Beyond pain

a short documentary by Emanuele Lami Grifeo



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Beyond pain is a documentary with fictional scenes, describing pain in some of its forms.

Xenia is 32 year old and she is one of the Berlin Staatsballett dancers. She is extremely dedicated to her job and, as most of professional dancers, she puts herself through a lot of pain in order to achieve something beautiful and refined out of her art. The pressure in the Ballet world is very high and she constantly pushes herself to improve. She interprets physical and mental pain as the only way to explore her limits as a professional.

Jan is a 40 year old psychoanalyst and photographer. He had a very difficult childhood characterised by cold, abusive parents and by discrimination and isolation from his peers for being homosexual. He lived his life split in two: one exterior his, who tried to go on without giving anybody call for complaints; and one internal his, who felt constantly lonely and guilty. Since many years now he practices S&M sex, finding in the physical pain of the practice an answer to his childhood dreams of being loved.

John is 65. Twenty years ago, due to his HIV infection, he got meningitis, went into a coma and lived a Near Death Experience. This was a turning point in his life – he started a spiritual path which brought him today to be a man of great inner peace and balance. HIV is not detectable anymore. For him pain is an unavoidable experience which belongs to life as much as birth and death. But he believes that pain always shows us the right way to explore and grow into the better version of ourselves.





The three stories cross each other throughout the film, combining a documentarist approach with a cinematography and a dialectic typical of feature film.

In the background, like a mirror for reality check, Berlin – ugly and fascinating as only real life can be.

photo Beyond Pain



The emotional and conceptual framework of this project is the fragility of the human condition.

Growing older and facing a life-threatening event some years ago, I developed an honest interest towards irreparability and change, which are quintessential characteristics of the fragility experienced by human beings.

Society tends to dismiss fragility. It pushes and educates us to forget, giving us a constant illusion of power. But we’re powerless in front of the force of life, within which we’re just a minuscule factor – once we try to correlate with the dimension of Nature, we can understand how Humankind is an undiscriminating meaningless element.

The communal meaning of life is that there is no meaning.

Unfortunately human beings are unable to cope with this superior existential Truth and inside our own limited time-space realities, we become master creators of billions of provisory meanings. A series of illusions, which are all meant to decay.
Here – in this trained attempt to find meaning to something meaningless – lies for me the fragility of human condition. We live surrounded by unspoken, unprocessed fragility expressed in as multiple and complex forms as the human mind can be.

I find truthful beauty in these expressions of fragility and I find Pain to be one of them. This movie is my way to relate to it.

My strongest fascination in making movies lies in the ability of cinema to create a perfect reality, no matter what is the subject of the story – from the lightest and happiest to the darkest and heaviest, the depicted reality always develops through perfect rhythms.

Life is far from being that perfect. Life’s usually ugly, rude and rough. And documentaries tend to reproduce life as authentic as possible.

Therefore, in this short movie I wish to merge a documentary storytelling technique with a visual language typical of feature films. The stylistic exercise I’m trying to accomplish with this project, is based on the attempt of softening the bluntness of the documentary language by using fictional scenes in some key part of the movie and by adopting a more cinematic usage of camera and sound.


Screen Shot 2018-07-22 at 20.38.49


Emanuele Lami Grifeo is a 34 years old Italian director and screenwriter born in Rome in 1983 and based in Berlin since 12 years.
Emanuele graduated in International Economics in Rome and afterwards moved to Berlin to study photography. He started his creative career as freelance photographer working mostly in the publishing industry in Germany, Italy and South Africa.

His personal projects have won several international awards, such as Leica Talent and Kolga Awards and were exhibited around the world for venues and art fairs such as 2011 Venice Biennale of Art. Emanuele was also nominated for the World Press Photo Masterclass.
With time, Emanuele’s creative interest shifted to moving images, which gave him the chance to nurture his other great passions: directing and writing. In the last 3 years he has written and directed several tv commercials for German, Austrian and Swiss TV and he has written, directed and produced a short documentary (title: Beyond Pain).

Currently, he is writing two long feature films and working on his first novel.

Screen Shot 2018-07-22 at 20.34.16


Emanuele Lami Grifeo
Director & Writer
Giulio Baraldi
Xenia Wiest
Jan Großer
John F. Beek
Sirio Magnabosco
Director of Photography
Yuval Halpern
Film music composer
Dalia Castel
Editing & Picture editor
Moritz Scharl
Editing & Audio Recording
  • Length: ca. 29’48
  • Languages: English, Germany
  • Video Quality: DSLR Full-HD Camera recording
  • Audio Quality: In- and Out-Cam recording, 16-bit, 48kHz