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WATCH: A gay man is persecuted for “plagiarism of the mind” in this shockingly timely period drama

Screenshot: The Match Factory

Sometimes history repeats itself in the most distressing of ways.

Italian director Gianni Amelio’s historical drama Lord Of The Ants is the story of a gay man persecuted under a country’s fascist regime.

The film is inspired by real-life academic and filmmaker Aldo Braibanti, a progressive thinker who had been part of Italy’s anti-fascist resistance during World War II. In the ’60s, he was sentenced to nine years in prison because of his relationship with a younger man

Braibanti is known as the only person to ever be found guilty of “plagio” by the Italian courts, a.k.a “plagiarism of the mind.” Under Benito Mussolini’s strict rule, plagio was considered brainwashing, or even mind control—a repressive rule essentially in place to silence dissenting voices and limit the spread of progressive ideals.

It’s not a stretch to connect the dots behind plagio and the modern-day usage of the word “groomer” by certain conservatives who attempt to keep the discussion of LGBTQ topics out of schools and, more broadly, aim to paint queer people as dangerous threats.

Related: Before Stonewall: 9 must-see queer period pieces set in the mid-20th century

In Deadline, Amelio discusses his film’s striking relevance: “We still witness it every day. Because, in substance, not much has changed. Behind a permissive façade, prejudices exist and endure, generating hatred and scorn towards anyone who is ‘different.’ This is no longer the time to submit to or to tolerate any form of abuse towards individuals who are less protected. This film aims to instill the courage to rebel.”

Lord Of The Ants stars Luigi Lo Cascio as Aldo, Elio Germano as a journalist covering his trial, and newcomer Leonardo Maltese as Aldo’s twentysomething lover, whose conservative family kidnaps him and forces him into “coercive” psychiatric treatment while pursuing the academic in court.

The film recently premiered in competition at the Venice International Film Festival where is was picked up by The Match Factory for international distribution.

U.S. release details have yet to be announced, but you can watch an official first trailer for Lord Of The Ants below:

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