Director Abel Ferrara on Mysterious 1975 Death of Pier Paolo Pasolini: 'I Know Who Killed Him'

AP Photo/Abraham Caro Marin
Willem Dafoe plays Pasolini in a new film.

Ferrara just finished shooting a biographical film titled "Pasolini" about the acclaimed Italian director, poet, journalist and intellectual.

ROME -- The death of acclaimed Italian film director, poet, journalist and intellectual Pier Paolo Pasolini has been shrouded in mystery for nearly 40 years, but director Abel Ferrara, who just finished shooting a bio-film about the end of the Italian director's life, says he knows who did it.

Pasolini died in 1975 after being run over several times by his own car at the seaside near Rome.

Police at first arrested a young male prostitute, but he was released for lack of evidence. Soon after, a search was launched for three men who reportedly opposed Pasolini's leftist and libertine views, but they were never found. And in 2005, police reopened the case after some evidence emerged that Pasolini may have been involved in an extortion scheme. But the case remains a mystery.

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Bad Lieutenant director Ferrara just finished filming on Pasolini, and he told Italian media: "I know who killed him," without revealing a name. Local media were split on whether the remark was true insight Ferrara picked up in his research or was aimed at increasing interest in the film, which stars Wiliem Dafoe in the title role.

At least one person close to Pasolini hopes it's the former: His cousin Guido Mazzon has lobbied hard to open the case again so that new evidence can be evaluated. 

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"I hope that what is claimed with such certainty by the American filmmaker is true, because we cannot bear another round of unfounded speculation," he said.

Pasolini, who was 53 when he died, was a protagonist in the neorealism movement in Italian cinema as well as in poetry, theater and art.

He won top awards in Berlin in back-to-back years with jury prize winner The Decameron in 1971 and Golden Bear winner The Canterbury Tales the following year. He also had films screen in competition in Cannes and Venice.

Twitter: @EricJlyman