In July 2001, Genoa, Italy hosted the always controversial and always heavily protested G8 summit of world leaders. On the 20th, just when things seemed to be winding down both in terms of violent protests, one of the biggest and most widespread instances of police brutality transpired, dragging down, injuring, and one person was killed after being shot by an officer. The events are fictionalized and turned into a multi-character microcosm for Daniele Vicari’s Diaz: Don’t Clean Up This Blood, a chilling, effective, and unpredictable message minded film with excellent technical work all around.
When local authorities get word that a band of Black Bloc anarchist shit disturbers are holed up inside the titular schoolhouse being used to shelter visiting protestors from around the world, they are given the go ahead to perform a raid and extract the more illegal element. With fear on both sides running as high as possible, things go ass over tea kettle in a hurry with the police enacting gristly and brutal beatings even to people who were simply sleeping and not causing any harm.
The characters here are mere snapshots designed to create a larger picture illustrating the global nature of such a protest. An older man searches in vain for his daughter at the tail end of a vacation. A businessman is refused a room at a hotel because they aren’t allowed to rent out rooms as a result of vague security concerns. Various protesters from all over Europe going about their daily business and the police as they ready for their evening raid are both given fairly equal footing. They all congregate in the same place, and while none are fleshed out more than they need to, there are just enough moments in the first, slowly burning 45 minutes to warrant caring about them when things start to go awful. The actual culprits the police are looking for aren’t even in the school, instead hiding out by the grace of a shop owner letting them lie low.
Then Vicari attacks in grand and unsettling style. The actual raid on the school is a sustained 12 minute long unflinching tour de force. It’s hard to watch such a lengthy series of constant assaults and beatings, but it’s necessary given the set up. There were many times prior when a megaphone message from the police could have solved the problem rather than tear gas attacks and baton beatings. In this sequence the timeline almost goes out the window. It’s purposefully disorienting and nightmarish, marked with excellent cinematography and tight pacing.
The film adds another layer of emotion in the clean up and aftermath following the raid, and this might be the most problematic section since the characters weren’t designed to be looked back upon to make sure they were okay. It seems out of alignment with the film’s design to get sentimental (like when a laid up newspaper reporter makes it known that he actually works for a far right publication and was actually there to support the police from the start). There are still some great touches along the way, though, especially when the police produce their clever MacGuffin-slash-fake “smoking gun” for the raid to even happen.
It’s a messy situation all around, but Vicari brings it all together in an epic package that also calls to light what might be one of the first widespread uses of citizen journalism to tell a story of corruption and a situation gone out of hand. There weren’t camera phones, but the internet and low grade video were readily available and being used in full force. Vicari does justice to the gritty verite footage that surrounds and informs his work to craft a powerful piece about a tragic event that not only could have been avoided then, but could still be avoided today.