Once upon a time the mafia



Commentary on the documentary directed by Franco Maresco and on the trajectory of the photographer Letizia Battaglia

On the night of May 23, 1992, Italy was shaken by the news of the “Capaci massacre”, in which judge Giovanni Falcone, his wife Francesca Morvillo (also a magistrate) and security agents Vito Schifani, Rocco Dicillo and and Antonio Montinaro. Organized by the mafia, which placed 500 kilos of explosives on a stretch of the A29 motorway, the attack targeted Falcone, who was returning to Palermo after a work trip to Rome.

The escort agents traveling in the first car died immediately after being hit by the explosion. Falcone and his wife, who were in the second car, were seriously injured and died in hospital the same day from internal bleeding. Only the agents occupying the third vehicle managed to save themselves, despite the injuries caused by the violent explosion.

The wake and funerals of the anti-Mafia judge and his companions in misfortune took place two years later in the Palace of Justice and in the church of San Domingo, leaving a large part of the population of Palermo indifferent, as reported by journalist Giuseppe D'Avanzo. Those who were present at the place of the wake, mainly police officers and members of the “usual tiny Palermo of the honest”, welcomed with spitting, insults (“Assassins”; “Mafiosi”; “Accomplices”; “Go back to Rome, go back to your bribes” ) and a rain of coins on the official representatives of the Italian Republic, condemned to death for the indifference of the “absent city” of the wake and for the contempt for the “poor, hard-faced wretches” coming from the capital, as D'Avanzo underlined.

The journalist focuses his attention on “the tiny Palermo that started going to funerals in 1979”, evoking the names of Boris Giuliano, head of the Judiciary Police, murdered on July 21, 1979; Cesare Terranova, magistrate (25 September 1979); Piersanti Mattarella, President of the Sicilian Region (January 6, 1980); Emanuele Basile, captain of the carabinieri (4 May 1980); Gaetano Costa, attorney (August 6, 1980); Pio La Torre, secretary of the Sicilian section of the Italian Communist Party (April 30, 1982); Carlo Alberto dalla Chiesa, governor of Palermo (September 3, 1982); Mario d'Aleo, captain of the carabinieri (June 13, 1983); and Rocco Chinnici, magistrate (July 29, 1983).[1]

If the wake took place in a tense and hostile atmosphere, the funeral ceremony in the church of São Domingos was marked by the emotional speech of Rosaria Costa, widow of Vito Schifani, who, in addition to asking for justice, sketched the unusual gesture of forgiveness to the mobsters, since that they would kneel down and have the “courage to change”.[2] Less than two months later came the mafia's response with the “massacre on rue D'Amelio”, in which judge Paolo Borsellino, considered Falcone's “older brother”, and five agents from the escort died: Emanuela Loi, Agostino Catalano , Vincenzo Li Muli, Walter Eddie Cosina and Claudio Traina. The only survivor of the July 19 car bomb attack was agent Antonino Vullo, who was parking one of the escort's vehicles at the time of the explosion.

Borsellino's family, who were aware that they were the next target, decided to hold a private ceremony in a small church on the outskirts, believing that the government had not adequately protected him (July 24). Likewise, the newly elected President of the Republic Oscar Luigi Scalfaro, the Minister of Justice Claudio Martelli, former President Francesco Cossiga and the leader of the Italian Social Movement – ​​National Right Gianfranco Fini participated in the rite, which attracted ten thousand people. The agents' funerals, held in Palermo's cathedral three days earlier, had taken place in a tense atmosphere.

Prevented from entering the church, an enraged crowd, made up of people of all ages, kept shouting “Borsellino taught us, apart from the state mafia”, and ended up attacking several politicians, including President Scalfaro and the president of the Council of Ministers Giuliano Amato. Numerous security agents invaded the temple, where Claudia Loi, the sister of the policewoman killed in the attack, made a gesture similar to that of Rosaria Costa, asking for God's help to "forgive these evil men".

It is possible that that enraged crowd, which attacked the representatives of the State, forcing them to leave the church through a secondary door, was constituted by the “tiny little Palermo with a clean face”, which D'Avanzo defines as “no longer desperate […] , but simply disgusted”. In national terms, however, the 1992 massacres had a great impact, as demonstrated by the numerous audiovisual productions dedicated to the events of May 23 and July 19 and to the figures of Falcone and Borsellino.

The “Capaci massacre” was remembered in the film Giovanni Falcone (1993, Giuseppe Ferrara); in the television miniseries L'attentatuni (2001, Claudio Bonivento); in the documentary In another country (2005, Marco Turco); and television production I saw pardon ma ingininocchiatevi (2012, Bonivento). Also, he was mentioned in the movies The celebrity (the divo, 2008, Paolo Sorrentino), The mafia kills only in the summer (The mafia only kills in the summer, 2013, Pif)[3] e The traitor (2019, Marco Bellocchio) and in television productions The boss of bosses (2007, Alexis Sweet and Enzo Monteleone) and The young Montalbano (2015, Andrea Camilleri and Francesco Bruno). The “massacre on Rue D'Amelio” was evoked in television films I giudici – Excellent cadavers (1999, Ricky Tognazzi) and Paolo Borsellino – I 57 days (2012, Alberto Negrin); in the documentaries Paolo Borsellino: a life of erosion (2010, Lucio Miceli and Roberta Di Casimirro) and Paolo Borsellino – Adesso touches me (2017, Francesco Micciche); in film production Gli angeli di Borsellino (2003, Rocco Cesareo); and in the miniseries Paolo Borsellino (2004, Gianluca Maria Tuvarelli). In addition, an episode in the life of the two magistrates was reconstructed by Fiorella Infascelli in the film era d'estate (2015)

The work of building a memory through audiovisual media – the cultural field closest to the general population – had its results contested by Franco Maresco, who was particularly critical of The boss of bosses, which defines “a morally and aesthetically obscene series”, and The mafia kills only in the summer. your documentary The mafia is no longer what it once was (Once upon a time the mafia, 2019)[4] takes a deeply ironic and disenchanted look at the indifference to violence and the instrumentalization of memory by a society that “values ​​only the moment”, as he declared in the interview given to Cristina Piccino in 2019.

The indifference of a good part of the population of Palermo in relation to the deaths of the two magistrates is recorded by him in the sequences of the market and the peripheral Zen district,[5] in which people say they know nothing about them, while refusing to comment on the mafia. One of the interviewees, when considered similar to Tommaso Buscetta, immediately clears up the misunderstanding, proposing a comparison with Diego Armando Maradona. In this case, it is not a simple preference for the world of sport, but a defensive gesture, since Buscetta was considered a traitor by the mafia, for having collaborated with justice in Italy (with Falcone, in particular) and in the United States. States, revealing not only organizational charts and plans, but also its relationships with the political world.[6]

The instrumentalization of the memory of the two judges is condensed by Maresco in the spectacularization of the day of May 23, 2017, which recalled the twenty-five years of the bloody episodes. The camera records an anti-mafia “with a facade and a festive ceremony”, made up of “happy and ignorant” students, heading towards “Falcone’s tree”[7], epicenter of the celebrations. Proposed by Mauridal, the concept of a “useless celebratory anti-mafia” finds support not only in the festive behavior displayed by young people, but also in the idea that the mafia mentality ended up contaminating Italian politics with its “arrogance and corruption”, as director never get tired of underlining.

The ironic and, not infrequently, impatient tone adopted in these sequences of the documentary turns into pure derision when Ciccio Mira, a small businessman of popular festivals, enters the scene, whose ignorance and whose boastfulness are mercilessly exposed by Maresco. Nothing escapes his gaze. The precarious command of the language, the lack of culture (the moment when Mira is induced to admit that “Imgma Berga” was an “Arab” director is anthological), the evasions, the attempts to show himself to be important, the balance never reached between loyalty to the mafia and the promotion of a show in memory of two of the biggest victims of the organization are exposed without complacency and with an evident taste for scracho.

None of the people in the entrepreneur's circle escape this demolishing vision. The cowardice of the sepulchral Matteo Mannino, his right-hand man in the Neomelodic by Falcone and Borsellino, is represented by the variousNo comment” with which he escapes embarrassing questions about the mafia. The precariousness of Mira's squad reaches its highest point in the catatonic figure of Cristian Miscel, an unlikely singer who cannot produce articulate sounds and comprehensible words and whose scenic presence is more than clumsy.

Everything about Mira is grotesque and satirical. The manager, the partner, the neo-melodic singers offer scenes of involuntary humor when focused on by the merciless camera of the director, interested – as Mauridal writes – in “reaffirming […] the denial, the oblivion of the common people of Palermo and Sicily, in general little acculturated, in relation to the mafia”. From this denial and this forgetfulness springs the monstrous character of the characters, symbolized by cowardly or incongruous attitudes and speeches.

This is the case of Zen residents, who claim they don't have time to watch the show organized by Mira and Mannino because they have to take care of the family. By Cristian Miscel, who claims to have come out of a coma following a car accident thanks to the figures of Falcone and Borsellino[8], but who refuse to say their names and assume an anti-mafia gesture in the show. And particularly Mira and Mannino, caught on a hidden camera in a pathetic attempt to profile the two magistrates and express a critical attitude towards the mafia. In a sequence marked by highly comic moments, the two partners end up summarizing Falcone and Borsellino's contribution to something that had nothing to do with the duties of a magistrate: they had contributed to improvements in the city, including lighting, parks and kindergartens…

Mira, however, is not without certain rhetorical resources. symbol of omerta, that is, the complicity with the status quo, the businessman, who misses the mafia of yesteryear, comments on an attitude of the President of the Republic with a lapidary sentence: “Silence is in the DNA of Palermitans”. In another moment, when asked about who ordered a party from him, he comes out with a cultured literary recollection: “Nobody”. It is, as he explains, the episode of Ulysses and Polyphemus. At Odyssey, the Homeric hero and his companions enter the cave of Polyphemus in search of food. After the giant ate two of his companions, Ulisses offers him wine and says his name is Nobody, which allows the group to escape the cyclops' revenge, since there was no one responsible for the giant's blindness.[9] Mira, by the way, is the one who suggests the title of the 2019 documentary, as Maresco makes use of a phrase said by him in a previous film, Belluscone, a Sicilian story (2014)

A kind of ethnomusicological documentary, which ended up being finalized by critic Tatti Sanguineti after Maresco's psychic breakdown (tired of the countless problems that arose during filming), the realization has as its guiding thread the vicissitudes of the entrepreneur and two of his hired men, the neomelodic Erik and Vittorio Ricciardi who sing I wanted to meet Berlusconi in the squares of the Sicilian capital. Through Mira, a great admirer of the prime minister, the director proposes an investigation sui generis about Silvio Berlusconi's relations with Sicily, that is, with the mafia, resulting in a political film, which talks “about Italians and Italy, a film about us and for us, if we had the courage to see what we are , even if deformed in the absurd faces of the characters freaks of Maresco”. The author of these words, Dario Zonta, detects in Maresco-Sanguineti's work the analysis of “a cultural and anthropological phenomenon, apparently only Sicilian, but, in reality, intimately Italian”.

To the dubious figure of Mira, who misses the mafia of yesteryear and who tries to please all kinds of clientele, the director contrasts the sunny and irreverent image of Letizia Battaglia, a photographer who, since 1974, has been at the forefront of the fight against mafia with its taking victims of the criminal organization. The chromatic choice made by Maresco to deal with these two figures representing two figures of Palermo is highly symbolic.

The very sharp black and white, used to characterize Mira, contrasts with the softer colors that define Battaglia's profile, revealing the director's position: although he declares himself cynical for putting mafia and anti-mafia on the same plane, he has awareness that the photographer is the living symbol of the memory of a phenomenon that Italy and not just Sicily want to stifle. Battaglia's presence in The mafia is no longer what it once was can be seen as a return of the repressed, of those aspects of life in Palermo and on the peninsula that society would rather not remember. The photographer, after all, shares with Maresco the idea that the mafia has changed its face: “it hardly kills anymore. It is no longer necessary. Many of the mobsters are already in power, in charge of the economy or politics”.

Another trait that Battaglia shares with the director is perplexity at the demonstration that was supposed to honor the judges murdered by the mafia, but which is much more like a party. Maresco claims to have chosen the photographer's presence for a precise reason: she represents “the noblest symbol of the anti-mafia; she is the first to define that ceremony as a party, in which only the sow is missing, indignant with the way in which the facts are remembered ”. In addition, her presence resizes the presence of the figure of Mira, demonstrating that there are not only “monsters” and “apocalypses”, but also a point of view that the director ironizes, opening space for a replica of the friend, capable of questioning her own beliefs. attitudes.

Battaglia's entry into the scene leads the film to alternate ironic and funny moments – such as the scene in the hairdresser's salon, or the encounter with the trans prostitute, who intends to receive 50 euros for having lost a client due to the presence of the photographer and a colleague in a lonely place – and tragic moments, represented by some images of mafia victims. Maresco evokes the photographer's work for the newspaper Time, from Palermo, with which he collaborated between 1974 and May 1992, when editorial activities ended. The first photojournalist in Italy to cover police news, Battaglia considers that the period in which she worked for her hometown newspaper corresponded to an “awareness-raising”. Camera in tow, he became a “witness to all the evil that was taking place. There were years of civil war: Sicilians against Sicilians. The best judges, the most courageous journalists, the prepared policemen, the politicians averse to corruption were murdered. And women and even children.”

If, in wanderings around Palermo, Maresco and his guest evoke other mafia victims like Piersanti Mattarella and Peppino Impastato[10], one cannot fail to point out that the documentary makes room for other aspects of the photographer's activity, attentive to everything that happened in the city: looks and gestures of women and children, children's games, streets and popular neighborhoods, parties, traditions, wealth , poverty… Battaglia's preference for photographs of women, as they are “more poetic” and represent “lightness”, is reaffirmed in the documentary in the sequences of Zen. With her camera in her shoulder, she wanders around the neighborhood, which she got to know in even more precarious conditions.[11], and is dedicated to documenting women and children, whose faces and gestures are added to a vast archive dedicated to the observation of small and unpretentious lives.

The documentary records other aspects of the photographer's life: political militancy; the disillusionment with Sicily and the period of “exile” in Paris (she leaves Palermo making the gesture of the fuck you); the return to his hometown and the opening of the International Photography Center at Zisa's Cultural Shipyards.[12] A councilor for the Green Party between 1985 and 1991, Battaglia then joined Rede, a left-wing association characterized by an anti-mafia agenda; she is elected deputy of the Regional Assembly (1991-1996), but does not consider the experience positive, because, even with “a lot of money […], she could not do anything more for the city or for Sicily”.

Finally, in 2012, she ran as a candidate in the municipal elections for Esquerda Ecologia Liberdade, but was not elected.[13] Political militancy encompasses other activities not covered in the film: participation in the founding of the Sicilian Documentation Center (1977), dedicated to Giuseppe Impastato since 1980; voluntary work at the Real Casa dos Loucos from 1982; and organization, with Simona Mafai[14] and three companions, from the feminist magazine mezzocielo (1992), whose slogan is “voices of women who are not silent”.

The disillusionment with Sicily coincides with the murders of the two judges. Battaglia, who had captured Falcone and Borsellino in several images, was unable to photograph the Capaci and Rue D'Amelio massacres. In an interview given in 2019, he explains the reasons that led him not to document those episodes: “What should I photograph? Those torn places looked like the end of a society, with wrecked cars that flew into the trees, pieces of bodies everywhere. It was a horrible thing. I was there, with the camera in tow, but I couldn't take a picture. I feel it inside me as a guilt, a limit because a photographer has a duty to photograph”.

Using a testimony from the photographer, Piero Melati (who was her colleague in Time), in addition to clarifying that she also failed to record the scene of Chinnici's murder in 1983, adds one more fact to the 1992 decision: "Today I regret it, but after 19 hellish years, I felt oppressed by a profound crisis: we had not saved Falcone and Borsellino. Too much horror, I was finished.” Despite feeling defeated and seeing that the mafia had ever-increasing power, she founded a small publishing house, Edizioni della Battaglia, in which she invested all her capital, launching countless works against the organization. Unable to bear the oppressive climate of Palermo any longer, she “takes refuge” in Paris in 2003, but returns after eighteen months.

Opened to the public on November 25, 2017, the International Photography Center is run by Battaglia until November 2020 and stands out for organizing exhibitions and courses, in addition to hosting the city's photographic archive. Interested in creating a participatory perspective, Battaglia organizes specific courses for children aged between 10 and 14 and disseminates the results in exhibitions such as Beyond the selfie: the photo of the kids (December 2018).

The removal of the directorship of the entity is determined by an external fact: the participation in the publicity campaign With Italy, for Italy, promoted by Lamborghini. Developed in 2020, the campaign had the participation of twenty-one photographers responsible for promoting the brand's cars in association with landscapes of peninsular cities. In charge of the Palermo stage, the photographer works with two young models: a redhead with a fair, freckled complexion and a naive and rather vacant look; and a brunette with blonde highlights, wearing shorts and a top or a bathing suit and posing rather cheekily, either alone or with another girl. Such images are heavily criticized for reinforcing the advertising clichés that establish an association between woman and engine, with inevitable erotic components. Accused of sexism and erotization of teenage figures, Battaglia decides to leave the direction of the International Center of Photography after the mayor of Palermo orders the suspension of the campaign in the city.

The photographs for Lamborghini are, without a doubt, quite different from those that have consecrated it since the 1970s.[15], and the more direct poses of the brunette girl, which could evoke autochthonous roots, do not bring in themselves that promise of the future, detected by Battaglia in the girls of the popular neighborhoods of Palermo, which had been recorded in a deeply expressive black and white.

A comparison between the shot of the red-haired girl and the iconic image of the girl with the soccer ball (1980) is quite illuminating in this regard. If the first seems alien to the environment in which she is inserted and the yellow car with which she should be related, the second, characterized by a direct and daring look, gives the opposite impression: not only is she at ease in the place where she was discovered by photographer, how she chose the pose to be fixed by the camera lens. Another comparison based on the looks captured by Battaglia will help to establish the difference between the two moments. The expressiveness of the gaze and the spontaneity of girl with bread (1979), caught in the same port neighborhood as the girl from 1980, creates a sharp contrast with the artificial poses of the brunette girl in the advertising campaign. The disheveled hair and worn dress in the first photograph are consistent with the precarious environment in which the little girl lives.

The girl in the advertising campaign images, on the contrary, seems to have been forcibly inserted into an environment that is foreign to her tastes and habits (church square) and gives the impression of not being comfortable in the shot where she appears hugging her partner (street of popular trade); symptomatically, the least problematic photograph is that of the beach, which records her from the back.

Battaglia's idea was to create images of a “girl city”, capable of expressing the dream of a “sincere and respectful world”, but, as Helga Marsala writes, this “honest rhetoric” did not find the most adequate form of expression: it is not understood what the relationship exists between the girls, the luxury car and the city to be celebrated, of which almost nothing is seen. In addition, it is not possible to perceive the concept that guides the project, much less determine its central axis in terms of communication, “other than that yellow that devours the visual field, despite the declared intention of leaving the car in the background, as an 'accessory' element”. Finally, it is difficult to understand what the images are intended to stimulate in the viewer, as the girls seem to be in a scenario “without the endorsement of a story, of a claim dazzling, with a meaning capable of corresponding to an adequate iconographic power”.

This slip, however, should not make you lose sight of the photographer's tireless political militancy, which still unfolds in the work carried out at the psychiatric institution and in mezzocielo. “Attracted by madness”, in the wake of Franco Basaglia's anti-psychiatric ideas, she collaborated for some years with the “very closed world” of the Real Casa dos Loucos, organizing theatrical laboratories and various occupational activities. This contact resulted in a set of images, which was only released at the exhibition. Letizia Battaglia: for pure passione[16], shown at Maxxi in Rome between November 2016 and April 2017, and the films august party e Vatini. Bimonthly magazine of politics, culture and environment, mezzocielo, in turn, responds closely to Battaglia's ideals, as it is conceived as a point of “meeting, reflection and initiative in a land marked by the mafia and violence, but also by a diffuse and capillary desire for rebirth”.

The engagement in mezzocielo demonstrates that the photographer has a broad vision of feminism, which encompasses the most burning themes of the present moment to make women an agent of transformation in society, based on an awareness. In an interview given to Silvia Mazzucchelli, she acknowledges that she has always privileged female figures in her photographs because they did not have “due evidence in society”. And he adds that, if working with women is complicated because they are “7a little marked”, having learned from men to be “a little distrustful, a little jealous”, this does not prevent him from underlining that they fulfill their own duty more, because they are not negligent.

Lucid in relation to her own contribution, Battaglia declares that photography “does not change the world”, but, in the same way that a good book, a work of art, music, can be a “small flame” and a “vehicle for the growth". Photography and culture are part of the fight against the “calls of war, capitalism, religions”, but “nothing can change the world if not conscience itself”.

An “against the mafia” photographer, as she likes to describe herself, Battaglia conceives her work as a melee with the subject for an ethical reason: “I can be kicked and spit on, but I always want the people framed to be aware that I am photographing them”. The search for a similar condition for the photographer and the photographed is not without risks, as evidenced by the images of the arrest of the mafioso boss Leoluca Bagarella (1979), who gave him a kick that Battaglia managed to dodge, without, however, , avoid a fall. As she herself recalls: “The power of Bagarella's photo is not only in his fierce expression, but it also depends on me because I had the courage to approach him. I have always used the wide-angle lens, which obviously imposes a certain proximity to the subject”. At times, this closeness implies an emotional involvement, which can result in an image with religious connotations. This is what happens with the photograph of the murder of Piersanti Mattarella (1980): the shot of his brother Sergio's removal of his body from the car was compared by journalist Michele Smargiassi to a “representation of Pietà”.

The use of strict black and white in the most violent photographs has its reason for being: Battaglia states that “the red of blood in color photographs is terrible”. But it's not just the color that bothers her: “The smell of the blood of the dead never left me, every time I arrived at the scene of a crime I was overcome by nausea”. This is not only a physiological manifestation, but also a psychic one, since, death after death, she felt a weight on her conscience for being part of “that civil society that had not rebelled”. That's why she believes that images of her are not works of art, but rather testimonies of a complex situation in which not everyone is a mafiosi, but not an innocent either.

However, the artistic dimension can be detected in many of his shots. The Brazilian public was able to appreciate two of them in the exhibition presented at Instituto Moreira Salles in 2018-2019 – the portrait of Rosaria Costa (1992) and the composition entitled Editing: Rosaria, Eleonora of Aragon, Marta (2010) –, in which the horror that permeates the most scathing photographs gives way to a feeling of empathy towards a tragic and intensely poetic female figure. The image of Falcone's bodyguard's widow is the result of a deliberate choice, and can be compared with those of the girls that Battaglia considers “his” because he chose them as models. The unusual result of the composition, marked by an intense tonal contrast, is explained in the interview given to Valerio Millefoglie in 2020: “There was the light and there was the part that remains in darkness. I placed it in the middle so that half of the face was in shadow. She has these shiny, black eyes, I ask her to close them and something even more dramatic comes out.” The approximation between three female images in the reworking 2010 is attributed by her to “the need to build a different world, to reinvent it, to have desperate hope, Marta is young, Rosaria was a woman who suffered a lot, Eleonora de Aragão is a symbol of pride in art”.

Located in the center of the composition, the idealized bust of Elenora of Aragon, the most powerful woman on the island in the 1484th century, establishes a peculiar temporal relationship between the immediate past (Rosaria) and the present/future (Marta). Sculpted by Francesco Laurana between 1491 and XNUMX to appear in his cenotaph, the posthumous portrait of the noblewoman is distinguished by the stylized representation of an adolescent girl, endowed with great formal perfection, close to abstraction (mainly due to the pure oval of her face and the elegant treatment of the neck) and an enigmatic expression enhanced by the half-closed eyelids.[17] Transformed into point, Eleonora's image closely responds to the photographer's desire to create a new center of magnetism in relation to the figure of Rosaria marked by mourning. Associated with the photograph of Marta, Battaglia's teenage granddaughter, the figure of the noblewoman contributes to the invention of a different reality, capable of challenging “the immobility of mimesis” and suggesting a new message for the society of the future, according to Silvia Mazzucchelli.[18]

The re-elaboration with the three female figures, in which two elements stand out that bring contemporary women closer to the illustrious ancestor – Rosaria's closed eyes and Marta's adolescence –, is part of a set elaborated in the XNUMXst century, which also received the names of “Displacements” and “Digressions”. According to the photographer, its origin must be attributed to the fact that she could no longer bear her own passivity in relation to the most violent images: “Adding photos of the dead to photos of the living, young people, children, women was a way to invent another reality, to displace the famous point of the murdered man. This is evident in compositions such as Re-elaboration: the mother believes that her son was killed (2005) Re-elaboration: Chiara and the murdered man among the crates (2009) Rework: The Dry Tree (2009) Re-Elaboration: The Killer's Game (2012)

In the first, a photograph from 1980 occupies the upper part of the composition, while in the lower part the figure of a naked girl in the water stands out holding the same half-faded image, which resembles a flower. The 2009 re-elaborations use the same matrix, also dating from 1980. Also naked, the young Chiara looks at the corpse lying on the ground, holding a black veil in her hand. The dry tree, which appears next to the dead man in the original image, is not present in the second composition, although a contrast is proposed with the flowering branch in the hands of a naked young woman.[19] In the last one, the boy playing bandit with his face covered by a sock, captured in 1982, is associated with a photograph of a girl leaving the sea with her breasts bare, suggesting that she would be the victim of the time.

The trajectory of Battaglia and his relationship with Palermo, made up of pain, love, passion, disgust and anger, in which the camera becomes “another heart, another head”, capable of registering the feeling that the mafia had affected trust and the dignity of society as a whole, preventing the existence of a civic life, makes it possible to understand the reason for his choice as a guide for a Maresco, to wander through the city “among the places and faces that are, at the same time, the first victims and the culture broth of the mafia”, as Fabio Ferzetti opportunely writes. With her hope (in the mayor, in culture, in memory), the photographer is a counterpart to the “total and probably even programmatic” disillusionment of the director, who finds in Mira a kind of deforming mirror, in which is reflected “his own cynicism, but with the sign inverted, capable, therefore, of placing itself, without the slightest scruples, at the service of whoever makes the best offer”.

The contrast between Battaglia's engaged or poetic photographs and the bizarre, pathetic and grotesque universe that surrounds Mira reaches its apogee in the final sequences of the documentary, in which a boy is the only spectator of the commemoration of May 23, 2018, dedicated to the president Sergio Mattarella. To the sound of the Italian national anthem, a group of mambembe dancers perform in a caricature of XNUMXth-century patriotic shows, reinforcing Maresco's disillusionment with the fate of Sicily and the country.[20]

The committed photographer and the chameleonic and slippery businessman constitute the two faces of Palermo, divided between an intellectual elite, which is not afraid to oppose the mafia, and a lumpenproletarian and ignorant population, which does not dare to manifest itself or exhibits indifferent or threatening attitudes. in the face of questions from the director. The sarcastic and, not infrequently mocking, tone with which Maresco addresses his interlocutors leaves a question in the air: is he not failing to take into account that the “culture of silence” is a complete demonstration that the mafia continues to exercise menacing in town despite having refined his methods of intimidation?

If the posters of Belluscone, a Sicilian story e The mafia is no longer what it once was - the first, with the figure of Mira in the foreground, surrounded by a mosaic of characters from local and national public life, against a backdrop typical of popular festivities; the second, divided into two parts to house the image of Battaglia with the inseparable camera, and a frame of the stage set up in Zen with the businessman and Mannino – the answer can only corroborate the doubt raised by the documentary. While the presence of dubious figures like Mira, Mannino, the circus of horrors that surround them and a degraded and cowardly population seems to confirm the equivalence of mafia and anti-mafia, Letizia Battaglia – whose name constitutes a kind of oxymoron for enclosing the ideas of joy and combat – it is a hope of civic rescue, which Maresco cannot completely escape, as she was not intimidated by the threats suffered over the years, nor managed to stay away from the city, despite considering it polluted by the organization criminal.

* Annateresa Fabris is a retired professor at the Department of Visual Arts at ECA-USP. She is the author, among other books, of Photography and the crisis of modernity (W/Art).


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CAVALLARO, Felice. “Mafia, Rosaria Costa vedova Schifani: 'Mio fratello è un Caino, ora si inginocchi lui'” (20 Feb. 2019). Available in: . Accessed on: 20 Jul. 19.

CELANI, Christina. “Letizia Battaglia che si è prey il mondo” (22 Dec. 2020). Available in:https://www.tropismi.it/2020/12/22/letizia-battaglia-che-si-e-presa-il-mondo>. Accessed on: 8 Jul. 2021.

D'AVANZO, Giuseppe. “Vergogna, vergogna murderi” (May 25, 1992). Available in:https://www.repubblica.it/online/politica/falconedue/queigiornitre/ queigiornitre.html>. Accessed on: 28 Jun. 2021.

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[1] The cases of dalla Chiesa and Chinnici are considered “massacres”, as they resulted in the death of several people. The one by dalla Chiesa is known as the “Carini Street Massacre”; that of Chinnici, as the “Pipitone Street Massacre”.

[2] As I was in Italy at that time, I watched the television broadcast of the religious rite and the images of the despair of that twenty-two-year-old girl, mother of a four-month-old boy, were imprinted in my memory. Helped by a priest, Rosaria Costa begins to read her speech, demonstrating a certain calm; when talking about forgiveness and the impossibility of mobsters changing, she bursts into tears. She calms down, she continues her speech, but when she implores protection for the city of Palermo, she starts crying again and hugs the priest. The video can be seen at:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v= ff0wgrghCBM>.

[3] The film was shown in Brazil at the Festa do Cinema Italiano 2016.

[4] The documentary was presented at this year's Italian Film Festival.

[5] Acronym for North Expansion Zone, the neighborhood, whose official name is São Filipe Neri, is a typical example of unsuccessful state architectural intervention. The architectural degradation of housing complexes is a consequence of the social degradation of the neighborhood, characterized by high rates of school dropout, minor criminal episodes and the presence of the mafia.

[6] Buscetta passed through Brazil on several occasions: in the 1950s, he owned a glass factory; in 1972 he was arrested in Santa Catarina and extradited; he lived in São Paulo between 1981 and 1983, where he underwent plastic surgery and an intervention to modify his voice. Arrested in October 1983, he was extradited in July of the following year and became a collaborator of justice, revealing Mafia projects and structures to Falcone. The flight to Brazil in the 1980s had heavy consequences for his family, as twenty relatives were murdered by the mafia; among them, sons Benedetto and Antonio (September 11, 1982), brother-in-law Giuseppe Genova and nephew Orazio D'Amico (December 26, 1982), brother Vincenzo (December 29, 1982) and brother-in-law Pietro Busetta (December 7, 1984). His story was told in the movies The repentant (1985, Pasquale Squitieri) and The traitor and in the documentary Our godfather: the true story of Tommaso Buscetta (2019, Mark Franchetti and Andrew Meier).

[7] Soon after Falcone's death, the tree located in front of the building where he lived at 23, Notarbartolo street, became a place of pilgrimage. Over the years, drawings, letters, photographs, messages, small objects and a sheet with the inscription “Your ideas walk on our legs” have been hung from its branches. Borsellino, for his part, was honored with an olive tree planted in the Garden of Memory in Palermo, dedicated to mafia victims, in July 2004.

[8] As clarified by a psychiatrist who takes care of the singer, he was never in a coma and the evocation of the figures of the judges must be a ruse by Mira.

[9] In Italian secondary education, the Iliad and Odyssey they are required reading, which explains Mira's reference to the Homeric episode.

[10] Journalist, broadcaster and Proletarian Democracy militant, Giuseppe Impastato was murdered by the mafia on May 9, 1978. His story was remembered in the film I cento passi (the hundred steps, 2000), by Marco Tullio Giordana.

[11] In 1986, Battaglia founded the magazine Grandevú – Grandezze and Bassezze della Città di Palermo and in issue 1 (December) he publishes an article about the neighborhood.

[12] Located in an old industrial area of ​​Palermo, the Shipyards host exhibitions and cultural events in general. In addition to the International Center of Photography, they house the French Institute, the Goethe Institute, the Sicilian Gramsci Institute, the local headquarters of the National School of Cinema, the Academy of Fine Arts, the Regional Film Library and a cinema room, among others.

[13] Rede and Esquerda Ecologia Liberdade were short-lived parties: the former operated between 1991 and 1999; the second, from 2009 to 2016.

[14] Daughter of the painters Mario Mafai and Antonietta Raphaël, she began her political activism as a teenager (1943). After her marriage to the secretary of the Communist Party of Palermo, Pancrazio De Pasquale (1952), she moved to Sicily, where she lived until 1962. She lived in Rome between 1962 and 1967, the year in which she settled in Palermo. Elected senator in 1976, she served until 1979; between 1980 and 1990 she is councilor in Palermo. She leaves the Communist Party in 1990 and becomes an activist for the Sicilian Women Association for the Fight against the Mafia. In 1992, she founded mezzocielo, “a newspaper aimed at everyone, but conceived and directed by women”. She dies in 2019, aged 81.

[15] The Normans settled in southern Italy in the XNUMXth century. In the following century, Roger II of Hauteville created a centralized kingdom, whose greatest symbol was the architectural and artistic splendor of the capital Palermo.

[16] One of the photographs from the series was shown at the exhibition Letizia Battaglia: Palermo, organized by Instituto Moreira Salles (Rio de Janeiro, September 30, 2018-March 24, 2019; São Paulo, April 27-September 22, 2019).

[17] Granddaughter of Frederick III of Aragon, sovereign of the Kingdom of Sicily, in the mid-1360s, she marries Guglielmo Peralta, Duke of Caltabellotta. Owner of numerous manors, she was honored by a descendant with the order of a marble bust for her cenotaph. As she had died in 1405, Francesco Laurana elaborated three versions of the work, which are currently in the Regional Gallery of the Altobellis Palace (Bust of Eleonora of Aragon), at the Louvre Museum (bust of young) and at the Jacquemart-André Museum (Bust of unknown woman), in Paris. The example of Palermo is the one found in the Abbey of Santa Maria del Bosque (Calatamaurus), from where it was transferred at the beginning of the XNUMXth century.

[18] Ironically, an episode that took place in February 2019 corroborates Maresco's skepticism regarding the possibility of changes in a society marked by the presence of the mafia: the arrest of Giuseppe Costa, brother of Schifani's widow, for mafia association.

[19] This composition appears in Mazzucchelli's articles with different titles and dates: in the 2012 one, it is called the dry tree (2009); in 2016, the jasmine (2004)

[20] How would the director view the last tribute paid to the two magistrates in Palermo? This year, the artist Andrea Buglisi painted two mural portraits of Falcone and Borsellino on the blind gables of two buildings located near the bunker room of the Ucciardone penitentiary, where the great trial against the mafia took place, which began in February 1986 and was concluded in December of the following year, involving 460 defendants and 200 lawyers. Entitled The Giants' Gate, the work represents Falcone with a deep and almost melancholy look; located behind armored glass, its face is divided into two halves: the upper one is painted in a faded green tone, the lower one in shades of brown. With a cigar in his mouth, Borsellino, on the other hand, displays a haughty look directed towards the horizon.


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