ItalianDocsOnline 2014: i fantasmi di San Berillo – The Ghosts of San Berillo (Edoardo Morabito – 2013)

i fantasmi di san berillo

Italian Cinema London has  launched today a week-long online festival dedicated to Italian documentaries, aptly called ItalianDocsOnline.  It’s a quite innovative program that exposes audiences around the world with some of the latest Italian documentaries. And what’s more it’s free with audience voting to add a bit of a sizzle to the event.

i fantasmi di san berilloHolly, one of the ghosts of San Berillo – an authentic study of timeworn face and stone;
form and function

I started my binge watching with Edoardo Morabito’s i fantasmi di San Berillo – The Ghosts of San Berillo, Winner of the ‘Italiana doc’ section at Turin Film Festival last November. The film tells the story of San Berillo the most impoverished neighborhood in Catania, Sicily that underwent two waves of prostitution clean-ups (1958, and 2000). That said, a few morsels of the old neighborhood still remain standing today.

Morabito through a tapestry of historical footage, emotionally charging interviews with current residents, old tenants, the old buildings and alleys – tells a genuine story of how time changes architecture, people, memories – and vice versa. The film is beautifully narrated by actress Donatella Finocchiaro, a native of Catania, that in some interview I caught confesses the story of San Berillo is mostly unknown to people of her generation today and the “surviving ghosts” of this ghetto, although operating underground – are still alive and have quite a story to tell.

The decrypt state of the buildings in some scenes is equated to the ravished, wrinkled faces of its old inhabitants who went through some horrible stories working at probably one of the biggest red light districts in the Mediterranean. I especially liked the old tenant that revisits his old stomping grounds with persistent tenacity to hang-on to evidence of the old neighborhood ways, smells and people. So much that at some point he’s trying to eject a few stones from a crumpling building as if it was a memento from the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Watching the film it felt as if form and function, reality and fantasy are in an eternal interplay of symbiotic influences.

By Shlomi Ron

Visual marketing guy with a penchant for fine Italian cinema.


  1. The right name of the woman in the picture is Holly. Irma Vecchio (me) is co-author and director of photography. Thank you.

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