Shooting the Mafia is a documentary about an Eighty Four year old, chain smoking photojournalist called Letizia Battaglia. Over her extraordinary career she has documented the tyranny the mafia rained down on her home of Sicily. Directed by Kim Longinotto, another of this year’s Sydney Film Festival’s must see.
This from the Guardian…..
When Letizia Battaglia returned to Palermo in 1974 from a three-year sojourn in Milan, the city was enjoying a period of relative calm. There was the endemic corruption, obviously, and the usual posse of self-serving politicians. But no one was expecting a bloodbath, least of all Battaglia. She was already a 40-year-old mother of three, enjoying her first steady job as picture editor of a city newspaper. She wasn’t looking to cover a war. But war, it seemed, had decided to come looking for her.
Sitting at a low table in her eighth-floor apartment in Palermo, Battaglia, now 84, flicks through some of the iconic images she captured during what Italians call the anni di piombo, the years of (flying) lead. Eighteen years in which the ferocious Corleonesi mafia clan would claim the lives of governors, senior policemen, entire mafia families and, ultimately, two of Battaglia’s dearest friends: the anti-mafia judges Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino.
This May marks the anniversary of Falcone’s assassination by a massive motorway bomb, which also killed the husband of Rosaria Schifani, one of Falcone’s bodyguards. In the intervening years the big drug-trafficking wars have shifted, on a blood meridian, from Sicily to the Mexican border. But Battaglia’s photographs testify that nothing has changed, that none of this is new. The techniques pioneered by the Corleonesi have proved their efficacy. Maximum violence. Total extermination of your rivals. Intimidation of the state.
If horror still lurches reliably out of Battaglia’s pictures, so do the more complicated emotions of pity and despair. To many, these are the qualities that elevate them to the status of art. Battaglia’s reputation has steadily risen over the years, attracting awards and exhibition space as far afield as New York and Amsterdam. But long before the foreign prizes and plaudits arrived, she’d already received domestic recognition of a more heartfelt kind: death threats.
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