Belfast Telegraph

Democracy is fragile – defend it, warns Armando Iannucci

The satirist who created The Thick Of It said everyone should be wary of “dysfunctional” democracies.

Armando Iannucci has warned that democracy is a fragile state that needs defending every day, particularly with “volatility” in the UK.

The satirist who created The Thick Of It and Veep has been examining authoritarianism in his latest black comedy The Death Of Stalin, featuring Steve Buscemi, Michael Palin and Andrea Riseborough.

At its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival on Friday, Iannucci said they filmed the movie in the summer before Donald Trump’s election.

But, he said, when they watched it back they thought its themes of misinformation, so-called fake news and authoritarianism had an “added resonance”.

“When you have a president now who’s refusing to condemn white supremacists, and that can happen so quickly, it does alert you to the fact you have to be defending democracy on a daily basis,” he told the Press Association.

The Thick Of It satirised the role of spin doctors, ineptitude and poor priorities in government but Iannucci, 53, said he now finds it hard to find humour in UK politics.

“I do find it hard to be funny about it because, having spent a lot of time looking at what happened under Stalin, I’m very much aware of what happens when a democracy becomes dysfunctional,” he said.

“Thankfully the Ukip bubble has kind of burst but there’s volatility out there and it just needs one person to come along and say they’ve got all the answers, or a big popular movement to grow under that.”

The UK has a dispossessed electorate, is in a “confused state” without a solid government and “we don’t have anyone who knows what they want to do about Brexit”, Iannucci added.

The film, also featuring Paul Whitehouse, Paddy Considine and Simon Russell Beale, satirises the power struggling following the Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin’s death in 1953.

Buscemi said filming in London and the opportunity to work with Iannucci were among the reasons he took on the project, as was working with his “heroes” Michael Palin and Jeffrey Tambor.

Early reviews have been very positive, with The Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw giving it the full marks of five stars and describing it as a “sulphurous black comedy”.

:: The Death Of Stalin is released in UK cinemas on October 20.

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