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article imageItalian youths rally to free screenings of police violence film

By Kelly VELASQUEZ (AFP)     Sep 19, 2018 in World

Thousands of Italians are flocking to illegal free public screenings of a new film about a young man's 2009 death in custody, a potent symbol of police violence and a merciless penal system.

In city piazzas and lecture theatres around the country, community groups and student organisations are showing pirated versions of the Netflix film "Sulla mia pelle", or "On My Skin".

The film tells the tragic story of Stefano Cucchi, 31, who was arrested in Rome in October 2009 in possession of 20 grammes (two-thirds of an ounce) of hashish and two grammes of cocaine.

Director Alessio Cremonini's film has bounced from the red carpet of the Venice Film Festival, where it premiered last month, into the collective conscience of Italian youths living under a populist, right-wing government.

Some of the 2,000 people who attended a screening at Rome's prestigious La Sapienza university on Friday were reduced to tears.

"What happened to Stefano Cucchi could have happened to any one of us," said Teo, a 27-year-old cameraman.

The film has bounced from the red carpet of the Venice Film Festival  where it premiered last month ...
The film has bounced from the red carpet of the Venice Film Festival, where it premiered last month, into the collective conscience of Italian youths
Filippo MONTEFORTE, AFP/File

Student Luca Matteuzzi said the film was "both hard and beautiful. Violent without showing any blood.

"It doesn't show the police as animals but it points the finger at a timorous bureaucracy that is incapable of facing its responsibilities."

In the film Cucchi, who suffered from epilepsy, spends a week going through the system, at police stations and then Rome's central Regina Coeli prison.

Despite being covered in bruises and barely able to walk, a judge remands him into custody and he eventually ends up in the prison infirmary, where he dies a week after being arrested.

- Battle for justice -

The already slight Cucchi weighed just 37 kilos when he died, and his family took shocking photos of his emaciated and battered body in the morgue.

His sister Ilaria has fought for justice for years, trying to establish who was responsible for her brother's death nearly a decade ago.

However despite years of legal battles no one has yet been successfully prosecuted.

Five police officers are currently on trial over the affair, three of them charged with manslaughter.

"It's moving to see how things are being organised spontaneously to see my brother's story," Ilaria Cucchi told AFP.

Ilaria Cucchi has dedicated the film to Italy's far-right Interior Minister Matteo Salvini
Ilaria Cucchi has dedicated the film to Italy's far-right Interior Minister Matteo Salvini
HERBERT NEUBAUER, APA/AFP/File

"He wasn't anybody, and now they'll know him in Spain, in France, around the world," said Cucchi, who after the premiere dedicated the film to far-right Interior Minister Matteo Salvini.

"This film should make everyone reflect, especially him (Salvini). Stefano represents a human being whose rights were denied and violated," said Ilaria, who accused the police of torturing her brother.

Listings of upcoming public screenings can be found easily online.

"This is how we can make people aware of the abuse of power by those in uniform and, more generally, on conditions in Italian prisons," screening organiser Giovanni told Italian daily La Repubblica.

The film came out in Italian cinemas on September 12 and Andrea Occhipinti of distributor Lucky Red has slammed the "piracy" going on around the country.

The film's star, Alessandro Borghi, who lost 18 kilos to play the role of Cucchi, said: "What's happening goes beyond cinema. We are all fighting for the same cause, it's a communion of ideas."

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