By Philip Pullella
ROME (Reuters) - A British filmmaker said on Friday he was a victim of censorship after a leading museum cancelled the Italian premiere of the documentary "Girlfriend in a Coma", which is highly critical of Italy's political and economic situation.
The museum where the film was to have been shown on February 13 cancelled the showing and said it could not be held until after the country's elections on Feb 24-25.
Former Economist magazine editor Bill Emmott, who made the film with Italian Annalisa Piras, called the decision by the Museum of 21st Century Art (MAXXI) a product of "censorship and stupidity".
MAXXI, run by a foundation overseen by the culture ministry, said it could not be host to activity that can be seen to have political connotations ahead of the elections.
"This is not censorship," a spokesperson said. "After the elections, the film can be shown here." The election date has been known for nearly two months.
Emmott was for 13 years the chief editor of the Economist magazine, which published covers highly critical of former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, including a famous 2001 cover which read: "Why Silvio Berlusconi is Unfit to Lead Italy".
"I am shocked. I would not have been shocked if this had happened during the government of my good friend Silvio Berlusconi, but the culture ministry doing this now is astonishing," he told Reuters by telephone from Jamaica.
The MAXXI is run by a foundation which is funded by the culture ministry.
The film, which has already shown in New York, Miami, Brussels and London, paints a picture of what the authors say is the country's moral, social and economic decline over the past 20 years since Berlusconi came to power.
"What this decision reflects is a very cautious mentality that wants to hide the reality of the situation of Italy and seeks to stifle debate about the causes because they might be too revealing," Emmott said.
The film addresses political corruption, media monopoly and corporate power. Among those interviewed are caretaker Prime Minister Mario Monti, filmmaker Mario Moretti, anti-Mafia writer Roberto Saviano, Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne, former European Commissioner Emma Bonino and author Umberto Eco.
Emmott said he and the producers would lodge a protest with the culture ministry.
"If it is not shown at the MAXXI, we will arrange for it to be shown somewhere else," he said.
(Reporting By Philip Pullella, additional reporting by Alberto Sisto; Editing by Stephen Powell)