Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Sicily's gift to the world explored in Kim Longinotto's fine doc, SHOOTING THE MAFIA

I've long opined that if you want to see a movie that really holds the Mafia up to scrutiny without in any way glamorizing this shit-hole organization, that film had better be Italian.

So it is again with the exemplary documentary, SHOOTING THE MAFIA, from British filmmaker Kim Longinotto that tracks the history, career and work of Palermo-born Italian photographer Letizia Battaglia, who, though her work spans a wide array of subjects, is best known for her photographs of the Mafia and their countless killings in Sicily.

Ms Battaglia (below) proves a terrific subject for a documentary, and Ms Longinotto (at left) does her ample justice, offering up a fine serving of this most unusual woman's history: her youth and young adulthood as a married woman champing at the bit for more freedom and expression; the period in which she begins work as a journalist but finds she has more proclivity, passion and talent for photography; her long array of productive relationships with men, all of whom are attractive and interesting, some of whom remain part of her life today.

One of these many men, pictured in his youth, appears below. The major concentration of this movie, of course, is on the Mafia and the increasing role it comes to play in Battaglia's life and work. The photographs we see in the film are reason enough -- if you've any interest in great photography -- to put it on your must-see list.

These photographs, most of them showing murder, are so much more than simply that. They're shocking, yes, but shot (and composition-wise maybe cropped) so well that all the passion, horror, grief, sadness and especially to stupid waste that the Mafia inflicts on society, wherever its rotten tentacles can reach, is on full display.

Longinotto's ability to mix past documentary footage with her current use of Battaglia gives us the shards of history and knowledge we need to fully understand appreciate the depravity of this sick organization and its near-constant killing sprees.

With some of the photography, Battaglia reflects on what it meant to her then and now. There's often a quite a difference, as with the photo (above) of the young prostitute and a couple of her gay friends -- all murdered because the girl broke that cardinal Mafia rule: She tried to work for herself.

As you might expect, this documentary gathers steam and a strong sense of feminism as it moves along. Women have long been relegated to second-rate in Italy, and Battaglia is having none of that. She knows her place, all right, and she's going to make sure that the men know it, too. She's not simply pushy; he has everything it takes to back up that pushiness.

Much of the movie is devoted to the famous 1986-87 Mafia trials involving Judge Giovanni Falcone above), later assassinated, along with his wife, by the Mafia. (Watching these documentary scenes should immediately bring back the recent Bellocchio film on this subject, The Traitor.) Then, to see what looks like half of the Sicilian population turn out in the streets to condemn and protest not just the Mafia but the politicians who help keep them in power proves a most stirring and life-affirming scene.

There is so much to appreciate -- the photographs, the history, the characters -- in this fine documentary about a woman and her work, neither of which you're likely to forget, that for anyone interested in Italy and the character of the Italian people, in photography and the Mafia, TrustMovies cannot imagine your missing the opportunity to see this fine film.

(The five-minute interview with director Longinotto, part of the Bonus Features on the disc, is a must-see, as well.)

After a limited theatrical release this past November via Cohen Media Group, Shooting the Mafia hit the street on DVD and Blu-ray just yesterday, Tuesday, March 24 -- for purchase and/or rental.

No comments: