Our «Demigods», the Bronzes: a journey through the history of an exceptional discovery

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By John

«In a land forgotten by God, one day the Gods arrived». Start like this the documentary film «Semidei» which retraces half a century of history by telling the story of the two mysterious warriors who re-emerged from the sea of ​​Riace in 1972, after two thousand years spent underwater. Sixty hours of production and a stay of 22 out of 24 days in Calabria, with a small Roman interlude. All this to represent that myth which, right from the start, surrounded the two figures “who appeared very dark in a clear sea” and to collect testimonies full of passion such as that of Nuccio Schepis, the restorer from Reggio who lived in close contact with the two statues in the laboratory set up in the Monteleone room of Palazzo Campanella. And today she says: “They were one of the greatest gifts that life gave me.”

«Semidei» crosses the territories of Reggio, Riace, Monasterace, Gioia Tauro and Roccella and also crosses cultural and social challenges, such as the guerrillas for the capital and the Cutro tragedy, collects interviews, unpublished documents, direct testimonies. But, at the same time – perhaps because “the emergency recovery of the statues did not allow a complete underwater exploration of the sea” – it leaves several questions for posterity: “Are there only two statues?”; «what happened to spears and shields?»; “Was Mariottini the first to find them, as the court ruled in 1978, putting an end to a judicial dispute?”.

The cinematographic project produced by Palomar Mediawan and created with the support of the Calabria Region and the Calabria Film Commission Foundation fits into this thin thread between the past and a future perhaps yet to be written, on the occasion of the celebrations dedicated to the 50th anniversary of the discovery of the Riace Bronzes. Written by Armando Maria Trotta, Giuseppe Smorto, Massimo Razzi and Fabio Mollo, and directed by Fabio Mollo (from Reggio, born in 1980) and Alessandra Cataleta, «Semidei» it was presented as a world premiere at the Giornate degli Autori at the Venice Film Festivalin the «Venetian Nights» section to land, in December, at the Francesco Cilea theatre and give life to a path of reflection and discussion between the students of the province of Reggio and the protagonists.

«I am deeply grateful to Fabio Mollo and Alessandra Cataleta for having been able, with their art, to make the Riace Bronzes speak, making us understand the still current meaning of a work from two thousand five hundred years ago. The Bronzes are stupendous and technically unattainable – admits the professor and archaeologist from Reggio Daniele Castrizio, who also formulated a hypothesis on who the two warriors represent -, but we cannot stop at their aesthetic use, especially when they represent the calling card of Calabria and Magna Graecia in front of the whole world. The two masterpieces from Riace, understood as part of the group of the Fratricides of Pythagoras of Reggio, are a hymn to peace, to the futility of conflicts between brothers, of civil struggles, of wars between the poor”. Castrizio relaunches: «Even if Eteocles and Polynices are two negative characters, because they gave in to pride and the desire for power, they were beautifully created, a triumph of harmony and symmetry, for an important reason: they could have constituted the defensive wall impassable of their homeland, the heroes who could not be defeated, the pride of the Thebans, but annihilated themselves by fighting against each other; their enormous potential has turned against the city and its people. Tiresias’ prophecy always comes true, as Augustus and Constantine understood, and as happens even today, from Ukraine to the tormented Near East: if two brothers fight each other, there can be no winner, but everyone loses.”

«The Bronzes were an obsession of mine in Reggio – he begins Giuseppe Smorto, journalist and writer, former deputy director of Repubblica –; two years ago I wrote a story together with Massimo Razzi in which, in truth, the story was that of a return from Australia; instead, then, the film became above all the story of some of the remaining ones, told in the style of Vito Teti. And the first remaining ones are the Bronzes. I worked on two characters – Smorto further underlines –. First of all Stefano Mariottini, the man who discovered them. It wasn’t easy to convince him, he was burned by the controversies, it took us six months. Then he opened up: I like to remember that for 40 years he continued to collaborate with the Superintendence. The other character is Daniele Castrizio, this strange figure of an Orthodox priest, this eternally enthusiastic and dissatisfied professor, suffering from bronzite. The directors were wonderful: Fabio Mollo and Alessandra Cataleta shot for sixty hours, and I don’t rule out that something else could arise from these images. In every scene there is a reference, the images are wonderful. “Semidei” is very well finished and – Smorto assures – will take the Bronzes and Reggio around the world».