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The Mafia – part of the state

Shooting the Mafia
Regissør: Kim Longinotto

BATTLE LETIZIA / She has never presented herself as Italy's "mafia photographer". Battaglia took pictures of Palermo, she says in the film – a city where the mafia is part of daily life.


Letizia Battaglia once said: "I am a human being, not a photographer. I'm a human being who takes pictures. "

And yet, for Italy, Battaglia – born in 1935 – is not just a photographer; she er photographer; she is Italy's mafia photographer. In Italy's national archives there are few photographs like hers. They are not ordinary photographs, similar to those taken by journalists or photographers after a murder in a scene. They are genuine, genuine and sinister. Yes, Battaglia's photographs can really be called war photographs.

She began working as a journalist in L'Ora – the daily newspaper in Palermo – in 1969; then there were more than a thousand kills each year. And sometimes five, seven murders a day. It is Sicily where Luciano Leggio, longtime leader of Cosa Nostra, after finally being arrested, enters the courtroom with his head raised high. He turns upside down on the roles and makes the policemen behind him look like the lawless ones.

"If they don't shoot politicians, it's because they don't need it anymore." Letizia Battaglia

Letizia battaglia

It is Sicily where Battaglia sets up an exhibition in the streets of Corleone, the heart of the mafia, streets reminiscent of Lebanon, and abruptly she is alone, while all passersby see another path in fear.

Year after year in a trench: 20 years go until 1992, when Judge Giovanni Falcone, who led the fight against the Sicilian mafia, is killed. Journalists of the time, who, unlike their colleagues in L'Ora, used to write from Rome rather than from Palermo, argued that it was all arranged. That Falcone exaggerated his claims about the mafia to become a hero.

Judge Paolo Borsellino, with whom Falcone collaborated to fight the mafia, is already in the hospital when Falcone arrives on a stretcher, dying, and simply tells reporters: "Today's meeting with him is only postponed." Borsellino was killed two months later.

Today it looks like a different world when we look Shooting the Mafia by Kim Longinotto with all the old pictures, the old footage.

The different faces of the Italian mafia

But Battaglia has never presented herself as a mafia photographer. Because she has not taken pictures of the mafia, she says, but of Palermo. Palermo with all its contradictions, infiltrated by the mafia and the conditions that followed. Upper class dance nights, poor children in the slums, kids awakened by rats gnawing on a finger, the light and the shadows, as in her most famous portrait: by Rosaria Schifani. The widow of one of Falcone's bodyguards, who during the funeral on live TV addresses the mafia gangsters, the men who shamelessly participated in the finishing touches like everyone else, and begged them: "di cambiare, di cambiare" [change you, change you] and before she fainted: "When it comes down to it, I know you will never change . "

Letizia battaglia

But when Hollywood popularized crime stories about the mafia, as in Goodfaren and similar films, Battaglia instead revealed the misery the mafia brings to everyone. "I did not want to give them any kind of beauty," she says now. Battaglia did not want the gangsters to look strong and powerful. As men with success, prosperous and highly respected today. Too many kids dreamed of becoming killers. When Totò Riina, the mafia boss of all mafia bosses, ends up in prison, and she sees his face and his behavior for the first time, she says: “And he ruined our lives. What a jerk."

Roberto Saviano, author of Gomorrah who is under constant police protection, says: "Foreign journalists come, stay a week, see no shooting dramas, and then they go home and think that the mafia no longer exists. Instead, it has simply changed. "

From an anti-state organization to becoming part of the state

Letizia battaglia

I'm in Bari now, the city I come from which is in southern Italy, where I sit and write at a popular café, Il Caffè del Marchese. It was recently closed due to money laundering investigation. Now it is open as usual. Like any Italian from the south, I can tell which clan controls which shops in which streets. To this day, if your car is stolen, you go to the neighborhood boss, not the police. The Mafia is far less visible than before, that's true. But that's just because it's everywhere. It has developed and spread in a poor, backward south as a kind of parallel society. The Mafia took care of what the central government did not do, and for a long time it was a criminal organization. But today it is more than that: it has changed from being an anti-state organization to becoming part of the state.

The Mafia plays a role in everything, from infrastructure to migrants. It's not just about smuggling anymore. And perhaps most important of all: It's not just Italian anymore. Today, London is the capital of money laundering. "If they do not shoot politicians, it is because they do not need it anymore," says Battaglia. "Today, the mafia is inside the institutions." If there is no war anymore, it's because the mafia has won.

Read the interview with her here: Mafia power

Francesca Borri
Francesca Borri
Borri is a war correspondent and writes regularly for Ny Tid.

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