Kim Longinotto’s comprehensive portrait of Sicilian photographer Letizia Battaglia
For nearly twenty years in the 70s and 80s, Battaglia was the reluctant but driven chronicler of the true savagery of the Mafia in her native Palermo. She would arrive at the scene of murders and record in stark black and white the blood-splattered victims of the Corleonesi crime family. Even as death threats against her mounted, Battaglia became a voice for the terrified and exploded the myth that the Mafia only killed each other.
Thanks to Longinotto, Battaglia now has an even bigger audience. Offering more than just biography, the director also has access to an impressive array of archival video and film footage, simultaneously presenting an in-depth history of 20th-century Sicily. She also folds in clips from period Italian films, blending reality and fiction in a way that emphasises how the savagery of mafia activity takes on an almost cinematic quality, despite its horror.
Organised crime has often been flecked with a tragic, romantic aura that softens some of its viciousness. Not here. The bloody bodies of Battaglia’s snapshots throw the truth of the Cosa Nostra into sharp, stark relief. (Research Chris Coetsee) More Goodfellas than Godfather, but neither. This is real.