A look at the sprawling and incredibly powerful Camorra crime family in Italy shows mostly the lurid details of conventional crime. The value of the film lies in exposing crime that is not business as usual
Based on Roberto Saviano's best selling book (sold a million+ copies in Italy) Matteo Garrone’s latest film centers on the underworld of Naples, Italy. Known as the Camorra crime family this empire of criminals is responsible for some 3,600 dead that the public knows of and probably more that are as yet undiscovered. There seems to be little the family is which the family is not involved and they always seem to find a way to make more money by doing things worse. Drugs, loan sharking and burying hazardous waste in farmland seem to be a few of areas in which they excel.
Italy's Official Submission to the Best Foreign Language Film Category of the 81st Annual Academy Awards (2009), the film is a fictional narrative of the leaders of organized crime, its underlings and its unwilling or unknowing participants in the general community. Although there are a few people who don’t cooperate, they appear to have a short life-span in the tough streets of Naples.
The film centers on five stories that illustrate the dynamics of organized crime. To the film’s credit, it is neither a “Godfather” story nor a “James Bond” story. One of the most surprising facts about the employees of organized crime is they are fairly normal people. They have no more greed or wish to hurt others than a professional politician or stock market broker. By and large they see their opportunities and they take them as capitalism allows. For example, Don Ciro is a Camorra employee who delivers payments to families whose relatives are in prison. He is the postman for the crime family’s welfare system. But when his organization declares war, his life is threatened along with all the others. It’s kill or be killed.
Most of the screen time goes to Marco and Ciro, nutty teenagers who take on the hobby of stealing from the crime family and arming themselves with machine guns. One of the moral failures of organized crime is its spread to young persons who simply don’t know better. They grow up with it like other kids grow up with baseball. By the time they can make a choice, it’s too late. Another story centers on Toto, a 13 year old with more brains than Marco and Ciro put together. The choices he makes to be a wise guy will scar him forever. The Camorra family ensures that he will be traumatized for the rest of his life.
The other two stories are the most interesting as they depict aspects of organized crime that are not as stereotypical and romanticized as, say, assassination and bank robbery. The first is illegal hazardous waste dumping and the second is copyright infringement. The truth is that “white collar” organized crime is far more destructive, and profitable, than conventional beating and killing.
For example, Roberto is a college graduate who goes to work for Franco in the waste disposal business. Hazardous waste is expensive to dispose of and Franco is good at finding ways to cut costs in getting rid of toxic heavy metal stews that turn normal people into brain damaged cripples and deform those yet unborn. Sometimes the materials are dumped into abandoned quarries that might take years to uncover. In other cases they are buried in land that will eventually be used to grow crops. The results are tragic.
Finally, Pasqaule is a successful tailor and creator of high fashion garments who is approached by a Chinese manufacturer of imitation high fashion. He is paid handsomely to teach offshore operations his trade secrets, the secrets his company uses to produce original styles. Is this even a violation of the law? Where does one draw the line between the methods of a craft and the protected ideas of an inventor?
If this film does nothing more than to refresh the memories of the general populace of the world about the creeping nature of organized crime it will be worth the price of its production and worth seeing. But the more we look into the faces of the crime families of the world, the more we see ourselves.
Thanks to Ron Wilkinson
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