‘Corpo’ helmer bears witness to church in Italy

Rohrwacher pic plays in Directors' Fortnight

Italian first-time director Alice Rohrwacher takes a swipe at the Catholic Church’s indoctrination in the country’s south in her Directors’ Fortnight entry, “Corpo Celeste.”

But the scathing drama about 13-year-old Marta who moves back to Reggio Calabria after living in Switzerland — and struggles with this new world, especially catechism at the parish church — is in not a repudiation of the helmer’s upbringing.

“I was not brought up with religion,” Rohrwacher said. “Like Marta, it was a whole new world for me to discover as well.”

“Corpo Celeste” also depicts how the church in Reggio Calabria rigs local elections. “The logic is: ‘I am monsignor Mario; I am worth 700 sure votes if you can help my parish.’ That’s how it works,” she says.

Rohrwacher, whose previous work is as a documaker, thoroughly researched her subject, as though she were making a documentary.

“What I came into contact with went way beyond my wildest imagination,” she said.

As preparation for “Corpo Celeste,” Rohwacher not only read the Bible, but also drew on the lay spirituality of Nick Cave.

Besides being Rohrwacher’s first feature, the film also is the debut of Italo producer Carlo Cresto Dina’s Bologna-based Tempesta. Cresto Dina paired Rohrwacher with topnotch Gallic cinematographer Helene Louvart (“Pina”).

Pic has been picked up for France by Ad Vitam.

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