In Italy Lilli Gruber is a household name. Since her appearance in 1987 on the 8PM national News broadcast on RAI – the state television network – this tiny red-haired woman from the german-speaking northern minority, has been the source of information for millions of Italians. The first woman in the country to ever conduct the prime-time evening News, she distinguished herself for her independence, her thoroughness, and her attitude. She chose not to rely on her fame by keeping to her foreign assignments, reporting important world events from 9/11 to the 1992 US presidential elections, from the fall of the Berlin wall to the wars in Iraq.

In early May of 2004 Ms. Gruber left her position at RAI. "I cannot continue working in an organization which pretends to be a public service while it plunders over the freedom of expression, unethically overrunning the right and dignity of its journalists" she wrote in an open letter upon leaving her post. One week later she joined the left coalition and was appointed their head-candidate to oppose Prime Minister Berlusconi in the run for the European Parliament.

"Lilli e il Cavaliere – 10 days to challenge Berlusconi" documents the last 10 days of her campaign. 24/24, 7/7, the camera is focused on the candidate and on her small entourage. In the course of this time we follow Ms. Gruber’s evolution from the stand of the challenge and the uncertainty of the outcome, to her landslide victory. The focus is on the "backstage", on the things that take place before, after and parallel to public events.

This documentary has an additional layer that distinguishes it from other films: the candidate may be the only person in Italy to have an added media value stronger than her opponent. We have to remember that Berlusconi came into politics precisely because of the media visibility that his TV Empire lent him. It is not by mistake that the first reaction of the government to Ms. Gruber’s candidacy was to blacklist her from her old network. During the entire campaign her image was on the RAI network only twice. As she states in the film, her victory becomes doubly sweet: "the TV mogul defeated by a TV journalist working in the public service".

"Lilli e il Cavaliere – 10 days to challenge Berlusconi" is in the tradition of a genre that has developed mostly in the US in the last 40 years. Beginning with "Primary" by D.A. Pennebaker and Robert Drew on JFK’s 1960 campaign, the audience WAS able to see the candidates at moments when the cameras were normally not rolling. with “The war room” again by D.A. Pennebaker on the first Clinton CAMPAIGN in 1993, and “Traveling with George” by Alexandra Pelosi on the George W. Bush 2000 campaign, the genre has expanded and moved the focus from the candidates to the strategists and finally to the person documenting.

This is the first time in Italy that a candidate in a political campaign has given total access to the camera.


I met Lilli Gruber in New York, while working with her on the coverage of 9/11. During this very intense and dramatic period I came to know her as a journalist with an incredible capacity for communication and a rigorous professional ethic.

When I heard that she was running as an independent for the elections to the European Parliament, I immediately thought that it was a great opportunity to show what it meant for an individual to enter into the realm of politics. I asked to follow the last two weeks of her campaign. I knew that her capacity for communication was going to make the difference in a project of this nature.

After I began filming, I was surprised to find myself in a very similar situation to the one we had when we used to work together: a group of determined people working very intensely as a team towards a communal goal, and overcoming many obstacles. It was this intensity that in a few days time, eliminated my presence and that of the camera to those involved in the campaign. The film reflects the camera as an insider during those last frantic days of Lilli’s campaign.

Sito ufficiale di Lilli Gruber:


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