Matera 2019

Milo Rau either answers the e-mails he receives immediately or not at all. It was from this story that the collaboration between the Swiss director and the Consorzio Teatri Uniti di Basilicata on Tòpoi. Teatri e nuovi miti was born: with a simple e-mail in which the Consortium suggested a collaboration with Rau on a project for the European Capital of Culture.

Milo Rau is fascinated by the ancient calmness of the city of Matera, and has decided to shoot a film about Jesus here, in the land that formed the backdrop for Pasolini's "Gospel According to Saint Matthew" and Mel Gibson's "The Passion". What would the prophet preach if he were to return in the 21st century? Where would he go, and whom would he choose to be his apostles? These questions form the basis for "The New Gospel", an interdisciplinary project in which the director will once again use theatre and cinema to talk about human injustice.

During his first field trip to this Southern Italy on the border with Europe, Milo Rau and his team travelled around the various "ghettos", the camps where migrants who pick oranges and tomatoes live in inhuman conditions. This is the true story "The New Gospel" will tell: Jesus himself was a revolutionary who worked as a carpenter on the great construction sites of the Roman Empire. His rejection of the global system of exploitation of his time, and the combination of revolutionary commitment (only subversive people were crucified at the time) and the search for a new form of solidarity were the director's inspiration.

Returning to the roots of the Gospel and presenting it as the passion of an entire civilization, the cast of refugees and small farmers driven to bankruptcy by the agri-industry will rewrite the manifesto of solidarity with the poorest people, a performative uprising for a more equal and more human world. As in Christ's Palestine, a place inhabited by people without a land, migrants in Europe today will be the first to be considered as the new apostles.

One fundamental event of the research stage was the encounter with Yvan Sagnet, who helped the troupe understand how the ghettos and gang-masters work, and why they exist. Yvan is a Cameroonian who arrived in Italy in 2007 to study Telecommunications Engineering at the Turin Polytechnic University. Following a poor result in an examination, he lost his scholarship, and in 2011 went to work as a tomato picker in Nardò, in Salento, for Masseria Boncuri. After coming into contact with the gang-masters system, which recruits tomato workers illegally and exploits them, Yvan became the spokesperson for a month-long strike against the inhuman working conditions, which led to reforms and the first trial on enslavement in Europe.

Yvan will play the new Messiah. His experience will be a precious aid for understanding what happens in those non-places that are part of a highly-developed global system, of which tomato picking is just the tip of the iceberg.

Who will follow him? Just as in the Gospel, it is Yvan, who plays Jesus, who seeks disciples in Italy's largest refugee camps with whom he can carry out his "Revolt of Dignity". During their visit, the troupe came across an unexpected truth that newspaper investigations will never be able to describe properly. As in a utopian documentary, this truth will be filmed, and will become part of the final story, in a contrast between biblical scenes (the first part of the film follows the story in the Bible exactly) and the making of the firm.

Alongside the men the troupe met in the camps will be professional actors like Enrique Irazoqui, Pasolini's legendary Jesus, who will play John the Baptist, and Maia Morgenstern, who played the Madonna in Mel Gibson's The Passion, who plays the mother of the black saviour Sagnet.

With Matera 2019, the search continues for temporary citizens to take part in the filming and be members of the cast. On 21, 22 and 26 August, amateur actors and anyone else who may be interested in taking part in the production of this extraordinary project will be able to participate in the casting for the selection of a number of key figures, including Pontius Pilate, Barabbas, the Pharisees and Roman soldiers. No particular experience is required, but there must be an interest in or a particular tie to the character applicants wish to play. When confirming participation, it is important to take account of the dates in which applicants are available for filming, and participants must send an e-mail giving the reasons why they would like to play the role they have selected to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

At the end of September and beginning of October, Matera will first prepare with the filming of the entry to Jerusalem, followed by the Passion and the Crucifixion of Christ, who will preach his Sermon on the Mount and will be tortured and crucified, to be finally resurrected before the eyes of hundreds of tourists. The production will be open, in line with the beliefs of Milo Rau, for whom the theatre is not a product but a process to which the general public must have access.


Photo Credits: Yvan Sagnet and his disciples Jeremiah Akhere Ogbeide, Papa Latyr Faye, Mbaye Ndiaye and Anthony Nwa-chukwu on the beach. (©2019 Fruitmarket/Langfilm. Photo Thomas Eirich-Schneider)

"The Revolt of Dignity" and "The New Gospel" by Milo Rau are part of the Matera 2019 project "Tòpoi. Teatro e nuovi miti“,  and are an interdisciplinary production including a campaign, a performance and a film.

The campaign is organised by IIPM (the International Institute of Political Murder) in collaboration with Associazione No Cap - Contro ogni forma di caporalato, the Comitato dei Braccianti della Felandina, Ghetto Out Casa Sankara, Spin Time Lab Roma, the Osservatorio Migranti Basilicata, Agricola Leggera, Campo Libero, Altragricoltura – Confederazione per la Sovranità Alimentare, UILA Taranto – Unione Italiana lavoratori agro alimentari with the participation of European Alternatives, the European Centre for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR), Medico International and FUTURZWEI – Stiftung Zukunftsfähigkeit.

The performance is a co-production between IIPM (the International Institute of Political Murder), and the Matera-Basilicata 2019 Foundation, Teatro di Roma and NTGent, in collaboration with Teatri Uniti di Basilicata, Fruitmarket and Langfilm, and with the participation of ProLoco Ginosa and the Universität für Angewandte Kunst, Vienna. 

The cinema project is a Fruitmarket and Langfilm production, co-produced by SRF SSR and ZDF, in collaboration with Arte, IIPM (the International Institute of Political Murder), the Matera-Basilicata 2019 Foundation, the Consorzio Teatri Uniti di Basilicata and Teatro di Roma , with support from Kulturstiftung des Bundes, the European Cultural Foundation, Filmund Medienstiftung NRW, the Office of Culture (FOC), Zürcher Filmstiftung, DFFF - Deutscher Filmförderfonds, Kanton St.Gallen Kulturförderung / Swisslos, BKM - Die Beauftragte der Bundesregierung für Kultur und Medien, Volkart Stiftung, GEA – Waldviertler, Stadt Lausanne und Kanton Waadt and the Fondo Etico di BCC Basilicata.