Sundance 2019: Shooting the Mafia

A still from Shooting the Mafia by Kim Longinotto, an official selection of the World Cinema Documentary Competition at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute.

Shooting the Mafia shows the power that one woman’s act of bravery had in not only exposing Cosa Nostra but putting an end to their control.

The Godfather might possibly be one of the first things that come to mind when it comes to the Mafia.  With this out of the way, Shooting the Mafia introduces us to a brave Sicilian woman, Letizia Battaglia.  Through her job as a photojournalist, she captured a very bloody chapter in Italy.  Nobody said working in journalism would be easy but the first murder she shot is one that affected her.

“Your first murder…never leaves you,” Battaglia says with a pause.

She distinctly remembers both the site and smell of the countryside upon arrival to the scene.  As a photographer, she would shoot pictures of women, children, and streets.  The very last thing that anyone would possibly expect would be shooting pictures of the Mafia.  But hey, somebody has to do the job, right?

This moment in time wouldn’t just be a one-off for Battaglia.  It happened to be the first of many opportunities she had to take them on.  She went to battle against them but not with the same weapons that the Mafia uses when taking on enemies.  Her only weapon was her camera.  Her photos had a way of telling a story in Sicily…just not the story that members of Cosa Nostra preferred.

Here was a woman who turned to a career in photojournalism in the 1970s following her divorce.  She took on a job with L’Ora, a newspaper in Palerno, until they shuttered in the early 1990s.  It’s because of this job that Battaglia took some 600,000 photos depicting life in Sicily.  This is where Battaglia did her most good or damage, depending on whichever way you look at it.

The film includes footage of Judge Giovanni Falcone’s funeral including a powerful eulogy that broad the Church of Saint Dominic to a roaring applause.

“I forgive you but you must get on your knees if you have the courage to change,” Rosaria Schifani said during a very emotional eulogy in the televised funeral.  Her husband, Vito Schifani, had been one of Judge Falcone’s bodyguards.

As a magistrate, Judge Falcone worked to bring down the Mafia until they killed him during the Capaci bombing.  Another bombing less than two months later would take the life of another magistrate, Paolo Borsellino.  The using of this footage really drives home the horrors faced day in and day out.

Shooting the Mafia shows that one’s bravery–even if they’re only doing their job–can make a difference.

DIRECTOR:  Kim Longinotto
FEATURING:  Letizia Battaglia, MariaChiara Di Trapani, Santi Caleca, Eduardo Rebulla, Franco Zecchin, Roberto Timperi

Shooting the Mafia holds its world premiere during the 2019 Sundance Film Festival in the World Cinema Documentary Competition. Grade: 3.5/5

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.