Editor’s Note: Please be advised that the 16th paragraph of this story contains an ableist slur that some readers may consider offensive
It may have been a forewarning when the relatively unknown Italian filmmaker Luciano Silighini Garagnani turned up in sneakers, black blazer, and faded jeans at the Venice Film Festival’s red carpet on Saturday.
But inside lurked something even more offensive than a casual attire at a formal event: a T-shirt with a picture of fallen Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein and emblazoned with the words “Weinstein is innocent.”
The homemade T-shirt worn by Garagnani, a D-list casting director-turned-filmmaker who leans towards Conservative politics, stole the limelight from Luca Guadagnino’s remake of the 1977 film Suspiria and probably hurt a lot of supporters of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements.
The casting director, 42, needless to say, posed for numerous photos in what seemed to be a publicity stunt — but the second scandal for the Venice Film Festival — days after the event was accused of “toxic masculinity”, leading its organisers to sign up to an equality charter for women.
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The minor fame of Garagnani, “a staunch supporter of the Republican party”, comes from his latest movie Uno Di Noi that aimed to portray former Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi, who was convicted of making payments to an underage prostitute, and his sex parties in a positive light. (Is that even possible?)
The cherry on top is that he has contributed funds to the presidential campaign of US President Donald Trump, who, himself, stands accused of sexual misconduct by at least 19 women and had hired Bill Shine, the ex-Fox News executive fired for allegedly mishandling the outlet’s sexual harassment fiasco, as the White House’s deputy chief of staff for communications.Accompanying Garagnani was Paolo Riva, who plays the right-wing Italian PM Berlusconi and appeared to be too excited as he pointed to his enabler friend’s disgraceful T-shirt, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
In this regard, Venice Film Festival’s artistic director Alberto Barbera, who declared last month that he would “rather quit” than give in to pressure for a quota for women, commented that sporting the shirt at the event was “a stupid move.”
It is interesting to note that Garagnani chose to wear the shirt in question to the premiere of Suspiria, the original version of which was directed by Asia Argento’s father Dario.
Asia Argento, who was one of the first, high-profile celebrities to come out with allegations of sexual harassment against Weinstein, is embroiled in her own controversy after she was accused to have paid hush money to rock musician Jimmy Bennett, then a child actor, who claimed she sexually assaulted him when he was 17.The actress, however, denies ever having had sexual relations with Bennett, saying she was “deeply shocked and hurt”.
The shirt garnered attention on social media as well, with many people slamming Garagnani for disrespecting the event and the guards’ failure to remove him from the red carpet, especially in light of the fact that women’s rights activist groups were not allowed the same space for the 5050×2020 movement as they were at Cannes Film Festival.”I don’t know who Luciano Silighini is and I really don’t care but his Weinstein is Innocent shirt has no place on the #Venezia75 #Venice75 red carpet,” read one tweet.
“It’s bad enough you have only 1 film directed by a women at the festival but to have this nutcase Luciano Silighini Garagnani wearing a ‘Weinstein is Innocent’ T Shirt on your red carpet is outrageous,” read another.
“Still don’t know who you are or how you got into an award show,” someone commented.
“This idiot is Luciano Silighini Garagnani, Italian writer, director and producer. […] 100% trash wanting a moment in the spotlight.”
“Thanks for letting us know you’ve probably also sexually abused women.”
Publicity stunts like Garagnani’s are detrimental to the survivors of sexual assault and misconduct in the sense that they could feel more hesitant to come forward to talk about the abuse they have experienced after seeing their woes turned to jokes.
The #MeToo and #TimesUp movements garnered traction towards the end of last year after numerous women accused Weinstein of sexual misconduct, sexual harassment, and rape. That followed a wave of other women going public with past abuses by powerful men.
If charged, Weinstein, who denies all allegations, could serve life in prison.