Per Elisa in the Italian Press
Filming has just wrapped on Per Elisa, an Italian language series directed by Marco Pontecorvo and produced by Fast Films and Cosmopolitan Pictures in collaboration with Rai Fiction and in association with ITV Studios that dramatically reconstructs one of Italy’s most shocking true crimes of recent years: the murders of Elisa Claps and Heather Barnett by Danilo Restivo.
The series, which was filmed over 11 weeks in and around the southern Italian town of Potenza (where the real-life tragedy unfolded), is based on the novel “Blood on the Altar” by English journalist Tobias Jones and has been adapted for screen by British writer Terry Cafolla and Italian writers Valerio D’Annunzio and Andrea Valagussa. It stars Gianmarco Saurino (DOC, Rai) as Gildo Claps; Rosa Diletta Rossi (Nero a metà, Rai) as Irene Claps; Anna Ferruzzo (The Good Mothers, Disney+) as Filomena Claps; Giacomo Giorgio (The Sea Beyond, Rai) as Luciano Claps; Vincenzo Ferrera (The Sea Beyond, Rai) as Antonio Claps; Francesco Acquaroli (Suburra, Netflix) as Maurizio Restivo; Vincent Riotta (House of Gucci) as detective Phil James; and Giulio Della Monica (The New Pope) as killer Danilo Restivo.
In September 1993, Elisa Claps left her house to go to mass on a sunny Sunday morning. No one heard from her again…until her body was found 17 years later in the attic of the church where she was last seen alive. Almost one decade later, in November 2002 in Bournemouth on England’s south coast, Heather Barnett a single mother of two teenage children was found on the ground at home, covered in blood and horribly mutilated.
On the day of her disappearance, Elisa Claps had an appointment with Danilo Restivo, a little older than her, in the very church where her body was later found. It later transpired that Danilo Restivo was also Heather Barnett’s neighbour. And while it didn’t take long for British police to pin their suspicions on Restivo for Heather’s murder, it took years to connect the two crimes and convict the culprit.
Director Marco Pontecorvo said: “There is always a great deal of responsibility in bringing a story to the screen, but dealing with stories that actually happened – having known and established a relationship of trust with the protagonists – means you have to be extra vigilant and respectful when approaching the facts, the style and the intrinsic sense of history of a story like this. I hope I got the balance right and told this story without diminishing its meaning and scale. I am both happy and proud to have worked with this cast who have been generous with their talent and got under the skin of the storyline to bring to life three-dimensional characters full of truth and nuance. I would also like to thank all the crew: make-up, costume, location and photography have all created an environment that immerses us in the era of the story. I am grateful also to the production team and to Rai for asking me to be involved in this project and for their constant support. All our efforts have been repaid by the emotional embrace we received from Gildo Claps as we came to the end of this extraordinary adventure.”
Producer Maurizio Tini added: “It has been such an honour to bring this tragedy to the screen and I am hugely grateful to the Claps family for allowing us to tell such a personal account that will have a resonance for many viewers, and to Rai Fiction for providing us with a platform to tell this story. It is a tale of injustice, suffering and pain, but equally of strength, rebellion and redemption. I’d also like to thank Ben Donald at Cosmopolitan Pictures, whose original idea it was to make the series, for asking me to make this journey with him.”
Cosmopolitan Pictures founder Ben Donald added: “The tale of the deaths of Elisa Claps and Heather Barnett is both tragic and complex, and one that we felt needed to be told to a wider public. At its heart is Gildo Claps, Elisa’s older brother, whose tireless search for truth and justice; whose strength, tenacity and love for his sister overcame the silence, lies, rumours and many misdirections put in his way, and allowed him and his family to achieve some sense of justice, even though many questions still remain unanswered. It is a huge privilege and responsibility to tell this story for both an Italian and international television audience and I too wish to thank the Claps family for their trust and support and Rai Fiction for sharing our desire to make this story heard. My thanks also to Maurizio Tini, who agreed to produce the series for us; he has been the perfect partner to help bring this story to life.”
Per Elisa is a co-production between Italy’s Fastfilm and the UK’s Cosmopolitan Pictures, in collaboration with Rai Fiction and in association with ITV Studios, under the patronage of the City and Province of Potenza. The series will air on Rai1 as 3 x 100’ episodes and will be distributed across the rest of the world as a 6 x 50’ series by ITV Studios.
Per Elisa will launch on Raiuno on 24 October 2023. Read below a selection of preview press.
La serie tv su Elisa Claps, un mistero lungo sedici anni. Il regista Marco Pontecorvo: “Il racconto di un sogno spezzato”
di Silvia Fumarola
Il bottone color porpora e le ciocche di capelli: la morte di Elisa Claps è un vortice di misteri
di Luca D’Andrea