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The spectre of violence in exceptional Sicilian Ghost Story

Original and haunting, film based on true events tells of the disappearance of a boy whose father was a state witness in a Mafia investigation

02 August, 2018 — By Dan Carrier

Julia Jedlikowska and Gaetano Fernandez in Sicilian Ghost Story

Directed by Fabio Grassadonia and Antonio Piazza
Certificate: 15

THIS engrossing tale has woe woven through it. It is beautifully shot and deeply upsetting.

Based a short story telling the true events of the disappearance of a boy whose father was a state witness in a Mafia investigation, directors Fabio Grassadonia and Antonio Piazza have told the tragedy through the eyes of 12-year-old Luna (Julia Jedlikowska), who is in love with Giuseppe (Gaetano Fernandez), a handsome boy who rides horses and joins her for walks through forests.

A motif of the tale is a love letter Luna pens, spelling out her attachment (and what a lovely moment it is when we are allowed to share its contents) and we hope that this will be a happy story of teenage love.

But the rules of life in Sicily are different, and the sins of the fathers cannot be unwoven from the innocent world the children inhabit.

Luna is warned against having anything to do with Giuseppe by her family – her mother has terror written across her face when she hears of Luna’s crush: we learn she is an incomer from Switzerland and is particularly effective as a character in spelling out the unsaid horror of living in a society where there is essentially no civil law.

She knows all too well that Giuseppe’s father has done the right thing – co-operated with the authorities – but in their close-knit world, this means he is in grave danger.
Luna does not – and will not – understand or accept that.

When Giuseppe goes missing, Luna intends to find out what has happened to him – and here the film slips into a deeper realm of half-dreamt encounters, the fantasy of a young person in love not being able to accept what has happened, and her quest to find answers.

It makes a straightforward story of the criminality of the Mafioso become a fable taking us into the darkest recesses of a young person’s mind as they struggle with grief and the realisation that the world created by the adults who you have been led to believe know better have manufactured a world that makes no sense at all.

This film adds to the continued interest in the stories created by this unique Mediterranean land. It owes more to the likes of writer Norman Lewis, who came across Sicily’s collective insanity during the Second World War and then returned to investigate the Mafia and chronicle the effects it has had on generations, than the men of honour as portrayed in American films and literature. It shows quite how seedy this violence is.

Grassadonia and Piazza have made an exceptional film – original, haunting, brilliantly cast. It is dedicated to the memory of a boy who spent over 700 days in captivity with death hanging over him – a fact that will remain with you long after the credits roll.


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