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VENICE 2008 Venice Days / Italy

Crialese’s “children” grow up in moving documentary

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Camille d’Arcimoles’ medium-length documentary Che Saccio (which literally means “what do I know?” in Sicilian) palpably touched audiences today for its intimate, honest portrayal of two young boys who grew up working alongside award-winning director Emanuele Crialese.

Francesco Casisa and Filippo Pucillo were 13 and 9, respectively, when Crialese chose them for his 2000 film Respiro: Grazia’s Island [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
and five years later returned to star in Golden Door [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Alexandre Mallet-Guy
interview: Charlotte Gainsbourg
interview: Emanuele Crialese
interview: Emanuele Crialese
interview: Fabrizio Mosca
film profile
]
. Casisa came from the violent outskirts of Palermo and Pucillo, who prefers hunting with his slingshot to acting, from his beloved Sicilian island of Lampedusa.

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Unlike many directors who work with children, in the film Crialese emerges as not only a serious artist but also as a paternal figure who took full responsibility for the world into which he was catapulting the boys. The film quickly establishes the intense family atmosphere that Crialese creates with his collaborators – he even pulled Casisa out of juvenile jail in order to work with him again in 2005.

“Emanuele has an extraordinary way of working, and his relationship with Francesco and Filippo is proof of that,” said d’Arcimoles, Crialese’s partner on and off the set. With obvious love and respect for her subjects, she explained that, “when making the film, I wanted to tell the story in the most honest way possible, without hurting anyone.”

Highly personal, the film captures the young men’s overabundance of natural talent and seeming inability to be anything but themselves. Casisa admits that it is difficult to see himself and Pucillo as they really are onscreen, but called the documentary “very good.” He added: “Emanuele is wonderful with people, he really loves them. He explains everything to you, always. And he has helped me face a lot of very difficult things.”

As reticent off-screen as he is on, Pucillo said that watching himself was embarrassing. D’Arcimoles let slip to the audience that the 17-year-old initially did not want to come to the Venice premiere because hunting season in Lampedusa begins September 1 – but by a stroke of luck the date was pushed back.

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