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FILMS / REVIEWS Italy

Review: Il segreto di Liberato

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- Francesco Lettieri and Giorgio Testi create a biopic with Japanese-style animation inserts to tell the story of the Neapolitan artist Liberato, whose identity remains unknown

Review: Il segreto di Liberato

Liberato talks about “the poignant suffering necessary to feel empathy”, writes Roberto Saviano in a long article dedicated to the Neapolitan artist, whose identity is unknown and who blends the neo-melodic Neapolitan tradition with electronic music, hip-hop and R&B. The hybrid documentary-biopic-animated film Il segreto di Liberato [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
, directed by Francesco Lettieri and Giorgio Testi, released in Italian cinemas from 9 May for one week only by Be Water Film, investigates this empathy. Lettieri is better known for his cult music videos and it was him who, in 2017, signed Nove maggio, Liberato’s first single which made him known to the public and critics and, in the same year, Tu t’e scurdat’ ‘e me, which made him explode at the international level with its exclusive vision of Naples that breaks down stereotypes and offers unusual visual and musical standards. Testi, on the other hand, has built an international career with his collaborations with Bon Jovi, Oasis, Sting, the Rolling Stones, Amy Winehouse and Damon Albarn. Lorenzo Ceccotti is a cartoonist, illustrator and designer who has given shape to the characters and backdrops of the film’s animation, while Giuseppe Squillaci signs the direction of the animation with LRNZ.

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It all started on 9 May 2017 (the film arrives in theatres exactly seven years later), but the animation shows us the initial spark with Liberato as a child accompanying his musical maestro grandfather to conduct a small orchestra playing Era de Maggio. The child wears a Pulcinella mask and the Japanese-style animation will later present him as an adult with a great tuft of hair that covers his eyes, exactly like a manga hero: in high school, when he first meets the girl who will forever remain in his heart, or years later during his experience in London and in the disastrous meeting with the record producer that could change his life. We see his redemption in the concerts, where all kinds of people converge to listen to his music imbued with romanticism and to sing with him, even if they don't know the Neapolitan language. La Rotonda Diaz on the seafront of Naples, Turin, Rome, Barcelona, the concert on the coast of Procida, Milan in 2022 and the 2023 tour with the double dates in Berlin, Paris and London, culminating in the three sold out days that filled Piazza Plebiscito in Naples with eighty thousand people.

In order to reconstruct the rapid development of a mythology, the authors tell their stories in the first person and collect the most diverse testimonies, against the backdrop of a choreographed Naples that wants to overcome prejudice while maintaining tradition. Like that of Adam Jendoubi, the actor of Algerian and Polish origins but who grew up in the Forcella neighbourhood of Naples, and who died aged 23 last January, the protagonist of Intostreet and Tu t’e scurdat’ ‘e me by Liberato and with a role in Piranhas [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Roberto Saviano
film profile
]
(Silver Bear in Berlin).

The bubble in which Liberato moves is well delineated and fans will certainly find material to feed on. Nevertheless, the film ignores the artist’s creative process, which can only be imagined by laboriously putting all the elements together. The voice-over narration by Liberato guides us in an intimate story – dreamlike, according to Saviano – that can also escape us, but that is of little importance. As for the mystery of his identity, in this era of super-reproduction of the self on Instagram, Liberato’s fans ignore the issue. The musician mentions the mysteries of Naples, that of the beautiful 'Mbriana, of the blood of San Gennaro, that of Pulcinella, the secret of the mermaid Partenope (involuntary reference to Paolo Sorrentino’s film in competition in Cannes), and concludes simply that each one of us has his own.

Il segreto di Liberato was produced by Red Private in collaboration with Red Carpet and Anemone Film.

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(Translated from Italian)

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