Starrett has just written a new book The Way I See It on his eventful life and times. Below we reprint one of his stories and review an essential read
The international film festival at Pesaro in Italy is resisting Berlusconi's cultural barbarism with resilience and determination
This is not an easy time for Italian culture. Berlusconi's rightist, corporate government keeps cutting Italy's cultural budget to placate its wealthy, selfish backers and the result has been catastrophic.
That's nowhere more evident than in Rome where Teatro Valle, one of the greatest theatres in the capital, is under threat of becoming a steak house.
Lack of state funding and mounting costs has also impacted upon this year's Pesaro International Film Festival, one of Italy's oldest and most renowned.
It was forced to give up one of its viewing theatres, drastically slimming down its film programme from 140 to 70. And the number of people staffing the event was also cut.
But despite these economic troubles, this year's festival has been more vital than ever.
The enthusiasm and shared passion for cinema that led a group of people to embark on the crazy job of organising a festival of high quality and international competitiveness - but with almost no money - persists.
Once again this year there was a very strong selection of films, some of which were screened for free in Pesaro's main square.
The festival winner was Korean director Park Jung-bum's Journals Of Musan, which depicts the tremendous difficulties North Koreans have integrating into the capitalistic society of its southern neighbour.
In the competition too was the politically charged Even The Rain about the "water war" between Mexico and Bolivia, written by Ken Loach collaborator Paul Laverty and directed by his Spanish wife Iciar Bollain.
Intelligent and captivating, it reveals an admirably unflashy expertise.
Out of competition was a screening of Svetlana Proskurina's Truce which trails a young, wandering truck driver who ends up in the village where he was born.
It's an allegory for the way Russians live today - in a state of suspension which is as natural and unchanging as the main character. The film travels so deep into itself that it almost feels like an alien object.
Truce was very much part of the recent focus of the festival on contemporary Russian cinema, which began last year with screenings of art house films.
This year the emphasis was on documentary, among them anthropological films by the internationally acclaimed Serej Loznica, Marina Razbezkina and Pavel Medvedev.
Among the best were a number by Aleksandr Rastorguev, whose Pure Thursday on the horrors of the Chechen war is told from the viewpoint of confused and frightened Russian soldiers who are not ready to die.
In Wild Wild Beach the director homes in on the tourists who invade the eastern coast of the Black Sea every summer. There they live out their fantasies, perversions and desires in a neo capitalistic system while still rooted in the old Soviet era.
His I Love You is a unique and poetic portrait of youths who, over the course of two years, chronicle their lives with a small digital video camera.
A YouTube-style experiment, it allows us to witness the complexities of Russian contemporary society at close quarters.
Made during Putin's era, the film's distribution was blocked with no reason given.
But it's not difficult to guess why. Putin, like Berlusconi, tried to deceive the real world by creating a story about a successful country, rather than actually creating a successful country. Yet everything comes to an end, as will Berlusconi's inglorious reign.
The 70-year-old director Bernardo Bertolucci, despite being in a wheelchair, came to meet his public - free of charge, naturally - and talk about his career. Amusingly, he recounts how he made Hollywood pay for the biggest red flags in cinema history for his film Novecento (1900). It was banned in the US, but distributed all around the world and was a big success with critics and audiences.
It made me think of a line from his film La Tragedia Di Un Uomo Ridicolo (Tragedy of a Ridiculous Man), "The working class is holding its breath," and how well it describes the Pesaro Festival, which is in a state of resistance as it fights for survival.
But this year's programme showed that its foundation are still solid. Its core is made up of outstanding people - Giovanni Spagnoletti, the festival's director for 11 years, veteran critics and festival founders Adriano Apra and Bruno Torri, numerous young volunteers and the likes of the young students debating after the Russian documentaries.
Not forgetting Bertolucci, who provided a sparkle of laughter and hope for those silently watching the open-air screening of his film The Conformist under a beautiful starlit sky.
All for free, confirming what the great French director Jean Luc Gioadrad says, that cinema "is no-one's property, it belongs to the people."
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