Anti-mob message resonates

As Matteo Garrone’s “Gomorrah” gains kudos and global converts to the anti-Mafia cause, Italy continues to spawn new ways to recount its age-old mob problem.

“Gomorrah,” which recently swept the European Film Awards and scooped a Golden Globe foreign film nom isn’t the only recent Italian movie to depict organized crime’s pervasive grip on the country using fresh narrative strands and visuals. 

Hailed as the most realistic Mafia movie ever made, Garrone’s naturalistic crimer is famously based on a best-selling expose of the Neapolitan Camorra syndicate by journo Roberto Saviano, who is in hiding under police protection.

The true tale of another young idealistic reporter, Giancarlo Siani, whom the Camorra assassinated after he stuck his nose in its affairs in the 1980s, will be on Italian screens via 01 Distribuzione in early 2009, helmed by Marco Risi (“Boys on the Outside”). It is titled “Fortapasc,” a deliberate Italian distortion of “Fort Apache,” the John Ford/John Wayne classic western, which has become Napolitan slang for Camorra warfare.

“Up until recently the Mafia in Italy was mostly being portrayed in a somewhat picturesque fashion, as if we were afraid of telling the real stuff,” says Risi.

While “Fortapasc” originated before Garrone’s pic, Risi points to “Gomorrah” as “being instrumental in bringing to the fore a different type of Mafia tale.” 

“There is an urgency these days to say certain things,” notes helmer Ruggero Gabbai whose docudrama “Io ricordo” (I Remember) marks the first time family members of innocent citizens slain by Sicily’s Cosa Nostra speak on camera.

Produced by Gabriele Muccino (Seven Pounds) “I Remember” will soon screen to schoolkids throughout Italy and is likely to land a primetime TV slot.

“It’s a historical document that tells you what the Mafia really does: it eliminates people, destroys families, and leaves a big void,” says Gabbai.

He says in a break with the past, he was able to find more than 30 people willing to speak about their loss because “there is a greater (anti-Mafia) consciousness now, and the government is certainly stronger that it used to be.”

In a high-profile Palermo raid on Dec. 16, Italian police swooped down on 89 alleged members of several Sicilian Mafia clans believed to be reorganizing Cosa Nostra after several years in which it had been laying low due to a previous crackdown.

Palermo-born helmer Marco Amenta’s drama “The Sicilian Girl,” due out in Italo theaters in February via Istituto Luce, is the true tale of 17-year-old Rita Atria, the daughter of a Cosa Nostra boss who, after her father was slain in a mob war, became a police collaborator, a decision that drove Atria to take her life, from fear that her days were numbered.

“I am representing the Mafia from the point of view of an adolescent girl,” says Amenta. “Through her eyes we see how ugly and wrong this world is.”

Amenta, who sees himself hailing from the school of such neo-realist masters as Francesco Rosi whose “Salvatore Giuliano” rigorously reconstructed the Mafia powerplay in postwar Sicily, is incensed by Mediaset’s recent telepic “Il capo dei capi” (Boss of Bosses) a biopic of Cosa Nostra don Toto Riina that Riina reportedly watched from his high-security Milan cell. The top-rated skein also came under fire from some crix for “almost making him look like a hero,” as Amenta puts it.

But another recent Italo skein “Romanzo criminale,” (Crime Novel) an offshoot of the eponymous Michele Placido pic about a real Rome mob org with shady government ties is instead Italy’s current critical darling, praised for its innovative raw power and believability and reaping boffo ratings on Rupert Murdoch’s Sky Italia.

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