16th September 2021


Italian contest – Full-length film

Brief Synopsis:

Angelina and Aida have been managing a life-size “ex votos” shop in a small village in Sicily for 50 years. People from the whole province gather for three days at the end of August to celebrate the cult of a black saint, Saint Calogero, famous worldwide for his ability to heal physical and spiritual wounds and perform wonderous miracles. The migrant Saint, who came from Turkey through the Mediterranean sea in poverty and learnt his healing power while travelling, is respected by atheists and believers in the whole of Sicily for his ability to perform hopeless healings and bring people together. People gather in San Salvatore di Fitalia to place a demand in the form of a vow. One year on, they walk all night in the darkness to bring life-size “ex votos”* to the saint in exchange of the miracle received. They join a three-days long procession, which keeps the village awake day and night, giving life to a sense of collective spiritual fever which affects everyone, from children to old people.In a world suspended between the real and the surreal, the pagan and the sacred, the timeless and the impermanent, Angelina and Aida hold secrets of vows and miracles, stories of intimate, burning desires and mysterious and unusual events that constellated their lives and those of the pilgrims. Through their undying attachment to the black saint, they reveal the power of the metaphor of a migrant man, whose resilience and courage still serve as an example and inspiration to those who migrate from one to the other side of the sea.


Directed by: Ludovica Fales
Production: Ila Palma Produzioni
Producer: Rean Mazzone
Editing: Adelina Bichis, Nicola Moruzzi, Irene Vecchio
Cinematography: Beniamini Barrese
Running time: 54’
Country: Italy
Year: 2021
Contacts: Production |

Director’s note:

Sicily is a second home to me. I have been living for months in Sicily since I was a child. Even though each year I come closer to thinking I know it and understand it, only to realise that I am similar to one of Plato’s prisoners who looks at the sun in the cave’s allegory. In the same way as they can’t clearly detect the sunlight after a long time spent in darkness, I am blinded by the discovery of unanticipated microcosms I make during my travels. Despite my ability to observe, I always need new tools to understand its imagery and sounds, the serendipitous encounters, the startling nuances and adventitious mysteries I find there. As someone who comes from a non religious perspective, the encounter with San Salvatore and the black saint was striking to me. I entered in this astonishing world suspended between the sense of community and intimacy with respect and curiosity. I soon realised the way of the body represented by the life size “ex votos” is the correlate of this tension between realism and surrealism that seems to make this world survive. The attempt to capture this antinomy was the motivation for me to keep looking, keep filming, to keep finding details, images and sounds that could embody this connection between spirituality and oddity I kept encountering as I was filming. I sensed there was a proposition in me this world was asking to look more closely, to go beyond an anthropological glance, to rather find visual connections and intimate correlations that could explain the relationship between human being and nature. The black saint’s journey and the ability of the saint to heal became metaphors for the right all human beings have to break free and learn about new worlds to learn about themselves.