Own Religion (2016) – By Paul Busetti


“Own Religion” has no closing credits. It has opening credits but they aren’t in English and no translation is given. As my knowledge of Eastern European hieroglyphs is woefully inept, I have no idea who directed this movie. It could be Alexander Krivosheyo, which is the name on the YouTube channel where the movie was uploaded in 4 parts totaling 113 minutes. It is ostensibly a documentary but it repeatedly defies that classification. It feels strangely like a recruitment film for a pyramid scheme.

For its running time, we follow an unknown, paunchy man around the streets of Palermo Sicily. He wears two bulky bags slung over his shoulders and chain smokes as he talks and gesticulates to his mute female companion. She asks no questions and is never introduced. The man speaks Italian but is dubbed in English by a narrator with a Russian accent (presumably the director). He is followed by a cadre of people with cameras and recording equipment to save all his thoughts for posterity. They stop at various indoor and outdoor cafes and drink and smoke.

The title refers to the “second religion” of Sicily. Something our narrator refers to as the “Sicilian Triumph”. The ability to ascend to power in business, war, and (alluded to) the mafia. In his stream of consciousness about these principals he makes various metaphors likening life to a mountain that needs to be conquered and a ship that needs to be captained. He separates people into slaves and masters. He emphasizes the need to not only become proficient in tactics, strategy, and countermeasures, but to polish these skills and adapt as to not become complacent and be overthrown. He diagrams a pyramid (Uh oh) with the Don at the top, Intellectuals and Commanders underneath, and Soldiers at the base. He speaks of the “cipperoni” who are elders who provide strategic counsel. It is utterly unclear as to what the point of the video is. Is it merely an introduction to those interested in Sicilian power structure? Are these principals meant to be applied to ordinary peoples’ everyday life? Or is it some insider view into the workings of the Cosa Nostra. If so, should we be worried about our unknown host? Most of the time it feels like an infomercial for a self help guru. I was waiting for information at the end about how to order his series of books and DVDs.

There is no preface and no detours. It is a confusing one way ride with an odd, yet somewhat fascinating (or perhaps just well rehearsed) orator.