Italy, France


Exorcism is still a fact of contemporary life. Every year, more and more people claim that their illnesses are caused by demonic possession.
Father Cataldo is a veteran, one of the most sought-after exorcists in Sicily. Every Tuesday, many believers follow his mass of liberation, searching for a cure for some adversity for which there does not seem to be a label or a remedy.
The Catholic Church reacts to this crisis by nominating priests as exorcists in increasing numbers and by organizing training courses for them. In order to respond to the rising number of requests for deliverance from evil, all French dioceses have installed at least one exorcist. In Spain, the archdiocese of Madrid is desperately trying to fill seven additional positions.
In Rome and Milan alone, the number of exorcists has grown from six to 12, and the Church has set up an emergency call center. In the US, the number of exorcists has increased tenfold over the last few years.

Director's Statement

My first aim was to find stories for a film about obsessions, a sort of a journey through mental addictions. What I didn’t expect was to stumble on a discovery even crazier than my already crazy expectations. A training course for exorcist priests organized by the Catholic church. And Sicily with its 20 exorcists represents, together with Lombardy, the most important forefront for this practice. That became the starting point of our long research, during which we took part in lots of deliverance masses, a very particular kind of mass that happens weekly, lasts three hours at least and in which God is begged for a collective deliverance from evil as a first step to private exorcisms.

A strange post-modern puzzle was taking shape in my mind in which the Catholic church was proposing again the ancient and extreme ritual of the exorcism as a new way of social assistance for some typical contemporary malaise. The practice has become so widely diffused that it has become necessary to organize trainings for priests, including lessons about psychiatry, youth trends, satanic cults and the different kinds of drugs used in clubs or during black masses. The exorcist as a modern healer is often considered the last resort after “stations of the cross” full of wizards, psychiatrists, medical specialists and alternative cures. He becomes a metaphor of a society where the search of meaning becomes spasmodic like a quick, efficient and permanent cure, even if it means to give yourself over to someone who will call you Satan.

Slowly I realized that this reality, distant as it was to me, was an extraordinary key to an incendiary state of mind, where the boundaries between lucidity and dissociation are getting thinner. The fundamental question is not whether Satan exists, but how it is possible that exorcisms could become weekly appointments, a precise ritual with disturbing aspects, and also something that can be integrated by everyone with their personal strategies, in everyday life. Possession and deliverance are part of a story about a continuous entering and exiting of certain states within yourself.

The film’s structure runs the gamut from moments of everyday life to clearly abnormal situations. The grotesque peaks come out naturally, but I believe we have managed to maintain proper discretion and respect towards things that remain unknown and towards those who deeply touch the spirituality of some people.

I chose to tell this story from the persective of the people who experience it every day. Not only the “possessed” but also the priests who don’t choose to become exorcists, since they are nominated by their bishops. They nevertheless take this position with faith and completely transform their lives, being “under siege” night and day. Father Cataldo is the symbol of complete devotion joined to a disarming spontaneity and frankness. On the other hand, there are the so-called possessed who are not catholic fanatics, but common people who move closer to the church in a particularly difficult moment in their life. Through their experience, they emancipate themselves from an imaginary horror, acquiring an original complexity made of doubts, misinterpretations, but also of an unlimited sense of self-irony.

Director's Biography

Born in La Spezia, Federica Di Giacomo graduated from the University of Florence in Anthropology. She attained a MA degree in European creative documentary at the Pompeu Fabra University in Barcelona, where she co-operated as assistant scriptwriter on MONKEYS LIKE BECKY (Monos como Becky) by Joaquín Jordá and in UNDER CONSTRUCTION (En construccion) by Louis José Guerin (2001). In 2000, she filmed the documentary LOS COLORES DE TRANCE, broadcasted by BTV. Since 2001, she has been creating documentaries for Raisat Cinema and other broadcasters. She has directed two short movies, CLOSE UP (2001) and THE PERFECT SUICIDE (Suicidio perfetto, 2003). She is the producer, author and director of the documentary film THE CAVE SIDE OF LIFE (Il lato grottesco della vita, 2006), winning the CIPPUTI and Avanti awards at the 2006 Turin Film Festival. In 2007, the film was awarded as best documentary at Etno Film Fest. It was also selected for numerous festivals including Libero Bizzarri Award, San Paulo International Film Festival, Uruguay Film Festival, broadcast on Rai3 and Cult TV. Her last documentary film, HOUSING (2009), produced By Raicinema and B&B Film, was selected for the festivals in Locarno, Turin, Copenhagen, Thessaloniki, Reykjavík, Hotdocs Toronto and many others. The film was broadcast on Rai1 and Rai5. She has been working with Nanni Moretti’s Sacher films on a collective documentary. Federica has also taught documentary at Ied Milan and as part of the Masters program in Creative documentary at La Sapienza University Rome. With the script for LIBERA NOS (Liberami), written together with Andrea Sanguigni, she won the Solinas Award for the Best Documentary Script in 2014.

Cast & Crew

Directed by: Federica Di Giacomo

Written by: Federica Di Giacomo, Andrea Sanguigni

Produced by: Francesco Virga, Paolo Santoni

Cinematography: Regine De Lazzaris, Carlo Sisalli

Editing: Edoardo Morabito, Aline Hervé

Sound Design: Mariano Blanco, Mirko Cangiamila, Danilo Romancino

Nominations and Awards

  • Documentary Selection 2017