ROME (Reuters) - Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's late mother knew early on that her boy would be destined to do great things but she was wrong when she predicted that he would never go around with women.
Rosa Berlusconi, who died in 2008, is one of the many protagonists of a new documentary on Berlusconi "Silvio Forever," an unauthorized biography that will certainly not bring smiles to the prime minister or his supporters.
"He worked his whole life. He gave well-being to everyone," Rosa Berlusconi says at the start of the 80-minute film.
"Silvio Forever" uses old photographs, TV footage and audio to let "Berlusconi tell his own story," as one of the authors put it at a press preview on Tuesday ahead of a March 25 release.
The overall thrust of the documentary is unfavorable to the 74-year-old prime minister.
Using original clips and an actor with a voice similar to his to read from Berlusconi's writings, it retraces the life and times of Italy's most powerful man.
The documentary zooms in on Berlusconi's most recent judicial woes. There are scenes of Ruby, the teenage girl Berlusconi is accused of having paid for sex, performing in a soft-porn nightclub act. Other scenes show girls magistrates say took part in wild parties at Berlusconi's villa.
The audience at the screening burst into laughter when a very old clip was shown in which Berlusconi's late mother says: "He doesn't like the society scene. You will never find a photo of Silvio going around with women."
We learn that even as a young boy Berlusconi had the cunning entrepreneurial spirit that would wind up making him Italy's third-richest man.
He would wake up early to go to a nearby farm to milk cows in exchange for milk for his family. Later, in the immediate post-war years, he collected scrap paper, compacted it and re-sold it as fuel.
He tells how he gave refresher lessons to pupils in lower grades in school in exchange for butter and eggs for his family and how he be beat all sales targets when he sold refrigerators.
It traces his life as cruise ship crooner, a real estate developer, and his subsequent entry into film, television, publishing, banking, insurance and eventually into politics.
It shows some of Berlusconi's memorable gaffes or mistakes, such as when he left German Chancellor Angela Merkel waiting while he made a call on his cell phone and when he said he liked U.S. President Barack Obama because he was "suntanned."
"Some people will see this film as very mean and others will say it is not mean enough," said Gian Antonio Stella, a journalist for Italy's Corriere della Sera and co-author of the film.
Indeed, the aim of the authors seems to be to let Berlusconi draw criticism and scorn by being himself, including scenes in which he displays his trademark sense of pride that critics say borders on self-proclaimed sainthood.
"I have set a lot of goals for myself and I have never failed to reach one. There is no one on the world scene who can even try to compare themselves to me," he says in one clip.
"Making a malicious film about Silvio Berlusconi would be the easiest thing in the world," Stella said. "We chose to let him speak for himself.
So, the viewer hears Berlusconi boast of how when he worked on cruise ships he "never slept" because he was either working, singing in the band or "seducing girls."
In another clip, Berlusconi says he feels "invincible" against what he calls "attacks, insults and persecutions" by magistrates and tax authorities, particularly when he wears a watch his late father gave him.
"When I don't wear it, I feel less protected. It's a shield for me," he says.
Berlusconi will likely be wearing that watch in the coming weeks when he attends trials where he is accused of bribery and paying for sex with a minor.
Editing by Steve Addison