Dispatches from the Venice Film Festival: On My Skin (Sulla Mia Pelle)

Film Director Alessio Cremonini brings to the screen a sad page in Italy’s recent history. On October 22nd of 2009, Stefano Cucchi died in a prison hospital wing, after being arrested for dealing drugs and having been inflicted terrible acts of violence, that are suspected to have been perpetrated by the law authorities. He was the 148th to die under those circumstances, and as of December 31st of that same year, the figure reached a share of 176. The case had a very strong public and media echo, with Cucchi’s sister, Ilaria, campaigning in an attempt to reveal the truth surrounding Stefano’s sudden, and unjustified death.

Sulla Mia Pelle (On My Skin) retraces the last seven days of the 30-year-old boy, who died in mysterious circumstances, showing the court case, and the harrowing conditions in which Cucchi’s body was in the hour of death. Outrageous malnutrition, bruises and injuries opened numerous doubts about his detention, as regards the abuse of power of the agents who had him in custody.

Alessandro Borghi, playing Stefano Cucchi, explained the complexity of interpreting a contemporary character who had lived through so much pain, as well as his parents Rita (Milvia Marigliano) and Giovanni (Max Tortora) Cucchi and sister Ilaria (Jasmine Trinca), who were denied permission to see him during his entire time in hospital – until he died.I felt a strong responsibility to touch a story that is still a wound for our country and to find the right angle and balance to get into character,” said Borghi.

He lost 18 kilos, to portray the torturing pain that Cucchi went through (losing 7 kilos during only a week of custody). Besides the physical transformation, Alessandro Borghi’s impressive performance is attested by the way his voice resembled the one of the real Cucchi that was taped for the police records, that audiences will hear during the final credits.

During that excruciating Calvary, Stefano Cucchi came in contact with 140 people including carabinieri, judges, prison police officers, doctors, nurses, but none of these truly grasped the drama he was experiencing. Or least not to the extent of doing something to save him. A post mortem examination showed the victim had two broken vertebrae, ruptured internal organs, and was severely dehydrated. In January 2013, the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg fined Italy €100,000 for its inhuman living conditions for prisoners.

However, On My Skin — that will also be available on Netflix — is not just an Italian story, it is a universal tale about the shady side of the prison system. It is a cinematic call to action, to oppose the greatest of injustices: silence.