Sep 16, 2018
Welcome to another week worth of movie reviews. No new sponsors this week, which means I can keep going with all the Netflix Original films being dropped this month. Today’s film comes from the Italian film scene, and concerns a person dying in police detention. For other films from the Italian film scene, check out “Forgive Us Our Debts” (Episode #129), “Fire at Sea” (Episode #151), and “A Ciambra” (Episode #241). And if you have any suggestions, let me know at onemoviepunch.com.
Today’s movie is “On My Skin” (2018), the Netflix Original biopic directed by Alessio Cremonini and written for the screen in collaboration with Lisa Nur Sultan. The film follows the last seven days of Stefano Cucchi (Alessandro Borghi), who was arrested on a minor charge and ended up dying in detention.
Well, I guess not really any spoilers if you know anything about the case of Stefano Cucchi. And if you don’t know about this specific case, you should know about the near impunity shown by the Italian police with regards to their tactics and methods. The Italian police recently had to pay out compensation for brutal behavior against G8 protestors in 2001. In 2016, they were accused of using torture and abuse against migrants in detention. And those are just the headlines, not the routine physical abuse against prisoners in Italy, during each step of their judicial process, resulting in startling statistics of incarcerated deaths.
Today’s movie gives us a look at what would qualify as routine abuse using the case of Stefano Cucchi, which should sound quite familiar to anyone living in the United States. The Italian police decide to harass Stefano and a friend in a car, where after an unwarranted search, discovers hash and cocaine. Two off-duty police officers come by, and they take Stefano into custody, proceeding to give him a merciless beating away from the cameras, and then booking him overnight. Every time he calls for help, the police stand menacingly in the background when they ask what happened, from his arraignment to his first prison to the hospital to the prison hospital. And then he dies, despite every opportunity to save him. It should shock anyone who cares about the role of police in society, but I know folks that still blame the criminal, and in Stefano’s case I use that term very loosely.
Alessio Cremonini creates this one-way journey of suffering by re-creating the circumstances of Stefano’s last seven days, with a strong performance by Alessandro Borghi. It helps us understand what we mean by police brutality, not just in the moment, but the lingering effects. Accompanying Stefano during these final days shows it’s not just the brutality, but the tone-deaf nature of the Italian judiciary, the utter loneliness of medical imprisonment, and the general legalism and “not my problem” bureaucratic mindset that occurs from virtually every employee. It is a systemic problem, not just a problem with a few bad apples. The film can be difficult to watch, and it lingers a bit too much on the suffering, but those are shallow criticisms for an otherwise powerful and insightful film. We might want to look away, but that’s part of the problem as well.
“On My Skin” (2018) is a powerful, if depressing look at both the effects of brutality by the Italian police and the astonishing failures of the judicial bureaucracy. Alessandro Borghi gives a wonderful, if heartbreaking performance of Stefano Cucchi. Viewers who don’t mind a little suffering, and want a different perspective on police brutality, should definitely check out this film.
Rotten Tomatoes: NR
One Movie Punch: 8.4/10
“On My Skin” (2018) is rated TV-MA and is currently streaming on Netflix.