At Tff the struggles of the oldest trans in Italy: “I’m Lucy and I would like to give hope”

At Tff the struggles of the oldest trans in Italy: “I’m Lucy and I would like to give hope”
At Tff the struggles of the oldest trans in Italy: “I’m Lucy and I would like to give hope”

TORINO. “Necessary” is a rather overused term when it comes to cinema, by definition a wonderful art of the superfluous. But yes, for “There is a breath of life only” by Matteo Botrugno and Davide Coluccini the term fits perfectly. Because the story of 97-year-old Lucy (born Luciano Salani), the oldest transsexual in Italy, gives us back the unresolved ambiguities (always the same) of two eras: his and ours.

The documentary will be presented on Monday evening at the Turin Film Festival, in the presence of the protagonist and the directors, two independents who have been sweating each film for fifteen years. For this job, they weren’t afraid to tackle a budget close to zero, just to bring home what they wanted. “The only thing we cared about was telling Lucy’s story, so she wouldn’t be forgotten,” they explain. “We met her by chance, in a small interview republished on Facebook, in one of those evenings when you scroll through the social message boards bored. We found a contact, we phoned her and to explain the project we met her in her home in Bologna, where she lives alone. She immediately complained about the politicians who take advantage of her in the election campaign, take her under the arm and show her as a trophy, never keeping their promises. He probably understood that we weren’t like that and decided to trust us ».

There are ten lifetimes in Lucy’s life. A child who has always been inside, abused by a priest, the first hustlers, desertion from the German army, a daring escape that ended with a leg injured by a bullet, deportation to Dachau, liberation, transvestite activity after the war, a adopted daughter who died before her, sex change in 1980s London, discrimination and finally oblivion. “I really didn’t know what to expect from directors,” she says. «I have had a very long life full of difficulties, between adventures, very hard moments, small and great joys. I answered their questions, I told what there was to tell, I let their camera follow me. Day after day a very deep relationship began to be created, I began to believe that maybe it was really worth it. Above all, Davide and Matteo have transmitted to me a great enthusiasm, since for some years mine had not really been at the top ».

Between shocking memories of the atrocities she suffered and delicate memories of the past (such as the poem composed in her youth, from which the title steals a verse), the film follows Lucy in a daily life made of boredom at the window and flirtatiousness in the mirror, visits from friends and films science fiction on dvd. Returning a multifaceted and complex figure that no novelist’s imagination would ever have been able to create. “In this film I told everything that has happened to me in my life,” she explains. “There are the concentration camps, the struggles to become the woman I felt I was, the loves, the affections, the misadventures. However, it was not just a relief valve. After filming I realized that that could help others as well. I don’t want to sound presumptuous, but maybe my story can be an example, a hope for those who find themselves fighting for their own identity and personal dignity “.

In summer 2020 Lucy was supposed to go to Dachau, invited for the celebrations of the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the camp, then the pandemic broke out. Covid has stopped everything, but not the directors. “We took it anyway, because it seemed right that the narrative would end where it all began. We stayed one step behind, following her with the camera. Maybe it was even better that we were alone. Her monologue in front of the memorial of the victims took our breath away, there we definitively realized her extraordinary human depth, the wisdom that all those experiences have developed in her ». In the poignant finale, Lucy stares at that big dark cross on the stone wall, erected where prisoners were once burned, and she lets out crying: “If there really was a God, all these things would never have happened. But unfortunately there isn’t. We are the God, because it is our will that commands the world, not God. Which God? Luckily I got to the bottom, at least I could see that it wasn’t worth staying on this planet ».


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