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For Italians, past domestic terror still a taboo topic

Reaction to a recently released documentary on the Red Brigades underscores the difficulty of coming to grips with the violence of the 1970s.

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When a documentary on the origins of the infamous Red Brigades terror group was released here recently, many screenings were canceled, following harsh criticism of the film by Minister of Culture Sandro Bondi, who accused the filmmakers of turning terrorists into celebrities.

But last month, at a rare showing of the film, some students in Milan booed when members of the Red Brigades were described as terrorists. "They were freedom fighters!" many shouted.

For investigative journalist Giovanni Fasanella, who helped produce the film, the disparate reactions indicate that Italy hasn't begun to come to grips with the widespread violence and political turmoil caused by both leftist and right-wing militants during the "years of lead," from the late 1960s and early 1980s.

"This clearly shows the wounds are still open," says Mr. Fasanella, who worked with director Gianfranco Pannone on the film. "Those years of terror have been removed from our memories, they do not appear in history books, and nobody talks about them. And as soon as one does, repressed memories come back to life and everybody suddenly loses his temper."

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