Amnesty International defined what happened in Genoa during the 27th G8 summit as the greatest suspension of human rights in a Western country after World War II. In April this year, the European Court of Human Rights condemned Italy for what happened during the night on the 21st of July 2001 in the Diaz school in Genoa, confirming that the beatings committed by the Italian police must be considered as torture, and for the lack in the Italian system of an adequate legislation against torture. In between these two events, in 2012, a film by the Italian director Daniele Vicari traced back what happened to those who were in the school the night of the police irruption and in the following hours.

Diaz – Don’t Clean Up This Blood reconstructs the events from the afternoon of the 21st July to the day in which those who were detained in the police station of Bolzaneto were released. A group of Black Blocs, some of them about to leave the city; the youngsters and the people working for the Genoa Social Forum; a French man looking for a place to sleep; Anselmo, an elderly militant of the Italian trade union CGIL; Luca, a journalist of “La Gazzetta di Bologna”; Alma, a German activist, and her friend; the policemen and their heads are some of the characters of the film, yet there are no real physical protagonists in Diaz, only the events and the violence of those days.

As a matter of fact, Vicari is as objective as possible in showing the atrocities of that night and the brutalities which took place, after the irruption at the Diaz school, in the police station of Bolzaneto. The scenes of the beatings set in the school are so long and cruel that, at some point, they become a torture for the viewers. Such length leads us at least to try to realise or understand what Anselmo, Luca, Alma and all the others who were in the school that night had to face. However, such scenes are not enough, and the viewer is led, with those who were beaten up, to Bolzaneto. Here, still bleeding, the victims were forced to stand up facing a wall, keeping their arms over their heads, and if they collapsed or simply tried to bend their knees, they were beaten again. Along with the violence scenes, Vicari shows the various humiliations and abasements the victims had to suffer in Bolzaneto: some of them were forced to sing fascist songs, perform fascist gestures or to stand on four legs, like dogs, and bark.

In addition, the names of some of the characters are only fictitious and the real people behind those names are easily recognisable. For instance, Alma Koch is Lena Zuhlke, the German girl beaten in the school and then in Bolzaneto; Luca is Lorenzo Guadagnucci, a journalist of Il Resto del Carlino, Anselmo is Arnaldo Cestaro, the demonstrator from Veneto and the oldest man in the school on the 21st of July, to whom the officers broke a leg, an arm and ten ribs and who still suffers from the abuses of that night; and the police officers and their heads are recognisable as well.

Such realism and objectivity is certainly disturbing, but is fundamental. Watching a film and seeing such brutalities, sadism, ferocity and inhumanity is necessary to understand the real circumstances and episodes of the most tremendous days in the Italian recent history. This film urges one to inform oneself more on what happened in Genoa in the summer of 2001, to watch documentaries and read articles about it, so one can realise – because complete understanding is impossible – what happens when basic human rights and democracy can be so easily suspended.