A woman narrates how she developed a love of photography and how it made her “feel like a person”. In the present day, she comments that still “has fight” in her, and notes how a boy playing in a fountain nearby would make a good photograph. The woman is Sicilian photographer Letizia Battaglia and she has led an extraordinary life. As a photojournalist in the 1970s, she was the first female photographer to work for a local paper. Three days after starting work, she witnessed her first murder. Battaglia dedicated her career to documenting the life and vicious crimes of the Corleonesi Mafia, a task that still haunts her at the age of 84.
‘Shooting the Mafia’ offers an incredible look into one of the bloodiest epochs in Italy's recent history. One should be warned that Battaglia's striking black-and-white photographs become graphic and disturbing from early on and the horror and violence in them is tangible. One at the end of the flick depicting a child is especially horrific. Battaglia talks about wanting to destroy the negatives, but having no right to.
Battaglia reflects on her sad childhood and controlling farther; how she was sent to be a nun and came back an atheist. She notes how women had little freedom in this time, their lives ruled by men and how her marriage was an unhappy one as her husband was, again, controlling. She was determined to break free and proves herself as a force you could easily fall in love with – and as we see from her two ex-boyfriends, who express much love and respect for her, many did.
Our subject is a cool, slightly mad (she reflects that she had to be a bit crazy to give her courage when she received death threats) lady. By the end of the film, she's dating someone 38 years younger than her, has dyed her hair pink, and is taking pictures of this elderly woman who is buck naked. You have to appreciate that ballsiness. Letizia gains amazing insight into the people she photographs. Even her venture into politics are interesting, at a time when the war with the mafia raged on.
The doc effectively, harrowingly communicates the pain of the individual and of the Sicilian nation due to the tyranny of the mafia. The only mild criticism of ‘Shooting the Mafia’ is its perspective gets a bit muddled and one gets the sense that some subtitles were lost in translation. Generally speaking though, it’s a fascinating, albeit unsettling, documentary.