69th Berlinale | 2019
"As Longinotto main focus is the notorious images that Battaglia has taken the film offers an overall narrative of Battaglia life and the confines of her first marriage and the struggle to break free and become her own person."
Shooting The Mafia
Dir. Kim Longinotto
At the Edinburgh International Film Festival back in 2011 Bill Nighy when asked about what films he was looking forward to seeing said ‘this is a film festival, I always go into the film blind with no idea about what I am going to see.' I thought this was a rather wonderful way of experiencing a film festivals and stops you from forging any negativity or anticipation of a film before you see it.
Ever since I have always avoided knowing anything about a film before I see it which served me well for Kim Longinotto' Shooting the Mafia.
The Mafia has, whether we like to admit it or not, been heavily romanticised thanks to books and films. The true horror, evil, and terror of the Mafia and how the Italian Mafia terrorised many aspects of Italian society have perhaps never really been documented. Almost from the offset Shooting the Mafia gives you a hollow, sinking feeling of shock and disbelief. Longinitto carefully unpacks the history of the Mafia through the 70s and 80s and reveals something that makes you feel sick.
Shooting the Mafia does not just put the focus on the Mafia but on one of the most eccentric and inspiring photojournalists of the 20th Century Letizia Battaglia. It is fair to say that unless you really searched and looked into who Battaglia is you wouldn’t know anything about her and yet within this documentary the audience begins to realise just how influential Battaglia is and the salient role that she played in one of Sicily’s deadliest periods.
Battaglia is now 84 and cares even less about the conventions of society doing what she wants to do what she wants to do it. As Longinotto main focus is the notorious images that Battaglia has taken the film offers an overall narrative of Battaglia life and the confines of her first marriage and the struggle to break free and become her own person.
"In reflection perhaps Battaglia was playing her own part in building the notoriety of the Mafia and the body of work Battaglia has created offers a unique insight into a most important part of Italian history, worts and all."
Longinotto spends time trying to unpack this part of the Battaglia and the audience is given a fair glimpse into the issues facing women in Italian society in the 1950s. There are some topics that are not explored as much as they could have been and Battaglia relationship with her daughters is something I would have liked to heave heard more about
It is hard to imagine what this period of life would have been like and how the myth of the Mafia, only killing fellow mafia is instantly dismissed when we see the first image of a dead boy who was killed to ensure he can not become a witness. This image is grotesque and heartbreaking. The lifeless body of a young boy who may have seen his father murdered was himself killed so brutally and without any care or respect to his family.
And yet, even though the core of the social commentary that Battaglia captured during this period may have been the Mafia, Politicians and corruption and death Battaglia also captured life. Through many scenes we see Battaglia walking around with her camera around her neck being inspired by the people around her. There is a deep respect from the people she interacts with who knows who she is and the incredible role she played within their society.
This 'celebrity' doesn't seem to have affected her and though Battaglia is aware of this fame the infamy she's gained is justified. It is too easy to say that Battaglia was able to do what she did and go where she went because she was a woman. That's rubbish, woman or not Battaglia risked everything in order to show the world what was happening. Her camera captured more than just death and misery it captured the immediate aftermath. No other woman or man could have achieved what Battaglia achieved during this time, her gift is rooted in the heart and understanding that she provides her subjects, living or dead.
In a side note, one of the most interesting aspects of Shooting The Mafia was when the police apprehended Bernardo Provenzano in a dirty little farmhouse. This felt worse than the 'fall from grace' it was a shock to see someone with so much power and so much money yet 'he wasn't able to enjoy it.'
What does it mean to be brave or to be willing to put yourself in danger? For Battaglia there was work she was doing that exposed the Mafia in ways few people could have imagined but one thing that really sticks out is why didn't the Mafia kill Battaglia? From judges to lovers and children nobody seemed 'untouchable' in the eyes of the Mafia and yet Battaglia lived and spend twenty years or more exposing their horrors.
In reflection perhaps Battaglia was playing her own part in building the notoriety of the Mafia and the body of work Battaglia has created offers a unique insight into a most important part of Italian history, worts and all.