The film “Journey to Lucania”, directed by Luigi Di Gianni in 1965, is a documentary that exposes the difficult economic situation of the Lucanian peasants. Nevertheless, the film doesn’t neglect to show examples of the region’s peasant magical tradition. The footage was filmed in various locations, mainly in Ruvo del Monte, but also in Monticchio, Pisticci, and other areas of Lucania.
The documentary starts with a testimony from the then-mayor of Ruvo del Monte, who highlights how the economic situation of the Lucanian peasants hasn’t evolved in the last hundred years and has even worsened after the unification of Italy. These considerations are of great importance to understand the region’s history.
Lucanian Magicians or Self-Proclaimed Ones
Later on in the documentary, a series of lively and significant characters are interviewed, including two magicians.
The blood of Christ – healing with words
During the interview, the first magician tells a story of how he cured a woman who suffered from intense abdominal pains. Since the medicine of the time had not been successful, the woman’s husband turned to this magician, having heard that he had already helped someone with the same problem.
The magician, sitting in his modest home, explains how he managed to drive away the evil spirit from the woman’s body using the words of an incantation.
Among the passages mentioned, you can hear:
“The blood of Christ beats on the stone of Christ,
The blood of Christ beats on the stone of Christ,
Seven priests who command the world,
Make the evil spirit come out of the bones of this sick person.“
The incantation was repeated over and over again obsessively, almost sending both the magician and the patient into a trance.
The magician then tells Gianni’s director that after his intervention, the woman had multiple bowel movements and completely healed from her illness.
The magician who removes the “fascination”
During the interview with the second magician, the discussion centers on his ability to remove the “fascination” or “evil eye“.
Standing in his modest home, the magician explains to the director how he approaches and cures the problem. As a first step, he asks the unfortunate person to tell him how they received the “evil eye”. Then he proceeds with a remedy based on symbolic gestures and the repetition of verbal formulas, which are also pronounced here obsessively.
Three times, the magician strokes the profile of the person’s left shoulder repeating:
“Bless” “Bless” “Bless”
Then he draws signs – probably a cross – always behind the person’s left shoulder, saying:
“Eye and counter-eye, I break the gaze with the whole eye.” This phrase must also be repeated three times.
He then repeats the gesture of the stroke and the “Bless” three more times.
Finally, he says the final phrase: “Break the evil eye for everyone.”
The entire procedure must be done in odd numbers: 3-3-1 — 3-3-1 — 3-3-1 = for a total of 21 repetitions.
If this practice is not respected, the “fascination” will not work.
Misery beyond magic
This documentary is not just about magic, but also depicts everyday life by interviewing other figures, such as a socialist barber who displays a large painting of Matteotti in his shop and passionately defends his political views, criticizing the difficult situation of the time.
Other people will speak about the illusion of agricultural progress, highlighting how, for example, the new houses built for farmers cannot be inhabited due to their high cost and the poor yield of the Lucanian land.
Among many testimonies, the author tells the story of “Micuccio,” a very poor three-year-old boy “wearing shorts with a big hole in the front and one in the back.” This image tangibly represents the poverty and difficulty of life during those years, says Di Gianni.
“Micuccio” would later become a great friend of the filmmaker and, with the financial help of a parish priest, would even be able to graduate, supporting his studies by working as a laborer.
Will the industry of the 60s save Basilicata?
The final part of the documentary is extremely important as it deals with the crisis of the peasant condition and the need to find new sources of employment. Many peasants will find work in the new industries that have emerged after the discovery of methane.
The filmmaker documents, with his images, the exit of the workers at the end of their shift. These people – the author says – do not at all seem like those you see in the big industries of the north, but still seem like peasants who, after a tiring day in the fields, are returning home.
The question was asked: will the chemical industry save Lucania?
Today, we can say that the answer is no. The chemical industry that emerged during that period not only did not bring the expected benefits, but it also caused an almost irreversible pollution of our territory and a spread of serious diseases.
The image of the workers, who were not aware of the dangers of their work, represents well the illusion and job precariousness of the time, which perhaps still plagues our fragile economy today.
To watch the documentary, simply go to the Rai Play website at this address: