Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Open Roads ’17: Deliver Us

By now, the world has witnessed the horrors of the Holocaust, the Ukrainian Holodomor, the Armenian Genocide, the Cultural Revolution, the Rwandan Genocide, 9/11, and the Castro Brothers’ oppression of Cuba. The notion that evil exists in our world hardly seems debatable anymore. If only we could exorcise it like a satanic force. Against this backdrop, perhaps it is not so surprising reports of demonic possession have spiked dramatically. Federica Di Giacomo follows one of Italy’s busiest exorcists in Deliver Us (trailer here), which screens during Open Roads: New Italian Cinema 2017.

People travel from throughout the country seeking salvation from Father Cataldo Migliazzo. As Twenty-First Century materialists, we assume these are misguided souls suffering from schizophrenia, manic depression, and perhaps Tourette Syndrome. However, it must be admitted their fits of demonic convulsions are highly unsettling. On the other hand, the exorcisms he performs over the phone sound brazenly bogus.

We quickly learn Father Cataldo is the most hawkish priest of the Palermo diocese when it comes to possession. Some of his colleagues hold slightly more nuanced possessions. However, the practice of Church-sponsored exorcisms is reportedly booming throughout Western Europe and America.

Throughout Deliver, Di Giacomo maintains a silent fly-on-the-wall perspective, which is the worst possible approach for a film like this. If ever documentary subjects merited the question: “dude, WTF?” it would be Father Cataldo and his afflicted flock. Frustratingly, nobody is called to explain themselves or provide any further context. We really want to hear what they have to say about the things we see, but Di Giacomo never breaks format.

Nonetheless, there is no denying Deliver is one Hell of a spectacle, so to speak. If you wish to stop and gawk at the strangeness of the world, it offers opportunities aplenty. Even if there is widespread mental illness left untreated in favor of Father Cataldo’s methods, it seems safe to say Di Giacomo documents a profound and growing sickness in the Western soul. Recommended for fans of extreme “reality” documentaries, Deliver Us screens this Sunday evening (6/4), after church, at the Walter Reade, as part of Open Roads 2017.