2017 Hot Docs ‘Libera Nos’

Libera Nos/Deliver us (2016), written and directed by Frederica Di Giacomo, is a fascinating film on the subject of exorcism, the Catholic rite of expelling evil spirits, and it will have you completely engrossed from the opening shot following a scriptural quotation from the Book of Job. The concept of possession by demons is an accepted Catholic Christian belief but is shared by many other religious faiths. The film depicts the exorcisms of Father Cataldo, the main exorcist priest in the film, in his parish church in the City of Palermo, Sicily. The film is sub-titled.

The film raises many issues and it will leave you pondering exorcism’s efficacy and relevancy. Di Giacomo doesn’t weigh in and has structured the film to let you be the judge. Skeptics of exorcism and non-Christian believers would no doubt consider the practice barbaric and an expression of lunacy. And Di Giacomo’s extensive footage of the erratic and disturbing behaviour of the true believers undergoing exorcism drives the point. While these images are most disconcerting, they are the most powerful visuals in the film and run as a motif throughout the film. When you see the true believers undergoing repeated exorcisms and some showing no signs of improvement, you cannot but wonder what is going on and whether their problems are psychological, socio-economic, emotional, biological or physical in nature or a combination thereof.

But, for these Catholic Christians who believe and see their problems as stemming from demonic possession, they seek help either from Father Cataldo or one of the other exorcist priests depicted in the film to save themselves. And for some, as we see in the film, exorcism does work and frees them and serves as proof of its legitimacy and relevance. The film revolves around Father Cataldo and his vocation as an exorcist priest. He quickly assesses each case before proceeding and rules out candidates he considers not suffering from demonic possession. And where he assesses demonic possession, he performs an exorcism. The film depicts him working tirelessly and performing countless exorcisms and masses of liberation. He doesn’t let up in spite of his health problems and age. Di Giacomo creates a poignant portrait of a man on a mission waging war against evil. According to Father Cataldo and church doctrine, Satan is humanity’s greatest enemy and he is doing battle with Satan; he is a thorn in Satan’s side. He even performs exorcisms by cell phone.

Exorcisms show no signs of slowing and Di Giacomo ends her film with images from the Vatican School for Exorcist Priests which includes scenes of Father Cataldo in attendance having lunch in the cafeteria and on the school grounds. Liberami is a fascinating film with an intriguing subject. It is well-made, well-written and deserving of your attention. More importantly, it shines a light on a practice of the Catholic Church and the true believers in search of liberation from demonic possession which is causing havoc in their lives. I highly recommend it for you won’t be disappointed.

Libera Nos will be playing at various theatres:
TIFF Bell Lightbox 2 on May 1 @ 3:00 p.m.
TIFF Bell Lightbox 3on May 7 @ 9:30 p.m.

Tickets can be purchased here!

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