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a special kind of documentary about a special kind of woman
'Shooting the Mafia' is a documentary that tells the story of the life of a woman who is our contemporary, but whose biography is very different from that of most people around her and us. The merit of the Irish director Kim Longinotto is that she chose a non- conventional way of bring on screen an extraordinary biography. The combination of a special subject and of an exciting way to make movies makes of 'Shooting the Mafia' a captivating film, which also enters in a polemic with the way the the Sicilian Mafia is presented on the screen.It's a story we seem to know from films like 'The Godfather', but here we see it from another perspective.
Letizia Battaglia's biography covers all of Italy's modern history since the Second World War. The Sicilian teenager is raised in a strict atmosphere by a tyrant father. She accepts to get married at age 16 with the first man she was proposed to, in order to leave the house where she was secluded. Soon she gives birth and she grows up two daughters up to the age of maturity, like a typical Italian domestic woman, whom the man does not allow to learn or to practice a profession out of their home. Her re- birth of the person takes place when she is about 40 years old, but she will will take revenge on life as they say, divorcing, maintaining numerous relationships with men (many of them younger), and working as a photojournalist at a newspaper in Palermo . Here she will soon come in contact with the sordid realities of poverty and corruption, but especially with the violent society dominated by Cosa Nostra (the name of the Sicilian mob). She will photograph the murders in blood soaked pictures, become a friend of the judges who are trying to fight the phenomenon and who are murdered one after another, and she will get involved in politics when it becomes apparent that journalism activism is no longer enough. This is the biography of a special woman of great courage. The feminist message and the political criticism of violence, corruption, and especially fear are combined directly and expressively.
In order to bring the story of Battaglia's life on the screen, director Kim Longinotto has film sequences, photographs made by Battaglia throughout her work (many of them filled with violence, but of remarkable expressiveness and quality) and testimonies of her own and of those who have surrounded and accompanied her throughout her life (among which some of her former lovers, but also the current one). For the first period of her life, when she was not in front of the film or photo cameras, sequences from the films of the Neo-realistic era of post-war Italian cinema were used. The result is a documentary that is never boring, from a visual or from a message point of view. The spectators get the portrait of a strong and courageous woman who had the power to change the course of her life, to overcome the social and gender prejudices, to love and work in a profession she taught herself in which she excelled, a woman who has not remained indifferent to suffering around her, a woman who has done and continues to do all she knows and can do to correct injustice. 'Shooting the Mafia' is an interesting documentary and a remarkable cinematic portrait. It's also a condemnation of organized crime, showing its the real sordid face, very different from the glamor it gets in some of the Hollywood movies.
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