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The representation of the invisible has always been the most desired destination for an intellectual.

The invisible, in fact, harbors human dimensions that we cannot help but to express, if not abandoning the task of thinking. When the invisible consists of evil, the act that seeks to express it faces the risk of a reification of the other, as happens in some TV shows where the sorrow is exposed without any consideration for the dignity of the human being. Leibniz, the philosopher of theodicy, encouraged looking for specific ways to express adequately what, in theory, cannot be communicated. In the dialectic between the light of full expression and the dark of what cannot be seen, is placed symbolically Fresia, a documentary film by director Corrado Punzi from Lecce, Italy. Fresia is a Chilean woman whose life was tragically marked by the disappearance of her husband, Omar Venturelli, which occurred during the dictatorship of Pinochet. After almost forty years of struggle for justice, in an Italian court Fresia manages to come face to face with Alfonso Podlech, the military officer held responsible for the torture and death of her husband. The film moves from the work of the lawyer Marta Vignola and follows the different phases of the process until the final judgment, with some significant flashback footage shot directly in Chile. In face of the evil suffered by Fresia, the images and the discretion of the directorial style of Punzi do not simply indicate but, accompanied by the music of Francesco Cerasi, are full of ineffability that are meant to represent. For this reason, Fresia can be considered an impressive visual recognition of human pain that, without reifying the misfortune but with equilibrium, is able to fuse the individual dimension of pain with the universal dimension of suffering.

In the eyes of Fresia, in the tears of her daughter Pacita, in the militant commitment of Marta Vignola, we perceive the eternal struggle of humanity against the most atrocious forms assumed by evil. The scene in which the words of Omar Venturelli, written from prison to his three-year-old daughter Pacita, resonate in court are not only felt deeply, but should be included in a textbook on the history of documentary film. Shooting the film, Punzi wrote, was “the only way that this story does not end and for Fresia, even in death, to continue to speak, looking at the viewer in the eye, and [to] ask for justice, to ask him to continue to fight for her.” From the darkness of placid indifference to light can sharpen vision; for cinema of civic engagement, but also to be able to witness, Fresia is a film absolutely not to be missed.


Lecce (Italy). May 7, 2014.

Workshop. Epistemology of Interdisciplinarity. Olga Pombo (Lisbon University)

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