There was an exact moment in the history of Italy when the country went to hell. It was the 23rd of May, 1992 when our descent — into the free-for-all, chaotic, corrupt and idiotic politics that have destroyed both our country and the spirit of the Italian people — started. With the murder of judge Giovanni Falcone, along with his wife and three members of his escort, the Mafia did something so audacious, so criminally out in the open that we could no longer believe it was an organization on the outskirts of society, or how they liked to see themselves, the alternate system to step in when the political one wasn’t working, to help the little man.
In that moment, at that exact point on the highway, where tons of dynamite were triggered, so much so to create a crater of destruction and death that is forever imprinted on any Italian alive at that time, the Mafia showed its true colors. The nauseating colors of the cowards and “cafoni” (roughly “peasant boors”) they really are but more dangerously, of the insiders’ connections they possessed, within the Italian political system. They killed a judge who had dared to convict them as the petty criminals they were.
There was no turning back from that time. Italy had gone to the dogs, and national pride was never regained. It has led us in fact, to our current government, the combination of several obtuse ideologies morphed into the Party of the “Pagnotta” as my Italian friends call it. All out to get their own “bread loaves”, with no care at all for the Italian people or their historic nation.
Letizia Battaglia, her last name not incidentally means “battle,” has been a one-woman army fighting that decline. Through her photographs of the Mafia and the destruction it caused in her home city of Palermo — courageous because each one could have meant her death by execution, if only for having captured the soul of the unworthy, or the wrong moment in time — Battaglia has shown the world what courage, resilience and being Italian really does mean, at its highest form.
And in her latest documentary ‘Shooting the Mafia’ Kim Longinotto shows us an 84-year old Battaglia, unflinching and still going strong, with her signature red hair — which even turns a super cool fuchsia at one point during the film. The film premiered at Sundance before moving onto the Berlinale. Oddly enough, not a single publication where I pitched the film even responded, from newspapers to hip platforms, to magazines and across the web. It seems everyone can agree that being a strong, courageous woman who has fought a battle for humanity is not worth talking about in the media. We are forever condemned to being photogenic victims.
I remember once reading that the true meaning of courage isn’t lack of fear, but rather being able to do something heroic despite the anxiety and dread that inspires in us. Battaglia speaks her mind so candidly during the film, and admits to dreaming “of burning my negatives,” and “being haunted by the death they so often portrayed.” She also talks about falling in love, often with much younger men and how she felt like she “started to be a real person with the camera.” Which she only picked up at 40, as an extension to her reporting work. “I’m combative and I hate bullying,” she also states and how those words resonated deeply in my own mind. Being bullied as a woman is a daily occurrence, happening in small gestures and not-so-subtle nuances. It’s an action meant to distract us from being who we are meant to become. Phenomenal. As Battaglia proves herself to be.
A film about a woman telling the true story of the corrupt establishment without doubts? Well, no wonder it’s the best film no one will talk about at each of the festivals where it participated. Oh, and did I forget, told by another woman, an exceptional filmmaker who gets to the heart of the story and deep down into the soul of the woman she features in her film.
I would say show your daughters, sisters, mothers and wives ‘Shooting the Mafia’ but you probably won’t. Because a courageous woman is the most dangerous weapon we could have in destroying all that is bad with the world. And then… What would we write about, talk about and vote about?