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The series ‘SanPa, Sins of a Savior’ revives the controversy that divided Italy | TV

The figure of Vincenzo Muccioli, founder of San Patrignano, the largest rehabilitation community for drug addicts in Europe, and his questioned detoxification methods shook Italy in the eighties, polarized public opinion and politics and left a residue of confrontation and controversy that it still lasts. The documentary that Netflix released in January, SanPa, sins of a savior, covers the birth, growth, fame and decline of the omnipresent Muccioli and his creature, has reopened old wounds and is reproducing part of the climate of confrontation that was lived at the time.

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The controversy erupted with the premiere of the documentary, when the new management of the center, which is still active, distanced itself from past altercations and from the “partial version”, which, according to its words, the recording shows.

Muccioli founded in 1978, in full boom of heroin, the rehabilitation community for drug addicts of San Patrignano, which was sold as the largest in Europe and which came to welcome more than 2000 guests. But it fell precipitously because of controversial containment methods, such as the use of chains so that inmates did not succumb to withdrawal syndrome; Recurrent accusations of kidnapping and degrading treatment, a trail of legal proceedings, several suspicious deaths and a homicide within the walls of the model center that was transformed into the commune of horrors.

Now the tension has reached the courts. Muccioli’s children have sued Netflix for aggravated defamation against their father for the content of the series, built with a huge archive material that revolves around the story of numerous protagonists who lived those years, in the middle of the heroin boom, and sheds the lights and shadows of the community.

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Andrea and Giacomo Muccioli denounce that the production, directed by Cosima Spender, makes “a distorted reconstruction of the history of the community and the founder, described as violent, misogynistic and homosexual”. The brothers have refused to speak with this newspaper, since the lawsuit is under investigation by the Rimini Prosecutor’s Office, and they have limited themselves to sending a statement through their lawyers. In it they criticize that the series deals with the death of Muccioli presumably due to AIDS, an episode commented on by the media in his time and about which several characters speak in the documentary. “These claims, indiscretions, gossip, presented to millions of people are not true,” they allege. The brothers regret that “the image of a disappeared person, a great father and a man who dedicated his existence to doing good is defamed […] beyond the legitimate opinion about his life and work ”.

Muccioli, with great charisma and communication skills, became an extraordinarily powerful man in the Italy of the eighties and nineties, and was one of the most controversial figures in the country, loved and hated alike, amidst enormous noise. media. “The history of San Patrignano is very complex because it identifies with Vincenzo Muccioli, who was a divisive character, attracted politicians and famous people and Italy divided in two around his figure”, explains Antonio Maria Orecchia, professor of Contemporary History of the University of Insubria, which has organized a seminar on the series. And he adds: “He became a television star. His figure was the subject of controversy and he was good as a media character. In 1992, in the elections for President of the Republic [en Italia lo elige el Parlamento] He got 46 votes, which gives an idea of ​​the scope of his public exposure. Much of the debate revolved around the person of Muccioli, in fact now his children have sued Netflix for defamation against their father, not for the big issues that concern the rehabilitation community ”.

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Vincenzo Muccioli, in an image from the documentary series 'SanPa, Sins of a Savior'.
Vincenzo Muccioli, in an image from the documentary series ‘SanPa, Sins of a Savior’.

One of Muccioli’s sons, Andrea, appears in the documentary offering his version of events, but points out that he feels “betrayed” because the production company had promised him an objective treatment. The brothers assure that the broadcast of the series has affected their private lives and that of their relatives, with “continuous questions from friends, acquaintances, and common people about the veracity of what is stated and represented in the documentary.”

The final episodes of the series delve into the most sensitive events in San Patrignano’s history, dealing with court cases that affected the community, such as the turbulent beating of a man at the hands of other guests. As explained by the authors of the production, the objective was “to explain a complex reality without pleasing or denigrating anyone.” The complaint identifies producers, authors and the director as possible responsible for the defamation. Both Netflix Italy and the series’ team have also declined to offer their version to this newspaper.

“Everything it shows was already on everyone’s lips at the time. Although it has a strong narrative dimension typical of these docureality, corresponds to what appeared in the trials, they are things that at the time public opinion metabolized in a very polarized way, ”says Andrea Bellavita, professor of Storytelling and fiction on television.

The trail of controversies left by the series is long and the amount of intrigue, entanglement, political implications and dubious episodes surrounding San Patrignano is such that the chain of hostilities is enormous. Another of the central characters in the story and who also appears in the documentary, Walter Delogu, a former guest of the community and close collaborator of Muccioli who ended up becoming one of its greatest accusers, has in turn denounced Giacomo Muccioli for defamation, according to local media. In some interviews, the son of the founder of San Patrignano had condemned that Delogu was given credit in the Netflix series without recalling an old court case in which he had been involved, an alleged blackmail of Muccioli in exchange for silence by which pleaded guilty before the judge. The founder’s son even said that the former collaborator pointed a pistol at his mother to demand money. Delogu denies it, maintains that he was claiming an amount as a settlement and that no trial was held against him for extortion, because he agreed to a sentence with the judge, who certified that there was never violence on his part, and less armed, but only an implicit threat.

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