We delve into the secrets of violence, mysterious deaths and slavery within the criminal cult led by Gabriel Basmagi, known as Papy, a shadowy spiritual leader from Aleppo who established the Sant'Antonio Abate Mission in Veneto in the 1990s. Beyond the Gate of a countryside farmhouse, Basmagi first seduced and then abused his victims. A young woman, Alice, returns after twenty years to the farmhouse where she lived with the cult. Beyond the gate, the deep hole of memory swallows her, and the ghosts of the past come to life. The words from her diary evoke the nightmarish experience she went through as a barely-adolescent girl. From the testimonies of victims, a lawyer, a police officer, and a criminologist who participated in the trial against the cult leader, the plot of hidden horror takes shape just a few meters away from the peaceful homes of unaware and industrious citizens in northern Italy. But what happens when the gate imprisoning one in a toxic relationship is opened?

The story is based on the true diary of one of the cult's followers, police testimonies, court depositions, and audio surveillance of the sect led by the cult leader Basmagi. The protagonist and her mother are portrayed by actresses to protect the victims' privacy from potential repercussions by still active cells of the cult. Actress Maria Roveran, who has lived in a religious community, lends her voice and presence to Alice (a reference to Lewis Carroll's classic) who plunges into the abyss of her traumatized memory. The spaces within the farmhouse she wanders through depict the visual topography of her subconscious, where she encounters ghosts from the past. The narrative leads up to the central room dominated by Basmagi, the magician of toxic relationships par excellence. Photographic archives, documentary footage, VHS recordings, and family records constitute Alice's "memory box," a visual and dramaturgical device. Animated interventions (cf. the artist Donato Sansone) illustrate Alice's emotional universe in its marvelous monstrosity, overlaid on the world beyond the gate. The 4:3 shooting format harks back to the television monitors of the 1990s, the medium of the imaginary in our story. As Alice reconstructs the past, she gains awareness of the nature of the monster: is it outside of her (locked in the darkness beyond the gate) or is it a black hole within her, within each of us?

Monica Repetto
Monica Repetto, Chiara Cremaschi
Monica Repetto, Chiara Cremaschi
Director of photography
Andrea Zambelli
Cast and characters

Maria Roveran, Nicola Fioravanti, Maria Pia Rizzo, Rosario Gozzo

Production Director
Monica Repetto
Organizzatore generale
Executive production
Monica Repetto
Monica Repetto
con il sostegno di Film Commission Torino Piemonte - Piemonte Doc Film Fund - sviluppo dicembre 2022, produzione dicembre 2023
Last update: 05 March 2024