This is the year of the mafia—at least at the box office.
Two films on organized crime in Italy, each fact-based melodramas, took top prizes at the Cannes Film Festival in May and are drawing packed audiences here. The Italian movie industry was giddy over the double win.
"Gomorrah: A Personal Journey into the Violent International Empire of Naples' Organized Crime System," the film adaptation of a diary-like book by journalist Roberto Saviano that focuses on the Naples-based mob known as Camorra, took home Cannes' grand prize. "Il Divo," a film directed by Paolo Sorrentino, won the jury honor for its original portrayal and analysis of former Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti.
Sorrentino, a 38-year-old native of Naples, said he spent years contemplating how to explore Andreotti, a towering figure in Italian politics whose career was shadowed by suspicions of connections to the Sicilian-based Cosa Nostra. "It's such a provocative subject," he said during an interview in the Rome office of his film distributor.
The longtime prime minister faced criminal charges over the killing of a journalist who wrote that Andreotti had mafia ties and was implicated in the notorious kidnap-murder of politician Aldo Moro. Andreotti denied all charges. Over time, he was acquitted then convicted on appeal. Then that conviction was annulled. He remains a senator for life.
Andreotti's story has tantalized the Italian public—and perhaps any society ready to examine how a power class maintains itself, Sorrentino said. The film also opened the same month as the 30th anniversary of Moro's death, a time when dozens of new books are looking back on the scandalous killing.
"It's not something of the past," Sorrentino said of "Il Divo." "It's of today and tomorrow. Within power, criminal organizations have a place. ... The Italian state fights it, but on different tracks."
Both "Il Divo" and "Gomorra," directed by Matteo Garrone, have triggered discussions about the relentless criminality of Italian society.
"Italians are tired of not knowing," Sorrentino said of the films' popularity. "They want to know the mechanisms of power in Italy. In America, scandals and secrets at the top powers? In time, the truth comes out.
"In Italy, the truth never comes out."
Thanks to Christine Spolar
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