Hot Docs LIBERA_NOS

Hot Docs 2017: Libera Nos Review

World Showcase

Libera Nos, translated, is “deliver us,” and this documentary depicts various individuals putting themselves at the mercy of Sicilian Franciscan Father Cataldo Migliazzo, hoping that he can help them. Migliazzo doesn’t just do regular confessions–he does exorcisms. He can do exorcisms over the phone, or at Mass, in front of a crowd. He can do exorcisms in his office, or he can go to your house to get rid of the black dolls and your adulterous’ mother’s clothes, which must be emanating evil energy. The film arouses interest in that you can witness various individuals enter trance-like states and also act irrationally, but this documentary does not provide enough context or insight to reward the viewing experience.

Migliazzo perfunctorily asks his “clients” if they have received mental health services. Some have, but found them inadequate, and as a result, are now at his doorstep begging for an appointment. He will see people repeatedly, curing them for days, weeks, or months at a time, and then expecting their return. A woman appears to be healed, but is scared to attend Mass. It’s said that when a possessed person enters holy ground, they will act out in various ways. It’s said, too (but not in the film) that those with mental health difficulties are highly susceptible to stress and anxiety, especially in an atmosphere that cultivates those very conditions.

I believe this film would have benefitted greatly from having alternate viewpoints describe the actions of the “possessed” individuals who appear to demonstrate all the expected behaviours one expects in a horror film: rolling on the floor, writhing, swearing, throwing objects, fainting and so on. Are they acting out because others expect them to, or do they enjoy having the attention? A young girl is sent to the exorcist simply because she changes her mind about liking school, and the Father says that she is too smart to go to the psychologist. A young drug addict reflects that the Father only sees those who “act crazy” and will not deign to see him since he is calm in the waiting room.

The film reaches its peak at an exorcism conference, but no information is really given other than the notes at the end of the film, which indicate that exorcisms are on the rise across the world. This film appears to demonstrate another example how the frail and superstitious are at the mercy of their belief systems, and how effective assistance is often nowhere to be found.

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