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by Becky Tan

Giorgio Diritti, Italy

Antonio Ligabue was born 1899 in Switzerland, the illegitimate child of an Italian maid. He is passed from one adoptive family to the next. Early in life he shows signs of psychiatric problems. At age 20 he is shoved over the border to Italy “where he came from,” speaking only Swiss-German. He settles in a shack near a river, alone without any income. He is especially interested in animals and birds. He begins to paint and make sculptures of them, almost turning into a lion himself as he makes a sculpture of a lion, for example. An influential artist, Marino Mazzacurati, discovers him and lends him his atelier. They never become real friends, simply because Ligabue is not socially adjusted to the real world. His first exhibit was 1961 in Rome. He died in 1965 and is now considered one of Italy’s important artists.

This true story about a real person is excellently brought to the screen with actor Elio Germano who plays Ligabue in all of his phases of insanity, creativity, and long stays in sanitoriums. Germano is in every scene, holding our attention every moment. Luckily, the Berlinale jury recognized this talent and awarded him the Silver Bear for best actor. Germano was a shooting star at the 2008 Berlinale; he won best actor in Cannes for LA NOSTRA VITAin 2010. He also played in a second film at this 70th Berlinale: FAVOLACCE (BAD TALES).