While Netflix usually opts for the documentary format when approaching true crime stories, The Catholic School re-enacts a full-blown dramatisation of the harrowing story.
WARNING: Content of a disturbing nature and spoilers from The Catholic School ahead
The Catholic School released to Netflix on September 14, 2022, a year after the film premiered at Venice Film Festival. Directed by Stefano Mordini, the film explores a disturbing true crime case from ’70s Italy.
As the thriller finally gets its release, we take a look at the shocking story that inspired its events. Be warned, there are some gruesome details referenced throughout this piece.
The Catholic School is based on a harrowing true story from 1975
When it comes to film ideas, sometimes life is more shocking than fiction. True crime incidents have long served as film inspiration, and this is no different with The Catholic School.
The plot is based on the Circeo massacre, one of the most shocking news cases in Italian history. It involved Donatella Colasanti, Rosaria Lopez and their torturers: Gianni Guido, Andrea Ghira, Angelo Izzo. The three young men kidnapped and sexually assaulted both women, aged 17 and 19 respectively. Rosaria was killed and Donatella narrowly escaped with her life after pretending to be dead.
The crime took place at a villa owned by Andrea Ghira’s father at Circeo, a wealthy seaside resort about 100km south of Rome. It occurred from September 29 to 30, 1975.
What happened to Guido, Ghira, and Izzo?
Gianni Guido, 19, Angelo Izzo, 20, and Andrea Ghira, 22, were caught by police and arrested for the murder of Rosaria Lopez and for the kidnap, torture, and sexual assault on Donatella Colasanti. But the trio managed to evade justice. Nicknamed “pariolini,” the three young men were named after one of Rome’s most upscale residential areas: the Parioli district. Coming from upper class families, they all managed to elude justice over the years.
Donatella Colasanti took a civil action case against the three. Rosaria Lopez’s family accepted compensation of €100m from the Guido family and did not sue for civil action. On July 29, 1976, Guido, Izzo, and Ghira were sentenced to life imprisonment. Ghira was sentenced in absentia as he had fled to Spain under the name Massimo Testa de Andrés. On appeal, Guido’s sentence was reduced to 30 years in prison because he repented.
Andrea Ghira died in Spain of on overdose in Melilla, Spain on September 2, 1994. Guido escaped prison in January 1980 only to be arrested two years later in Buenos Aires. He escaped again, to be captured in Panama in 1994. Gianni Guido was pardoned and his sentenced reduced. He now lives in Rome.
Angelo Izzo, however, is still in prison. After obtaining semi-release in December 2004, he would go on to commit two more murders. Izzo killed Maria Carmela and Valentina Maiorano and was sentenced, again, to life imprisonment on January 12, 2007.
Donatella Colasanti died in 2005 after surviving the massacre
Thirty years after the Circeo massacre, Donatella Colasanti passed away after a battle with breast cancer. She passed away at the age of 47 in December 2005.
With a fighting spirit until the end of her life, Colasanti’s reported last words were: “Let us fight for truth.”
Colasanti’s untimely death prevented her from attending the retrial of Angelo Izzo, who had been released from prison in 2004 only to murder again.
The Netflix film is based on a book
While The Catholic School is based on a true story, it takes its plot material from Edoardo Albinati’s novel about the case. Edoardo Albinati’s The Catholic School was published in 2016 and won the Strega prize; Italy’s equivalent of the Booker.
Albinati attended the same boarding school as the massacre perpetrators and so the book weaves in elements of autobiography as well.
You can stream The Catholic School on Netflix now.
If you have been affected by this story, you can contact the UK-based Rape Crisis team. Call 0808 802 9999 for confidential emotional support, open 12pm-2.30pm, 7pm-9.30pm every day of the year. You can also contact Victim support on 08 08 16 89 111.
If you are in the United States, you can contact the RAINN (Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network, National Sexual Hotline. Available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week on 1 (800) 656-4673. You can also contact the Department of Defense Safe Helpline for Sexual Assault on 1 (877) 955-5247.