Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

I’m Not Scared

(Io non ho paura, Italy, Spain, 2003)

Maybe the title resonates better in Italian, but I found it incomprehensible when I tried to fit it with the story that unfolded. A 10-year-old boy in a tiny town—hardly a town at all, just half a dozen crumbling buildings—in southern Italy in 1978 (which, I learn, was the hottest summer on record) discovers a boy his age living at the bottom of a well.

(Another thing I discovered at the IMDb is that 1978 was the peak year for kidnappings in Italy, with over 600 of them. Some were political, most were just scumbags looking for a big payoff. Many children were killed when the random wasn’t paid.)

At first the boy treats his discovery as sort of a pet, bringing him food and water. He’s been badly mistreated, seems to have lost his mind there in the darkness. The kid has been chained down there, but at some point the chain is gone. The two go for a run in the wheat fields that surround the town, but he has to go back because they have no idea what to do or where to go, and they don’t want the kidnappers to find out the boy has been free.

At some point the boy discovers his father and mother and, seemingly, the whole village are the kidnappers. They watch a tearful appeal from the mother on the TV. They argue about what to do with the boy … and I can’t tell you more than that. It’s a very disturbing movie, with mostly non-actors. The central moral question is simple: What do you do when you discover that all the adults you know are sub-human slime, who should spend the rest of their lives in prison? It’s not an easy question for a boy that age. I mean, if he was five years older I’d condemn him for not running to the police as soon as he found the boy in the well. But it’s not so simple for a child. The film is lovely to look at, and thought provoking, and I’m glad I saw it, but I can’t say I enjoyed it very much.