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Caesar Must Die

Cesare deve morire

Set in a real Italian prison, this compelling Berlin prize-winning docu-drama depicts inmates preparing to give a public performance of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar.

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.

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  • Director-Screenwriter Paolo Taviani, Vittorio Taviani
  • Producer Grazia Volpi
  • With Cosimo Rega, Salvatore Striano, Giovanni Arcuri
  • Italy 2012
  • 76 mins
  • UK distribution New Wave Films

A group of long term prisoners, incarcerated in a maximum security prison on the outskirts of Rome, are successively cast and rehearsed and then give a public performance of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. A vital, edgy film from renowned filmmaking duo the Taviani brothers, this is a sort of film-within-a-film, of a play; brilliantly blending documentary and drama by using a real prison and genuine inmates. The grim lives and compelling personalities of the leading characters give a surprising and distinctive slant to Shakespeare’s play and make for riveting cinema. Already highly acclaimed, Caesar Must Die won the top prize of the Golden Bear at this year’s Berlin Film Festival.
Adrian Wootton

Director statement

A dear friend recounted to us a theatre experience she had had a few nights earlier. She cried, she said, and it had not happened in years. We went to that theatre inside a prison. Rome’s Rebibbia, the High Security Section. After passing a number of gates and blockades, we reached a stage where twenty or so inmates, some of them serving life sentences, were reciting Dante’s Divine Comedy. They had chosen a few cantos of Hell and were now reliving the pain and torments of Paolo and Francesca, of Count Ugolino, of Ulysses – all in the hell of their own prison... They each spoke in their own dialects, occasionally addressing parallels between the poetic story evoked by the cantos and their own lives. We remembered the words and tears of our friend. We felt the need to discover through a film how the beauty of their performances was born from those prison cells, from those outcasts who live so far from culture. We suggested Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar to Fabio Cavalli, the stage director working with the inmates. We staged it with the collaboration of the inmates, filming in their cells, in the prison yard, the fathoms of the High Security Section and eventually on stage. We tried to contrast the darkness of their life as convicts with the poetic force of the emotions Shakespeare evokes – friendship and betrayal, murder and the torment of difficult choices, the price of power and truth. Reaching deep into a work like this means also looking at yourself, especially when one must leave the stage and return to the confinement of a cell.
Paolo and Vittorio Taviani

Director biographies

Vittorio Taviani and his brother Paolo were born in San Miniato, Tuscany in 1929 and 1931 respectively. Vittorio studied law in Pisa and his brother art. Their interest in film began in 1954 when they made their first joint short film about their village entitled San Miniato, Iuglio ‘44. Since then they have continued to work together as writers and directors. They won the Palme d’Or at Cannes for Padre Padrone in 1977, followed by the Jury Prize for The Night of the Shooting Stars in 1982. They were awarded the Golden Lion for their career in cinema at the Venice Film Festival in 1986. Their latest film, Caesar Must Die, is a subtle blend of documentary and fiction that was awarded the Golden Bear at the 2012 Berlin Film Festival.


1954 San Miniato, Iuglio ‘44 [s]
1959 L’Italia non è un paese povero [doc; co-d]
1962 Un uomo da bruciare (A Man for Burning) [co-d]
1963 I fuorilegge del matrimonio (Outlaws of Love) [co-d]
1967 I sovversivi (The Subversives)
1968 Sotto il segno della scorpione (Under the Sign of Scorpio)
1971 San Michele aveva un gallo (St Michael Had a Rooster)
1974 Allonsanfàn
1977 Padre Padrone
1979 Il prato (The Meadow)
1982 La notte di San Lorenzo (The Night of San Lorenzo / The Night of the Shooting Stars)
1984 Kaos
1987 Good Morning Babilonia (Good Morning, Babylon)
1990 Il sole anche di notte (The Sun Also Shines at Night)
1993 Fiorile
1996 Le affinità elettive (Elective Affinities)
1998 Tu ridi (Two Kidnappings)
2001 Resurrezione (Resurrection) [TV]
2002 La primavera del 2002: l’Italia protesta, l’Italia si ferma [doc; co-d]
2004 Luisa Sanfelice [TV]
2007 La masseria delle allodole (The Lark Farm)
2012 Cesare deve morire (Caesar Must Die)

Read the Time Out review.

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