‘Shooting the Mafia’
Playing in the World Cinema Documentary competition of the 2019 Sundance Film Festival. Running time: 94 minutes. Next screenings: Saturday, Jan. 26, 6:30 p.m., Redstone Cinema 1, Park City; Sunday, Jan. 27, 9 p.m., Salt Lake City Library Theatre, Salt Lake City; Wednesday, Jan. 30, 3 p.m., Sundance Mountain Resort Screening Room, Provo Canyon; Thursday, Jan. 31, 2:30 p.m., Prospector Square Theatre, Park City; Friday, Feb. 1, 9 a.m., Temple Theatre, Park City.
Winners write the history books, but survivors are put in the documentaries, and filmmaker Kim Longinotto captures a beautiful portrait of a hearty survivor in photographer Letizia Battaglia in the documentary “Shooting the Mafia.”
Battaglia tells her story of growing up a Catholic girl in her home city of Palermo, Sicily. She rebelled against her strict father, struck out on her own, and eventually got a job as a reporter at L’Ora, the daily newspaper. She soon discovered the camera, and decided she would be a better photographer than a writer.
As a photographer, she captured daily life in Palermo and around Sicily. Daily life, in the 1960s and 1970s, meant daily death, as a Mafia civil war raged around the city. Casualties were in the hundreds, and Battaglia dutifully chronicled the bloodshed in black and white.
Battaglia seems to mark the moments in her life two ways: By the men she bedded (a couple of them come by to chat and reminisce), and by the prosecutors and judges who were assassinated while trying to bring Mafia figures to justice.
Longinotto (“Dreamcatcher,” SFF ’15) uses Battaglia’s story to narrate a fast-moving history of the Mafia in Sicily, a fascinating tale of killers and rogues, surrounded by townsfolk just trying to stay alive through the carnage. She cleverly illustrates Battaglia’s life story with clips from old Italian movies, but the best visuals are the indelible still images from Battaglia’s camera that freeze the images of Sicilian life and death for all time.