Su Maimulu, the ancient carnival of Gairo, a town of 1300 souls in Ogliastra, Sardinia, represents the ancestral attempt by human beings to dominate nature.

The main character is s’urtzu, the ogre. Dressed in black sheepskins, his face covered with unworked leather, he roams the village trying to attack anyone he comes across. S’urtzu is chaos, winter, wild and indiscriminate nature.

But nature can be tamed. Is Maimulus, their faces covered in the ash of a burnt cork oak and crowned with animal heads, hold s’urtzu tightly with a plow chain, while is Omadoris poke and beat him.

Just as nature must submit to the rhythm of humans, giving rain when it’s time for rain and sun when it’s time for sun, so s’urtzu must submit to the will of his tamers. This is a matter of life and death.

And of eternal cycles. Because defeating winter once is not enough. The conflict between human beings and their environment repeats itself, year after year, inexorably, and one cannot be caught unprepared.

Yesterday as today, despite our claim to have mastered nature once and for all, it continues to pose challenges that can only be overcome by a collectivity that is able to recognise its power and magic.

This project, shot in a land of droughts and floods, where nature reclaims what depopulation abandons, is the tale of a ritual that calls attention to the dichotomies that have marked human lives since the dawn of time: good and evil, life and death, the sacred and the profane, the individual and society, order and chaos, man and nature.

This project was published on Perimetro

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