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ROME 2019

Alessandro Piva • Director of Santa subito

“A story with two victims”


- Alessandro Piva talks to us about Santa Subito, a documentary which explores a femicide carried out in Puglia in 1991 and which won the Audience Award at Rome Film Fest’s 14th edition

Alessandro Piva • Director of Santa subito

Santa Scorese was a young and devout Catholic from the Italian province of Bari. She was full of life and loved by everyone around her when she first met her stalker, who went on to harass her for a good three years before stabbing her on her own doorstep in front of her parents, on the night of 15 March 1991. She was 23 years old. In Santa Subito [+see also:
interview: Alessandro Piva
film profile
, Alessandro Piva (La Capa Gira, Pasta Nera) reconstructs the story of the sadly predictable fate of this rather special young woman, for whom the Church has now set in motion the beatification process. We spoke about all this with the director on the occasion of the 14th Rome Film Fest, where the film walked away with the Audience Award.

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Cineuropa: When did you realise that Santa Scorese’s story had to be told?
Alessandro Piva:
At the end of the 1980s, I left Bari and I didn’t know anything about this story. About a year ago, at a socially-oriented event, I heard Rosa Maria Scorese, Santa’s sister, talk publically about what had happened to her sister, who had been the focus of the morbid attentions of a person who was clearly psychologically disturbed, before the situation finally reached its tragic conclusion. What struck me was that, at the end of this tale of stalking and violence, Rosa Maria spoke about there being two victims. That is, she told us how, as well as her sister, the murderer himself was also a victim, because he was a person living with a highly debilitating mental illness who had shown clear signs of needing help. The fact that, with the distance of time, a person could be capable of looking at things in this way really brought it home to me that this wasn’t just any story.

What was it about Santa’s story that struck you the most?
As I got to know her family and friends, I realised that Santa’s memory was strong within them, as if they carried it with them always in their day-to-day lives. This really struck me. When you’re working through a loss, you either raise that person up, glorifying them as you talk about them, or you hold it all inside and no longer talk about them. You don’t often find this type of relationship with loss. They can talk about Santa in the present tense. When they remember times when they went to the seaside or went to get ice cream together, they re-live that time: they smile, or they get angry thinking back to the fights they had. Despite the fact that she was just a regular girl, Santa had a special strength as a result of her personality, and perhaps because of her spiritual vocation.

How did you work with the material available to you, with the diaries and photos?
Compared to today, we didn’t take that many photos in the 1990s. I had to go digging through the family archives of an everyday, normal person: the photo of her first communion, photos of holidays and of a trip to Gubbio… I tried to get the most I could out of this scarse material, combining it with the living testimonies of those around her, and something very truthful came out of it: the bottle of perfume that we see in Santa’s bedroom, for example, is the same one that all girls her age had back then. As for the diary, it was only discovered after her death. It allowed us to reconstruct a complex and multifaceted image of Santa; her spirituality was very pure. I don’t see her as a pre-destined saint, but rather as a young woman who was robbed of her destiny to help those around her and to live a full life, and this as a result of a social set-up which was unable - and which may still be unable today - to read the clear signals the murderer was giving off. Today, we have legislation in place to intervene in such cases, but at the time we didn’t even have a name for that kind of stuff. We talked in terms of maniacs, aggravated assault – it was all very generic; warnings issued in police stations didn’t go any further than that.

The film looks at femicide, but the canonisation of this young woman, who some believe was killed as a martyr, is also a strong theme.
The film isn’t the glorification of a new Maria Goretti, but there is clearly something fascinating about the religious fil rouge which links the victim to her murderer, despite their totally different outlooks on faith. It’s also the story of a family and a group of friends who are able to keep Santa alongside them, even though she’s not there anymore. In my mind, her beatification is just a sideline.

The documentary has a classic structure to it, with its many interviews. But there’s also a touch of suspense, given its gradual revelation of the facts.
I knew that I was going about things the right way when I submitted the rough cut of the film to Rome Film Fest’s selection committee and they told me that, actually it wasn’t a documentary but a thriller, because no-one knows Santa’s story. The aim of this particular constuction, which is alternated with images of our Southern cities, is to convey a sense of anxiety, because it’s something that could happen to anyone. I wanted to slowly move the viewer ever closer to this story’s tragic end.

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(Translated from Italian)

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