Harrowing yet also immensely life-affirming, Gil Rossellini's video diary "Kill Gil (Volume 1)" traces the long journey back from near-death to paraplegic health with tremendous humor and a complete lack of vanity. Son of Roberto Rossellini, helmer contracted a freak bacteria in late 2004 that nearly destroyed his body and only came under control after seven months of hospitalization and rehab. A testament to one man's Olympian will-power, docu is a natural for PBS and cable.

Harrowing yet also immensely life-affirming, Gil Rossellini’s video diary “Kill Gil (Volume 1)” traces the long journey back from near-death to paraplegic health with tremendous humor and a complete lack of vanity. Son of Roberto Rossellini, helmer contracted a freak bacteria in late 2004 that nearly destroyed his body and only came under control after seven months of hospitalization and rehab. A testament to one man’s Olympian will-power, docu is a natural for PBS and cable.

Following the modest success of his first major production credit, “The Princess of Mount Ledang,” Rossellini was feeling like he had finally made it to the big-time. On a flight to Stockholm for a festival screening, he felt a little pain in one leg; once at the hotel, he fell into a coma that lasted three weeks.

When he came to, much of his body was paralyzed and his limbs were ravaged by a chance staphylococcus bacteria he probably contracted through a nick on his neck. Twenty operations later, doctors stabilized the aggressive infection, which left gaping wounds in his legs and arms requiring extensive skin grafts.

From the moment he surfaced from the groggy aftermath of the coma, Rossellini picked up a videocamera and began recording his mental and physical progress. With monumental effort he weaned himself from most of the painkillers, and insisted on ever-more intensive periods of physical therapy. Two months later, he was transferred to a rehabilitation center in Notwill, Switzerland, where he spent five months regaining strength and determination, although doctors are doubtful whether he’ll ever have use of his legs again.

Throughout the ordeal, Rossellini maintains a remarkable self-deprecating humor. Friends and family, including sisters Ingrid and Isabella (who also went behind the camera, and is, in general, her brother’s muse) were instrumental in keeping his mind focused and helping him rise out of the inevitable depression that took hold in the early days of his illness.

With the sole exception of an amateurish and unnecessary hallucinatory sequence meant to convey his post-coma haze, Rossellini uses the videocamera to tackle, in a straightforward way, his body as an almost abstract concept and his changing attitudes to the war zone left by the bacteria. Music serves as a chief source of irony, such as the “Pink Panther” theme used as background to images of his shockingly pink skinned thighs following the graft procedures.

Kill Gil (Volume I)

Italy - Switzerland

Production

A Gil Rossellini & Associates (Italy)/Swiss Paraplegic Center (Switzerland) production. (International sales: Gil Rossellini & Associates, Rome.) Produced by Rossellini. Executive producer, Marco Donati. Co-producers, Tony Wyss, Nicola Lodi-Fe. Directed, written by Gil Rossellini.

Crew

Camera (color, B&W, DigiBeta), Isabella Rossellini, Marco Donati, Gil Rossellini; editors, Ingeborg Wyss, Ecyr Inacio Prado; music, Pericle Sponzilli; sound, Prado; sound editor, Paolo Bernagozzi; digital effects, Filippo Mileto. Reviewed at Venice Film Festival (Horizons -- Special Events), Sept. 9, 2005. Running time: 99 MIN. (English, Italian dialogue)
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