At Long Last, Here’s a Doc About What It’s Actually Like To Be an Exorcist

ALAN SCHERSTUHL | OCTOBER 11, 2017 | Excerpted from The Houston Press
The biggest shock in Federica Di Giacomo’s Deliver Us, a doc tracking the everyday toil of exorcists in Sicily, comes when the priests, at last enjoying a respite from the writhing/spitting/yowling parishioners who occupy their days, admit to each other what you’ve probably thinking for the previous hour. “It’s a kind of self-spell,” one priest says. Another notes that some of the purportedly possessed must simply enjoy the attention. They’re not dismissive as they say this, and they always seem to regard their job with great seriousness, even when literally phoning it in. We see one priest exhort, “Go away, Satan!” into his cell, as whoever’s on the other end sputters and cries. Tough-cookie priest Father Cataldo doesn’t waste time when parents approach him to say they believe that their child has been taken by demons. “The devil enters the home and disturbs the weakest, the children, when the grown-ups are not in the grace of God,” he says — that’s his first answer. When pressed, he adds, “A disorder starts from you, because a woman has to be a woman of faith.” (Cataldo is so dead serious that his response to being introduced to a parishioner’s eagle is to marvel for a breath at the bird’s majesty and then proclaim that all it’s missing is a soul.)

Cataldo’s word, disorder, suggests the rich questions that go mostly unasked: Do the priests believe the possessed are performing? That they’re mad? Or that the personified forces of wickedness have truly claimed their bodies? Do they seem themselves as expelling damnable spirits or participating in a sort of punishing therapeutic improv? The filmmakers observe rather than interview or investigate, and much of the film is footage of actual church-sanctioned exorcisms.

Continue reading at the Houston Press

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