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Shooting the Mafia
Sometimes you wander into a topic that you knew little about and find yourself a little engrossed by it. And whether it was quarantine drinks or a lack of other topics, I found myself really into Shooting the Mafia, a recent documentary whose title may throw you off a little.
Directed by Kim Longinetto, the film's focus is on Letizia Battalgia, an Italian woman in Palermo who divorced her husband at the age of 35 and began work into photojournalism, with her primary topic being the behavior and actions of the Corleonesi mafia, which was a sect of figures from Corleone within Palermo. And yes, THAT Corleone, inspired by the Godfather films that we know so much about. Given the scale of the body count and Battaglia's devotion to her work, she amassed more than a half million images of various violent incidents. She eventually became a member of the Palermo City Council and took up various women's causes while resuming her work as a photographer. And her images, combined with the sheer ferocity of what the Corleonesi were doing, led to a boiling point within the population that the crime and violence was too much in the country, and her work has been cited by many as a big reason why. Now in her 80s, she talks about her life and various points of her work and her family as she still takes pictures and smokes cigarettes.
The first half of the film focuses on Battaglia's life and her beginnings and beliefs while introducing some background on the mafia's actions before her work became elevated. When the film shows us the popular tide turning against the mob is when the film starts to elevate itself and allows us to see how important Battaglia's work was. Having all of the bodies pile up was one thing, but the photos put an emotion to them that people may not have been able to see if it wasn't there, and having the Corleonesi capos like Luciano Leggio and Salvatore Riina discuss the mafia in interviews at the time while this stuff was going on was spellbinding.
Things culminated with the assassination of Giovanni Falcone. Falcone had been a longtime anti-mafia magistrate and was instrumental in the Maxi Trials of almost 500 mafia figures in the mid-80s, and a massive amount of explosive was used to blow up a stretch of highway, killing him, his wife and several members of his security detail. This resulted in public outrage and the arrests and convictions of several key members of the Corleonesi, and eventually their social impotence.
Battaglia discusses her life and her work with and without a camera, and how her life has changed since those days. She has her joys and regrets, but she seems sort of aimless in her life. It's a clumsy way of saying it, but it a weird way it seems like she stumbled onto this role in her life and the importance of it is more than what she expected. And perhaps she wanted a sound family life with her husband and daughters. Grass is always greener on the other side or something. But she's a captivating figure through the interviews that are conducted, and she's led a fascinating life.
And if nothing else, Shooting the Mafia does nail that part right. If the focus was supposed to be on Battalgia then the film does lose its way a little bit, but I thought that was for the better, while she narrated additional parts that were particularly important to her personally. By telling the mafia story and Battalglia's recollection of those times and moments it makes an interesting life moreso.
There is a 1.78:1 AVC encode to go with Shooting the Mafia and it looks natural, given that a lot of the film contains film and video from the time and is presented as is here, with oodles of flaws and artifacts. Contemporary footage looks good, with skin wrinkles looking sharp and not too detailed, and no smearing or haloing to speak of. Given the source it was a solid presentation.
The DTS-HD MA 5.1 lossless surround for Shooting the Mafia does not get a lot to do, save for providing some low-end punch to the subwoofer on car explosions or perhaps a gun battle. Mostly the noise is natural and we get dialogue, which sounds clear and consistent.
There's a trailer (2:00), and a conversation with Longinotto (5:38) about the inspiration for this story and working with Battalgia.
Shooting the Mafia gives us a look inside a figure during the 80s and 90s mafia battles who we may not have been familiar with before, who has an interesting place in it despite the cost of her personal life away from the crime scenes. Technically the film looks better than one would expect it to, and the extra is fine, but forgettable. Worth checking out if you are in the market to see something different.