Rosa Maria Mauceri, greetings! We are pleased to welcome you today. First, congratulations for putting such a solid and poignant life story to the screen, whose title reveals an incredible human ordeal and a tale of women silenced by a man, a country, and an era, perhaps. How long was it before the novel was made into a film? And how did you decide to make this film testimony?
First of all, I would like to thank you for having chosen me and nominated me in the “Best Female Director Short Film” & "Best Biographical Short Film" categories but, above all, for paying meticulous attention to this story, which, unfortunately, is very real.
Today I am honored to be the “Laureate” for those categories for October 2022.
The festival’s founder –Karolina Bomba–, has created a festival that is not only star-studded but makes room for voices like mine. My voice is expressed through my novel and my film. And to answer your question, the book was published in June 2020 and precisely one year later, we were shooting the scenes of the movie in Sicily in the places where the real story took place.
The premiere of our film took place in July 2021 in Milo, a village on the foothills of the Etna, made famous by great artists such as Franco Battiato and Lucio Dalla.
I needed to translate what I had written into images because, first of all, while I wrote and typed the text on my computer keyboard, the ideas were constantly present in my mind. My starting point was in the places, the people, and the events that often triggered an intense unease in me. It was not easy to revisit the violence that my mother and my sister and I as children had lived through. But this step was necessary.
That was the case, especially after discovering the existence of another sister, whose name I also bear.
I needed to use art to make it my own because it was the only way for me to tell the actual facts with the help of authentic documents, and I hoped that our sister could recognize herself through the novel and the movie through us. The aim is to spread my Appeal as much as possible, and I felt it is indeed an APPEAL, a plea.
You have done a meticulous and step-by-step reconstruction of the “facts that took place and the facts that didn’t take place” and managed to “engage with the audience”, for which you deserve to be praised. How old were you when you discovered this lie and this truth, and would you like to tell us about the personal impact of this discovery?
Thank you for your kind words and, again, for your attention to detail.
I discovered my sister’s existence about 20 years ago during a conversation I had with my mother. I thought I was called “Rosa” because that was my grandmother’s name, but I realized that that first name was meant for my sister, who was born a few years before me, and for my mother was dead.
I felt something was not quite right in my mother’s story, but above all, I felt that my biological father, this filthy “Individual”, had played a role in it. I never call that man father in my novel, but the Individual.
It is difficult to distinguish between the facts that really happened and those that did not. Especially when explaining what the points that did not occur mean because they are, above all, false.
The invented facts were combined into a pack of lies that has been a vast deception, first towards my mother and later also towards us, brothers and sisters.
For me, the way forward was to publish all the official documents, including the court declaration validating the birth. This document does not mention any death at all! The film shows the records I got during my investigation, publicized first by myself and later through the media. Through this, I got to know many adoptees, and by pretending to be one of them, I clarified some issues.
Having had several false documents in my hands, I decided to denounce them. I filed a complaint myself at the police station. I continued the investigation with a police officer, and his uniform alone proved much more effective than anything else I could have done! Finally, we filed a complaint with the Catania prosecutor’s office with everything we had. We see the prosecutor in the film.
I have to say how emotional I felt when I climbed the stairs leading to the court’s entrance, looking at the painted profiles of Falcone and Borsellino, two magistrates who symbolize Truth and Justice.
How did your mother, who is still alive, receive or support your decision to make “A stolen truth”?
My mother is a brave woman. She has proven this in the past. The scene where she flees with her four children between the railway tracks testifies to this sheer fortitude... I have always been a point of reference for her, her revenge in some way. I am the one who has honored her. Without her stories, I would not have been able to write “A Stolen Truth”.
On the eve of shooting, I talked her into appearing in my film. She didn’t want to speak directly, and I didn’t force her to either. But it was important for her to be present because perhaps our sister Rosa Antonina may bear a resemblance to her and be able to recognize her. So, I opted for off-camera voices for the dialogues. Even so, it felt strange to use an actor’s voice which was not my mother’s. But we did an excellent post-editing job in this regard afterwards.
Do you think the film raises the issue of transparency and accountability of the authorities responsible for the collection and management of civil registers in Sicily?
I could see that the documents were not established chronologically or recorded and transcribed. You don’t die first and then be born; you come into the world first. Don’t you think? Am I wrong to think so? We all have a birth certificate first and then a death certificate. But that one we will never see!
Your sister Rosa Antonina was taken from the Acireale hospital to the Catania hospital. Were you at any time able to find out what your biological father’s role was in this operation and exchanging your sister for a dead baby at the Vittorio Emanuele Hospital?
This is exactly what I mean when I speak of facts that did not occur. How did Rosa Antonina die in the Vittorio Emanuele hospital in another institution at 8am one morning when the hospital was several kilometers away, and the roads were not paved as they are today to facilitate travel? And do you think that if a baby has serious health problems, a father is asked to carry the sick infant in a taxi? That’s why it was vital to have scenes of the events that, for me, could NOT be real, that could not have happened! So, I checked many details, for example, the “ambulance”. I found out that an ambulance did exist at the hospital where my sister was born in 1968. So why was this ambulance not used then?
The film raises the question of the status of women in Sicily from the 1960s to today. It also deals with male violence. What can you tell us about this?
We are talking about a retro Sicily of the 1960s, although similar stories of women who don’t have much to say still exist today. I think it concerns the family unit and the social environment. Education starts from the birth of a child; you determine how to educate it, if it is a girl or a boy. At that time, children’s destiny was “almost”, I dare say, already written. Fortunately, this is not the case for everyone and not anymore. We have evolved.
I say this to all women, young people, and men because they are also subjected to psychological violence. I ask them not to be ashamed of having been victims. Because this is what often prevents them from denouncing the violence, from raising their voices.
The shame about what others will think of us. On the contrary, you must come forward and never feel any embarrassment. I opened up in my novel and talked about the abuse I suffered, the bullying at school when I was young and the violence in my family.
Rosa’s biological father reportedly told the police officer investigating her disappearance: “look for her in Ragusa; she is alive”. You said you will not stop searching “until you can hold her in your arms”. Have you had any luck since the film was launched?
It was not my biological father who reported this point to the authorities.
It was us, with my older sister, Lucia. She had recorded some phone conversations they had in 2019. She asked him about Rosa Antonina, she wanted to know more and he, the “individual”, said what you wrote. These conversations were then reported to the officer who conducted the investigation and included in the report that we filed with the Catania public prosecutor’s office.
I believe, however, that he, the “individual”, does not know where our sister Rosa Antonina ended up. But an exchange occurred, perhaps with an already dead baby or perhaps for a sum of money. Of course, this is my opinion... everyone can make up their own mind about the “facts that happened and the facts that didn’t happen” as I have presented them.
There is one crucial scene, that of the two “gossips” who, instead of asking Filippa why she returned from the hospital without her baby, preferred to gossip away and then go back to their four walls. Unfortunately, even today, many are in the know and do not speak. The places where we filmed are authentic; they are tiny houses in a neighborhood. That’s the one my mother left to go to the hospital on June 30, 1968, in Santa Venerina.
Today this neighborhood is still inhabited.
New findings have emerged, thanks to the great people who helped me. I would say that we are closer to the “Truth”, but I can’t add much more so as not to lose the momentum that is happening at the moment.
I would like to conclude by saying to Rosa Antonina these sentences written on a Facebook page a few days ago:
Even though I know you are following me...
Even though I know you are thinking of contacting me...
I know it will be difficult...
But everything has a meaning ... nothing happens by chance.
Only the Lord can decide when the time is right for us to meet... and hug each other tightly because that’s what we both deserve... ❤️.
My dear “Truth”, I wish you nothing but good,
With all my love,
Rosa Maria Mauceri
Screenwriter, director, producer, actress, writer, lecturer.
"My artistic side has been with me since my childhood, when I used to observe my environment to the point of imagining another world of which I was a part, in spite of myself.
As soon as I had the opportunity to express my creativity, I wrote advertising texts for several clients, from the age of nineteen.
I also lent my voice to radio and television services.
Finally, I did the voice-over for a children's trailer: "Hello Kitty", in French and Italian versions, available on YouTube.
A stolen truth
The urgency of the facts, unfortunately very real, led me to make a short film in July 2021 entitled "A stolen truth", taken from the eponymous novel that I also wrote. I produced, directed, costumed and played my own character.
I didn't expect the success and the international awards for both the novel and the short film.
I am preparing a feature film, for which I have already organized a first casting and the selections.
My pen was destined to return to my hands, and so, after so many ups and downs, I began to raise my voice in this way, blacking out pages in my notebook - a new technology version of the same - with my computer keyboard as a musical instrument to echo the words, words that scream to be heard.
I made my debut as a writer in 2020 with the novel "A stolen truth: a story out loud". Also in 2020, the text was translated into German and English.
The book was distributed via Amazon in paperback, e-book and audiobook in Italian, recorded with my own voice.
My next novel to be published is about my mother; it is a biography that is very important to read, in order to understand even better what "A stolen truth" was.
The book is called Hell Before Deception.
It will also be a feature film.
OCTOBER 2022 EDITION
ITW: Isabelle Rouault-Röhlich