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It Was the Son

È stato il figlio

Operatic, original, satirical family drama set in a poor Camorra-infested neighbourhood of Palermo Sicily.

Even if a screening is sold out, tickets are often available 30 minutes before the start of the film at the box office at each venue.

Image gallery

  • Director Daniele Ciprì
  • Producer Alessandra Acciai, Giorgio Magliulo
  • Screenwriter Daniele Ciprì, Massimo Gaudioso
  • With Toni Servillo, Giselda Volodi, Alfredo Castro
  • Italy-France 2011
  • 90 mins
  • Sales Rai Trade

In one of the poorest suburbs of Palermo, Sicily – blighted by the Camorra gangs of the kind rendered in Gomorrah – a young girl is fatally wounded when caught in the crossfire of a gangster shooting. Promised extensive government compensation, the girl’s family, headed by its scrap merchant-scavenger father (amazingly embodied by the ubiquitous Toni Servillo), the family starts advance spending of its supposed riches and even more catastrophe ensues. An operatic, grotesque, grand guignol drama, dripping with venomous black humour and featuring a shocking denouement, It Was the Son is an astonishingly original, first solo directorial feature from cinematographer Ciprì (who also photographed Bellocchio’s Dormant Beauty) since he parted company with his long term creative partner, Maresco.
Adrian Wootton

Director statement

I had just finished the Marco Bellocchio film Vincere as director of photography when I received a proposal to direct the novel by Roberto Alajmo, E’ stato il figlio. I hadn’t read the book even though I was familiar with Roberto’s work. I was taken by the plot immediately, it was full of tragic irony but the setting was so realistic that I couldn’t envision how I could narrate it in images. I was about to answer that I couldn’t do it when the producers told me they had thought of me because they were afraid of someone making a conventional film, one of the various Sicilian stories seen many times on the screen. So I decided to think about it a little more. One day, while I was at the Post Office to pay an overdue tax, I noticed a man sitting and inanimately staring at the illuminated number display waiting for his turn. I imagined that he had been there a long time and that the illuminated and acoustic display marked the time, moments in which this person (who had already become a character) could narrate a lot of stories and one in particular, the one narrated in the novel. Maybe it was his expressionless face, his melancholy or the way he kept his hands crossed on the plastic bag on his knees, but at that moment I began to see a succession of images, faces and settings that stimulated my imagination. Suddenly everything was clear, even though at the time, only in my mind. So I had to find the right collaborators who could share this vision and realise what I had imagined. The screenwriter Massimo Gaudioso, together with Miriam Rizzo, who is also my companion, were with me for all of the phases and shared all my moods and together we reinvented the plot of the book, which already had a Sicilian expressiveness: we transformed it into a tragic-comedy closer to my own way of interpreting my birthplace. [...] Long live madness and cinema!
Daniele Ciprì

Director biography

Born and raised in Palermo into a family who ran a photography studio, he specialised from an early age in Super-8 films immortalising wedding ceremonies. In the mid 1980s, he started working for the Palermo cooperative CLCT, for which he made numerous documentaries, short subjects, and montages using stock materials, then later that decade, at Palermo broadcaster TVM, he met Franco Maresco; marking the beginning of a long artistic association. Together, in 1990, they made a series of TV shorts, broadcast on Rai3, and went on to shoot three feature-length films, which they wrote, directed, and photographed together, relying also on the collaboration of Luca Bigazzi, who edited and composed the soundtracks. More recently Ciprì has contributed to several films as director of photography, working with such directors as Roberta Torre, Ascanio Celestini and Marco Bellocchio. He took a number of prizes for the film Vincere, including the David di Donatello, Nastro D’Argento, Golden Globes, and Gianni Di Venanzo awards. It Was the Son is his first solo fiction feature.


1995 Lo zio di Brooklyn (The Uncle from Brooklyn) [co-d]
1996 Risate di boia - Corti, visioni e cinismo; Il manocchio [s]
1998 Totò che visse due volte (Toto, Who Lived Twice) [co-d]
1999 Noi e il Duca - Quando Duke Ellington suonò a Palermo [doc]; Enzo, domani a Palermo! [doc]
2000 Arruso [TV doc s]; Ai rotoli [doc s; co-d]
2003 Il ritorno di Cagliostro (The Return of Cagliostro) [co-d]
2004 Come inguaiammo il cinema italiano - La vera storia di Franco e Ciccio [doc; co-d]
2007 Ai confini della pietà [TV doc s; co-d]
2008 Era una volta [co-d]
2010 Il testamento di Mario Monicelli [TV doc s; co-d]
2012 È stato il figlio (It Was the Son)

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