What does it happen when a Jehovah Witness falls in love with a worldly person? And what does it mean being a worldly person? Marco Danieli‘s debut film, Wordly Girl (La ragazza del mondo) is not just a story about the Jehovah’s community, yet a powerful and touching Bildungsroman about Giulia (played by Sara Serraiocco), a girl who cannot conform to the orthodoxies of her religion and a boy (played by Michele Riondino) who cannot stay away from troubles. Marco Danieli, who wrote and shot the film, presented this story of rebellion and emancipation at Giornate degli Autori-Venice Days during this year’s Venice Film Festival and also at BFI London Film Festival.
Where does the idea of using Jehovah’s Witnesses come from? How was the script born?
Everything started with a story told by a friend of mine to my co-screenwriter, Antonio Manca. She told us an experience she had when she was a teenager and we found it interesting. The Italian Jehovah’s Witness communities is one of the biggest in Europe, as well as the British one. We all had a mate or a colleague involved, but we know very little about them. The strongest aspect was the fact that this girl fell in love with a ‘worldly boy’, i.e. a person that has nothing to do with Jehovah, and so she calls into question her being part of the community. Thanks to several investigations I found out that often a boy or a girl falls in love with ‘worldly people’ and subsequently they leave the community. Love is a propelling energy giving them the strength to leave. Leaving Jehovah once baptized means being ‘disassociated’ and all the people you know, even your friends, turn their back. Familiar relationships should last, because Jehovah specifies that the spiritual relationship vanishes, whereas the sentimental one should last. Actually, everything gets complicated and so families break. From Jehovah’s point of view if you do not live in truth anymore, but in sin, you will always be reminded of it. They hope you will come back sooner or later.
How did the process of documentation work?
The starting point was the girl’s personal story. Then we looked for other people who left Jehovah for reasons other than love. One of our consultant had been part of Jehovah’s community for twenty years. At some point he started questioning about doctrinal aspects and then he also fell in love with a ‘wordly girl’. We also got in touch with Jehovah’s Witnesses and spent time with them at their Kingdom Hall in Rome. At that time I was thinking about making a documentary. The congregation welcomed me and I started taking part to their meetings and biblical studies and simulations. Many meetings later, I understood they were not interested at all about my documentary, but they wanted ito convert me. My intention was not to demonise Jehovah, but for sure it reveals some controversial aspects. They call ostacism the relationship with the external world, even though they do not even want to hear that word.
Giulia and Libero, the protagonists, come from completely different worlds. What do they have in common?
They just share a frustration and the desire to change their lives. Even though they are completely different, they have that in common. Libero is a fish out of water. There is sexual chemistry, but it’s their being lost that brings them together. Giulia, for example, is not able to attend university. Jehovah’s Witnesses state dissuade people from carrying on studying because this leads to have less time for praying. Jehovah fights ambition as it keeps you far from God.
We often look at Jehovah’s Witnesses with fear or indifference. Where does this attitude come from?
Italy is a Catholic country and Catholics despise Jehovah’s Witnesses, and vice versa. Moreover, looking at such devoted people make them ludicrous nowadays. Jehovah is nothing but a radical movement like any other.
Click here to watch the trailer.
Click here to read it in Italian.