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Italy's rotten heart

Regissør: Francesco Patierno

Camorra highlights the many phases of the development of organized crime in southern Italy from the 1960 years to the 1990 years. How did violence and misery become "normal"?


Francesco Patiernos Camorra is as strong and surprising as a non-fiction movie can be. It consists solely of archival recordings and tells a captivating story of one of the oldest and largest criminal organizations in Italy – the Camorra – by following its evolution from the 1960 years to the 1990 years. The footage captures the audience in real life and drama, through decades of fighting between criminal environments in Naples and the rest of the Campania region – and portrays the bare reality that gave birth to today's criminal organizations. Patierno spent months doing research in Rai Teche, the archives of the Italian state broadcaster. He brought along a number of recordings – many of which have never been shown before – and edited them together into a mosaic describing the region's rotten heart.

The film gives us facts, but even more important is that it recreates the period with an understanding of emotions, which means that it does not have a dull moment. Camorra is thought provoking and tragic, exciting and at the same time poetic, accompanied by beautiful Neapolitan music.

The unseen

The documentary shows how social, economic and political factors have helped to lead the region on the wrong roads. "Naples is not a rebellious city," says a woman voice in voice-over in one of the first film sequences. “Naples is one addiction which makes it possible to maintain a balance within the deep imbalance between the social classes in the city. Naples has never had a social revolution. ”

The verbal narrative is deliberately limited to a minimum, while the soundtrack enhances the sense we get of space and context. The music, combined with news broadcasts that inform about new statistics and new murders, creates a dramatic atmosphere and gives the viewer the feeling that something unseen threatening. The news broadcasts seem to be the daily narrative in the city. And despite the many depictions of reality – a murder captured by a surveillance camera – images of poverty – children smoking on the streets – the underlying sense of danger creates an imaginary picture gallery of everything that does not appear, the unseen, which is nevertheless out there.

Seeing how violence and misery become routine makes you numb.

After World War II, the Naples region was not only poor, but also largely neglected by the Italian authorities. Poverty was widespread, and there were no jobs or economic prospects. People began to earn (marginal) revenue through the illegal trade in cigarettes – which was tolerated by the authorities. Many survived by participating in this illegal smuggling business.

The narrator voice explains how things worked. As long as the purpose of the illegal trade was survival for those who operated it, the authorities were willing to turn a blind eye – and moreover, interested in earning the trade themselves. In the midst of all this, the Camorra got a foothold by adding order, in a place that was in desperate need of just that – it improved the living conditions of the poor, while keeping the population under some control. The organization created many jobs and at the same time created a power system that affected everyone. But in the end it all came out of control.

Lively portrait

Initially, the Camorra consisted of a limited number of clans fighting for territories. But when the cigarettes were replaced with drugs and gangsters from Sicily and Marseille became involved in the illegal trade, the Camorra gang had no choice but to submit to a larger superstructure – the mafia. As "big crime" took over, the old honor-based system disappeared, and gang killings became common practice. The whole situation became a mess with no clear rules, and nobody knew who was who.

The film is chronologically structured. The story is extensive and provides a vivid portrait of life as it did in these decades with the combination of poverty and crime. The faces of people – the authentic stories of their lives written in them – are hard to forget. They make the unimaginable visible and make it all tangible on the canvas. Every person interviewed, including many children, carries on a tale of a terrible drama – a world as scary as it is magnetic.

As the big picture becomes clearer, it becomes easy to understand how the struggles blurred the boundary between “normal” and “abnormal”. Poverty and harsh surroundings often make the distinction between right and wrong obscure. The rawness of the footage is shocking – seeing how violence and misery become routine makes you numb. It is deeply disturbing, especially when there are children who tell: They are small and vulnerable, but they are also hungry, ruthless and dangerous. Since this is what they experience as normal, they talk openly about their life and what they do. Armed robbery, drug and prostitution is the familiar landscape for these kids.

Also disturbing are the interviews with the imprisoned Raffaele Cutolo (he is still behind bars). Cutolo was the man who collected the Camorra, during the period when the gangs became subordinate to the mafia. He brought with him a sense of purpose, but at the same time the criminal activities with him increased as "boss". Cutolo led the organization for a long time, even after he was imprisoned. His unreliable eyes and the way he plays with the words in which he sits dressed in designer gowns make it clear that he is a leadership figure. Symbolically, he is a criminal behind the grid, but the grids can hardly prevent him from continuing with his.

The history of the criminal organization has many layers: the Camorra took in everyone and everyone. You see it in the faces of the children. You hear it in the government's voice, which explains that there is no other way for civilians to survive than through illegal trade. In the long term, the balance between right and wrong weathered when crime is tolerated: Crime means that there is always someone who wins – and someone who loses. wThe entire society is harmed by this – everyone loses their security and the objective truth disappears.

Bianca-Olivia Nita
Bianca-Olivia Nita
Nita is a freelance journalist and critic for Ny Tid.

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