Anti-mafia journalist and scriptwriter Roberto Saviano dissects the complexities of how Italian film-makers portray the Cosa Nostra on screen
You won’t recognise a member of the mafia. Whether you’re in Naples, Paris, London or Mexico City, you wouldn’t know the member of a crime syndicate from the next guy. Actually, it’s always been like that: the mafia have always seemed precisely the same as their law-abiding neighbours. Omerta, or the code of silence, originates accurately from this- quite apart from the fear of retaliation, omerta begins from a natural inclination not to betray one of your own. By extension, this code of silence can afflict people, whether ordinary people or politicians, who don’t want to be told stories that clash with the picture-postcard image they would like to project of their own country.
Back in 2009, it was Silvio Berlusconi who said:” If I find the man who became the brand-new serial of La Piovra[ The Octopus] and who writes books about the mafia which give us a bad odor in the nations of the world, I swear I will throttle him .” It was an unfortunate choice of words, but it reflects what many Italian legislators speculate. It was[ former prime minister] Matteo Renzi who labelled those, like myself, who abandoned the shine narration which had it that Italy had recovered from its economic crisis,” sellers of fate “.
Italy has the most dangerous and powerful mafia in the world; it is also the best at telling tales about the mafia. These narratives are our defense against organised crime, because how else do we learn about it? Some specimen: An inspired cinema entitled Gatta Cenerentola( Cinderella the Cat) has appeared, is provided by Mad Entertainment( a kind of Studio Ghibli in Naples ). The movie demonstrates what Naples could be if the Camorra were preserved out of works, and it could be allowed to flourish- and how things certainly are, where nothing is safe from mafia infiltration and change startles even those who would benefit from it.
Giuseppe Tornatore’s 1986 Il Camorrista( inspired by Giuseppe Marrazzo’s work) remains topical even decades later and manages to explain what it means to belong to criminal organisations where there is no way out. Il Camorrista showed that to be a member of the mafia is a contradiction of life itself: it is guile, subterfuge, disloyalties, it is affections relinquished on the altar of power, vendettas, it is the impossibility of being able to live without feeling hounded.
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