Roberto Benigni

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Benigni is perhaps best known outside Italy for his 1997 tragicomedy Life Is Beautiful (La vita è bella), filmed in Arezzo, also written by Cerami. The film is about an Italian Jewish man who tries to protect his son's innocence during his internment at a Nazi concentration camp, by telling him that the Holocaust is an elaborate game and he must adhere very carefully to the rules to win. Benigni's father had spent three years in a concentration camp in Bergen-Belsen, and La vita è bella is based in part on his father's experiences. Benigni was also inspired by the story of Holocaust survivor Rubino Romeo Salmonì. Although the story and presentation of the film had been discussed during production with different Jewish groups to limit the offense it might cause, the film was attacked by some critics who accused it of presenting the Holocaust without much suffering, and some who considered that "laughing at everything" was not appropriate. More favourable critics praised Benigni's artistic daring and skill to create a sensitive comedy involving the tragedy, a challenge that Charlie Chaplin confessed he would not have done with The Great Dictator had he been aware of the horrors of the Holocaust.