Veleno (Poison) is a docuseries based on the book by Pablo Trincia that traces the terrible events of the late 1990s in two Italian villages in the Bassa Modenese, which are separated by a few kilometers of fields, farmhouses and often banks of fog. Sixteen children were taken from their families and transferred to protected locations. The parents were suspected of belonging to a sect of Satanic pedophiles who carry out nocturnal rituals in cemeteries.
The children told their stories of horror to psychologists and social workers. The network of monsters they described seemed endless, and involved fathers, mothers, siblings, aunts and uncles, and other individuals. There were no adult witnesses. No one, seemingly, saw or heard anything. Is it possible that in that corner of Emilia there is such a deep omertà (code of silence) as to be impregnable?
After viewing evidence in the form of documents, recordings and videos, Pablo Trincia wonders if the accusations made by the children to the social workers were the result of events that really happened or, instead, false memories which arose because of methods of questioning unsuitable for collecting evidence of mistreatment and domestic abuse.
The method, called “empathic,” resulted in a gradual unveiling of increasingly gruesome details, rapidly involving more people. A hypothesis emerged that the testimonies were flawed by the prejudices of those who conducted the interviews. Veleno, then, points its gaze not toward the children’s accounts, but to the questions asked by adults in positions of authority.
Veleno is a work of investigative journalism, before emerging as a narrative of immense value. It is so above all because it subverts all kinds of traditional thinking about the mechanisms that govern our society, from the family to the legal justice system. The sense, through most of the five episodes, is that no one is really safe from this type of distortion and that, in the end, even the most innocent of us have to deal with being powerless in the face of abuse.
DOI: La Civiltà Cattolica, En. Ed. Vol. 5, no. 8 art. 11, 0821: 10.32009/22072446.0821.11