admin On giugno - 9 - 2013

by Chiara Spagnoli Gabardi



Giovanna Taviani, follows in the footsteps of the Taviani Brothers – her father (Vittorio) and uncle (Paolo) – and investigates in ‘The Rescue’ (or ‘Redemption’), the life and rebirth of Salvatore Striano, the ex-prisoner of Rebibbia prison who played the role of Brutus in Taviani brothers’ ‘Caesar Must Die.’ Giovanna, almost as if she were a painter depicts Striano as he jumps from his former world – marked by the darkness of the Spanish Quarter of Naples, the blood of the Camorra and the horror of prison – into his cultural redemption, as he strolls through the Tuscan harmonic landscape and the region’s glorious past. Screened at the 66th Cannes Film Festival Striano’s redemption docu-fiction short-film has now flown to the Open Roads: New Italian Cinema Film Festival at Lincoln Center in New York.


Here is the exclusive interview with Giovanna Taviani:

How was your encounter with Salvatore Striano aka Sasà?

I met him for the first time at the Berlin Film Festival, with delegation of the movie ‘Caesar Must Die.’ He received a great round of applause and standing ovation and as we went out of the theatre he told me he had been moved by an Italian woman, who told him that after seeing the film he made her proud of being Italian. Such a remark is very powerful when it is addressed to a man who has been convicted to eighteen years of jail, in the maximum security section, for his activity with Camorra. And this proves there is always hope for everyone. That’s how my friendship with Salvatore began, I then invited him to San Miniato, the small hometown of my father and uncle, where they shot ‘The Night of the Shooting Stars,’ and where we still have a house. In San Miniato there’s a completely different history in comparison to Neapolitan crime: this is the place where partisans were imprisoned fighting for freedom against the Fascists and Nazis. When I invited him he confided to me that when he used to be in prison he couldn’t fall asleep, so he would read Shakespeare and many other writers, and dream to awaken in their stories rather than next to his cellmate. But at the end of the day Sasà said that his dream became a reality, since he woke up in a world he never imagined could exist.

What does it feel like to have changed someone’s life, also through the work your father and uncle did with ‘Caesar Must Die’?

I dug into the work of the Taviani Brothers, to discover how Salvatore Striano saved himself through Shakepeare. That’s what he always tells young people: “don’t get lost like I did, now I know that through culture that there are so many more possibilities.” Actually he now goes in schools and prisons to share his experience and I think that this is highly educational.

Is the incitement to foster culture more effective through someone as borderline as Striano?

It certainly is more incisive because it triggers identification. It’s easy to listen to an intellectual or Nobel prize winner speaking about the importance of culture, but it isn’t as easy to relate to him. But a man who comes from the gutters and hasn’t had privileged access to culture through a proper education, arouses higher response, also considering he comes from Naples and his condition is widespread in the South of Italy. As the director Carlo Levi said in his film ‘Christ stopped in Eboli,’ “the State is farther than the sky.” So if a jail prisoner staring at the ceiling may find a breach to other worlds and become Ariel from ‘The Tempest’ or Brutus or Macbeth, art becomes therapeutic.

Can a self-taught person appreciate with greater sensitivity literature and theatre?

Absolutely, since there is no mediation. Striano has completely acquired Shakespeare’s and Dante’s characters. He says that he has observed that all the great themes – betrayal, guilt, murder, forgiveness, honour, revenge – have been part of human beings since the dawn of time. In ‘Cesar Must Die’ the acting prisoners all had a strong sense of identification with their characters: the man playing Antonio, who swears to avenge Cesar, had truly sworn to avenge his father who had been murdered by the Mafia. Thusly art and real life coalesce on a neorealism stage through blood and pain.

How did you insert San Miniato thematically?

Well as I said that town is part of my family’s heritage. I show the tower that I would climb up as a little girl, to portray the allegory of Sasà’s redemption. Dante accounts how Pier Delle Vigne – who was an Italian jurist and diplomat, who acted as chancellor and secretary to Emperor Frederick II and was accused of lèse majesté – was falsely imprisoned in San Miniato’s tower and committed suicide soon after. Tuscan people say that his ghost still haunts the tower and echoes in the laths. The 125 steps that Striano climbs up the tower represent his life, as he quotes Dante “Why dost thou break me off? Hast thou no spirit of compassion in thee? Men were we once, and now are stocks become; thy hand ought surely to have had more pity, even if the souls of serpents we had been.” And this can be applied to prisoners too.

The Cannes Festival, now Open Roads, what are the next destinations of ‘The Rescue’?

The movie will be presented in Spoleto’s square during the festival. The screening will be attended by Striano and Laura Boldrini (President of the Italian Chamber of Deputies). After that, Libera – Don Luigi Ciotti’s organisation that fights mafias – has taken this film as an educational example to screen all over Italy’s prisons.


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