Andrew Haigh’s gay romance Weekend triumphs in Italy despite Vatican ban

Nottingham-based drama about love affair between lifeguard and conceptual artist scores country’s highest per-screen average this weekend

A British independent film about a burgeoning gay relationship has proven a surprise box office smash in Italy, despite an alleged attempt by the Catholic church to “paralyse” its release.

Andrew Haigh’s Weekend, which was released in the UK in 2011, achieved the highest per-screen average in the country this weekend, according to Variety. One screening at Rome’s famous Quattro Fontane art house cinema pulled in receipts of more than €16,000, the Italian capital’s top haul.

Weekend, which was brought to Italy by distributor Teodora Film following the 2015-16 awards season success of Haigh’s Oscar-nominated film 45 Years, had been labelled “not advised, unusable and scabrous (indecent or salacious)” by the powerful Italian Conference of Bishops’ Film Evaluation Commission. The ruling meant the Nottingham-set film was restricted to just 10 screens, despite Italy’s official censor having handed the drama a 14 certificate, because the church owns more than 1,100 of Italy’s independent and art house cinemas.

Teodora president Cesare Petrillo accused the church of homophobia last week after its ruling.

“I cannot see any other explanation than a problem of homophobia in the church,” he told AFP. “They decided it was unacceptable, that it should be censored and they have used their power to paralyse the distribution.

“Normally, a film like this would have been picked up by many of these cinemas,” he added. “Instead there are whole regions and big cities like Florence, Bergamo and Padova where we have not been able to get it put on. And the only reason for that is that the main characters are gay.”

The Catholic church in Italy maintains a powerful hold over the country’s art house scene via its ownership of cinemas, which stretches back to an era in which local parish priests decided which films were suitable for their flocks. However, Weekend appears to be a rare example in which a film is effectively banned: while films such as transgender romance The Danish Girl were handed a “problematic” label, and Catholic church abuse drama Spotlight received a “complex” rating, only one other recent movie has been vetoed altogether for release in church-owned cinemas. According to AFP that was the Chilean director Pablo Larrain’s drama The Club, which also features instances of clerical abuse.

Variety reports 11 more Italian cinemas are now said to be interested in screening Weekend in the upcoming frame.

by Ben Child
Source – The Guardian