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ROME (Reuters) - French actor Vincent Cassel has given Italy's cinema dubbing industry a scathing review, saying movie-goers should have a choice on whether to see films in their original language.
Even in the Italian capital Rome, only a handful of cinemas are dedicated to showing films in original language, while in the provinces it is almost impossible to see a non-dubbed version.
"In Italy a power system has been created that not only prevents viewers from seeing films in their original version, but often distorts our work," Cassel told Il Messaggero newspaper.
Italians are far more likely to hear Harry Potter's spells chanted by Rome-born actor Alessio Puccio than Daniel Radcliffe.
Cassel won acclaim for his turns as a ballet director demanding artistic perfection in the 2010 film "Black Swan" with Natalie Portman, and a master thief in Ocean's Twelve and Ocean's Thirteen alongside George Clooney.
"Dubbing directors and the dubbers themselves sometimes take big liberties and think they, in the recording studio, have the right to take the director or lead actor's role," Cassel said.
He apologized for describing Italy's dubbers as a "mafia" in a recent radio interview but said he wanted to emphasize the importance of distributing original films along with local language versions.
A 2012 study conducted for the European Commission found Italians had the second-worst foreign language abilities in Europe after Hungary. Educational development experts say films can play an important role in foreign language learning.
More than 70 percent of respondents in Malta, Luxembourg, Sweden and Denmark regularly watch film and TV in other languages, compared with 15 percent in Italy, the study found.
Cassel, who has dubbed films into French, said the practice started during the Fascist era in Italy, and was used to censor films that came from abroad.
"You cannot imagine how painful it is for an actor to hear their emotions and sensibilities reinterpreted and even manipulated by someone else. It's unbearable!"
Reporting by Isla Binnie; Editing by Ruth Pitchford