Co-Presented by the Italian Contemporary Film Festival, this award-winning documentary screens 3 days in Toronto.
My daughter tells her friends that The Exorcist is the only movie that I didn’t allow her to watch when she was growing up, and while I don’t remember saying it, I know why I felt this way. Freddy Krueger and Michael Myers were fictional characters, good spooky fun, but Satan, he’s real. The Exorcist isn’t a scary movie; it’s a terrifying movie. I’m Catholic and I believe in the force of evil.
While Federica Di Giacomo’s documentary, Liberami (the winner of the Orizzonti Award at this year’s Venice Film Festival and about real life exorcisms) isn’t terrifying, it isn’t spooky fun either. It isn’t a jab at the Catholic Church and it doesn’t poke fun of people who believe they are possessed. Liberami does what the best documentaries do, it gives us a window into a world that may be unfamiliar to us and lets us decide for ourselves what to make of it.
The statistics Di Giacomo gives at the film’s end are sobering: Every French Diocese now has at least one exorcist. Madrid’s Diocese is currently looking for seven more. In Rome and Milan the number of exorcists has grown from six to twelve, and the church has created a new call center to deal with the demand. In the USA the number is ten times higher in the last few years.
So what is happening? The opinion of priests vary, but most spend time attempting to distinguish possession from madness and both of those things from simple attention seeking. The general consensus is that no matter the affliction, the people need God’s help and that the business of freeing them from their afflictions is exhausting work. Young people in particular, they say, have invited Satan in to their lives at an alarming rate, but what they mean by this is open to interpretation.
The camera profiles several people specifically, and shows them in and out of church, appealing to the church for help and then showing bits of their everyday life. Some of them demonstrate symptoms of demonic possession worthy of a Hollywood horror movie, thrashing at the alter and growling at priests with holy water. All of them wonder if they are possessed or just plain crazy.
Watch as Father Cataldo in Sicily tries to cast out Satan over the phone:
A cool side note, the ending song, Lose Your Soul, is sung by a band called Dead Man’s Bones, the lead singer, Ryan Gosling.