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ScreenTalks Archive: Shooting The Mafia

A black and white image with a person with blonde short hair and a fringe stands in front of an image that says Mafia
3 Dec 2021

This week, documentary filmmaker Kim Longinotto speaks to journalist Laurence Topham about her 2019 film Shooting the Mafia.

Shooting the Mafia focusses on the photography of Letizia Battaglia, a woman who dared to take photos of mafia victims and reveal the true horror of organised crime – very different to the system of ‘honour’ usually portrayed in classics of American cinema. Letizia is a fascinating figure and pioneer, rejecting the conventional life of an Italian woman to dedicate herself to her work. She’s one of a long line of fascinating women fighting discrimination in Kim Longinotto’s work; previous titles include Pink Saris, Sisters in Law, Rough Aunties and Dreamcatcher, to name but a few and all worth seeing.

The Barbican ScreenTalks Archive podcast is presented by Ellen E Jones and produced by Jane Long for Loftus Media.

Listen to more episodes on: barbican.org.uk/screentalksarchive

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‘“…the films have been about women, but I think it's because the women in the films are rebels. And I think I've always been interested in rebels, people that stand up to culture, tradition.”‘

Ellen E Jones: Welcome to the Barbican ScreenTalks Archive podcast. This episode we're offering a glimpse inside the mind of esteemed documentarian and feminist force for cinema, Kim Longinotto. She's in conversation with Laurence Topham discussing her 2019 film Shooting the Mafia, which has another impressive woman with a camera as its subject, the Letizia Battaglia. 

Longinotto began filmmaking in the late 1970s after following her friend and fellow documentary maker Nick Broomfield to the National Film and Television school. Shooting the Mafia was her 22nd film, and it continues her career long interest in a theme she describes here as 'a woman standing up to her culture'. Longinotto's previous work had found such women all over the world. In 1998, she made Divorce Iranian Style, following the legal wrangling of three unhappy couples. And in 2005, she visited the courtroom, but this time in Cameroon, West Africa, with her film Sisters-in-Law. She went on to win a Sundance Grand Jury Prize in 2009 with Rough Aunties, about the brave women who care for abused and neglected children in South Africa. 2010's Pink Saris followed the controversial vigilante for women's rights in north India. And five years later, Dreamcatcher was all about another charismatic leader: the Chicago street prostitute turned anti-human-trafficking activist Brenda Meyers Powell. 

Shooting the Mafia though took Kim Longinotto to Sicily, where for 50 years photographer Letizia Battaglia, now 86, has been documenting the ravages of organised crime. You'll hear some key mafia figures referenced here, including boss of the Corleonese faction, Luciano Leggio. His ruthless successors Salvatore Riina and Bernardo Provenzano, and the famous mafioso-turned-informant Tommaso Buscetta. Yet, Longinotto was determined that her documentary, like Letizia's photographs, provided a corrective to Hollywood's glamorised gangster, epitomised in the movies of Coppola and Scorsese. She's careful to reserve her admiration for Sicilian anti-mafia campaigners, such as Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino, who were both assassinated within a few months of each other in 1992. This clear moral stance is just one of the parallels that emerge here between filmmaker and subject. 

In discussing Letizia's ambivalent feelings towards her mafia photographs, the guilt that comes with bearing witness to other people's trauma and the emotional costs for woman who stands up to her culture. Kim Longinotto is also reflecting on her own career. With characteristic compassion, she even spares a thought for members of the Q&A audience too. It is hard to come up with good questions, isn't it? I'm Ellen E Jones, and this is Barbican ScreenTalks with Kim Longinotto, director of Shooting the Mafia.

Laurence Topham: Welcome to tonight's screening. I'm very excited to introduce to you the film's director, Kim Longinotto, to talk about the film and to hopefully answer some of your questions. I just thought I'd start off by congratulating you on the film. I mean, it's an extraordinary piece of work. How much mafia history did you know before you started this project? Was this a voyage of discovery of learning about how this all played out?

Kim Longinotto: Exactly, it was. I mean, I knew I'd seen all the Godfather films and lots of Scorsese and Coppola and things. And I think that was the big surprise really, was that the more I started finding out about the mafia, and also particularly the people that had stood up against the mafia, like Falcone and Borsellino, you get a completely different sense of, it's not men in smart suits, going out with guns and shooting other mafia. It's really - I love it when she calls Riina, that scruffy moron you know, it's actually really cowardly people. It's criminals who go and shoot little kids in the back of the head because they've witnessed a crime. And I think that was the shock. Because I've enjoyed those films, those mafia films, I've watched them and enjoyed them and thought how well made they were. But you sort of think those films are all about the people that do the violent acts, the people that go and shoot people. It's never about the people that stand up against them. It's never about the people that get caught up in it, and you never see the corpses being put in their coffins or you see children going to school and having to walk past a body and how it kind of brutalises the whole community, what it's like to live under the mafia. So that was a really big, I mean, I suppose that's what it was. 

And it was like learning and sort of seeing those films again and thinking that actually it's not a coincidence that the way that that Hollywood shows the films, what they choose to show is also a big decision. And there's an article that I went over yesterday, where somebody is interviewing Scorsese, and they say, oh, have you watched? Did you watch The Sopranos? And he said, Oh, well, I watched the first episode. And then I couldn't watch anymore. I was too upset. I was too shocked. And they say why? And he said, Because you had men, mafia men, swearing in front of women and children at the dinner table. And I just couldn't relate to that. And I think, well, that's so interesting, this whole idea of the morality that you you're upset by women being sworn in front of, but you're not upset by these gruesome, horrible murders. 
And I thought that whole morality thing is so interesting. You know, this morality that they're men of honour and they're moral, they're family men, they're Catholics, they go to church, and they're moral men. And then they have this licence to do these terrible murders. It's very interesting, that whole world view and that Scorsese still has it. He's still actually got that mafia mentality, which I think is fascinating. You can Google that Scorsese, dinner table swearing and it'll come up. I'm not making it up. I promise.

Laurence Topham: A lot of your films in the past, Sisters-in-Law, Rough Aunties, Pink Saris, they've all focused on women contributors. And I wondered, was that part of the appeal of this story that it was looking at the mafia history, but from a very distinctly female perspective?

Kim Longinotto: I think I mean, they have, the films have been about women, but they, I think it's because the women in the films are rebels. And I think I've always been interested in rebels, people that stand up to culture, tradition. And what I loved immediately about Letizia, she was born into a very, very traditional culture, I mean, extreme that she went to the convent, when she saw the man masturbating, she was sent to convent. And then she was married at 16, to get away from her father. So she was constantly dominated in these very dominating situations. 

And then at sort of 40 just sort of thought, I'm going to leave and left her husband, left her children, left her village, and went to become a photographer. And I thought that was amazing, because it is hard even now, you know, when she says, I'm sure my, my daughters aren't happy with me. My family isn't happy with me. My friends aren't happy with me. I see it in their eyes, you know, and she's now with a man 38 years younger than her. And she says, Well, I don't care. Well, of course, she does care. But she's telling us, she doesn't care. And I put my work first. And I think that's really still quite a hard thing for a woman to say, I'm putting my work first. 

And I think I love that in her that she became completely dedicated, like Falcone was like Borsellino was, she became a dedicated anti-mafia person. And she got into it by chance. I like that as well. Because I think with all of us here, most of us, the lives that we have, at the moment we will have come to, from a series of chances. I think most of us I mean, you sometimes meet people, they say, I always wanted to be a Guardian journalist. And, you know, when I was six, I was planning. But you know, those people are very rare. And the fact she went and it was August, and there was nobody there. And she said she'd make tea. And then she started taking photos and she fell in love with it. I love the sort of randomness of it, you know,

Laurence Topham: Did she take a lot of convincing to participate in the film, to have a film made about her?

Kim Longinotto: She's formidable. She's, she's quite, I think she was used to talking about the mafia a little bit. But she wasn't, she'd never really opened up that much about her personal life. I've just been at a screening in Gorizia, which is Northern Italy on the Slovenian border. And somebody in the audience said to Letizia, have you seen the film? And she sort of looked at me and she said, I'm so embarrassed by this film. I you know, the what you've done to me, Kim, I'm so embarrassed. And then she laughed, and she said, but it's good. You know? 

So I think she has these two emotions through all of it. I mean, when you think she's lying back in a in a field saying I had 5, 10, 20, 50 men, you know, it's like, not really what an 85-year-old woman usually says, you know. And then her love for Roberto. And when we first met Roberto, because actually Topham was asking me that - I call you Topham now because he introduced himself as Topham. So he's always Topham now, sounds like a sort of cad at Eton, and it's that sort of name isn't it. Topham's coming. 

Anyway. So. So we just we went to this opening of her photography gallery, and then we came out and her daughter Marta was there. Marta is probably one of the few people in her family that sort of really approves, cos people haven't approved of Letizia. It's really interesting when she says, Nobody loved me for the last 20 years. People really disapprove of her. It's quite it because there's morality thing, you know, even though she's done this brilliant work. And I remember saying to Marta, I just met Roberto, oh what do you think of Roberto, Marta? And she went, What about him? And I thought, oh, no, Letizia hasn't even told her granddaughter, because I think it's quite hard. And in a way, she was outing herself through being filmed. 

And the film was in a way, saying, Look, this is my partner, and you can take it or leave it. I'm revealing my partner. And, you know, journalists have rang me and said, What do you think of Roberto, do you think, you know, they think, you can tell there's a sort of edge to it. But they really do love each other. I mean, I've spent a lot of time with them together when we went to festivals, and they do love each other. They argue a lot. And it's very sort of stormy, but they love each other. And it's really nice. He looks after her. And she's sort of, you know, she's championing his photographs. So she's proud of him. And he's proud of her. And it's a really nice thing to be with the two of them.

Laurence Topham: A lot of your films over your career have been observational in their style, you've had a very strict ethos of paring back the techniques of, it's about the characters, being within the scenes without narration, without construction. This and Love is All that you made a few years ago, is obviously a shift in using archives. And just wondering, is that a very conscious decision? Or was it just something that happened by happy accident?

Kim Longinotto: It - we - Ollie and I were really, after doing Love Is All, we really loved doing that. Ollie Huddleston, the editor, and he's so lovely, he was great to work with, after we'd done Love is All we thought be really good to do another one, another archive film. And I don't know, you read about archive films, or you hear about them. And people say I made this archive film and you imagine that the director has just gone and made an archive film. But actually, it's really a team thing because we were doing it in Ireland, editing in Ireland, we'd have to go home for a few months while the archivists found the footage, you can only make the film that the archivists find the footage for. 

So we have these two archivists, and then Ollie the editor. It's a real teamwork. And we have this translator, Paola, who went through hours and hours and hours of the Maxi trials. There's scenes in the film that I so wish were here, you know where the mafia behind those bars and they're going, Oh, we want to complain about the sandwiches. The mozzarella is making them damp, you know, this sort of thing and you see what kind of what entitled people they are, how arrogant they are. 

So we were constantly being pulled into wanting to put more mafia in, wanting to put more Letizia in, I know there's a Times article where, I haven't read it yet, but he says he wants more mafia and so you go oh, yeah, I wish there was more mafia you know, it's like, but the balance is what was so hard, to make the best balance we thought we could, and in the end, we had to say: we've done the best we can. And you know, hopefully people will keep learning about the mafia. In fact, the scene I miss most, is Riina meeting Buscetta in the Maxi trial for the first time. And you know, Riina is the guy, the scruffy moron and Buscetta the informer that breaks the story of the mafia for the first time that really tells us about how they worked, and Riina would order the murders of most of Buscetta's family. So his nephews were murdered, his sons were murdered, loads of his family. And Riina says to the judge, I'm not talking to Buscetta because he's immoral. And because he was an informer, and Buscetta says to Riina, you're calling me immoral Riina, and you've killed 17 members of my family, and you're calling me immoral. 

And that's what I saw in the Scorsese thing. You know, this idea that somehow they're men of honour, and they do these rather glamorous murders, and that they have power and that power in itself. You know, I've thought a lot about, in this country, you know, where we have people that traffic women, they bring them over from Poland, they trick them, and then they keep them in these flats and rent them out to men and things and I think, how can they live with themselves? They must have daughters or sisters or wives, or how can they live with it? And that's what it is. It's that mentality that you're better than other people. 
So you can do anything. It's, it's what I grew up with, with my dad, that mentality that there's all these people, Jewish people, black people, gay people, and they're not really people. You're a person, you know, it's a really interesting thing. And once you strip that away, you realise that these are just miserable little criminals that just want power and money and Provenzano, you saw at the end, he lived in a complete shithole, didn't he. I mean, it was just a horrible way. You know, he didn't enjoy his money, but he knew he had it. And actually, incidentally, he had copies of The Godfather, he had all the DVDs in that place. So he's obviously really liked those films.

Laurence Topham: When you started editing did you have a very clear sense in your head of where you were going? Or was it very much a sort of evolving direction that you just, you know, as you worked your way through the combination of interviews and archive, was that...

Kim Longinotto: A circle, it was actually a bit like a quagmire because we would discover stuff about the mafia, for example, Leggio, the one in prison, and you wouldn't imagine he was in prison with his cigar and his suit, would you? But his first murder was of a trade unionist. And the whole thing about trade unionism and working people, challenging, you know, the landlords and their factories and the governments to try and get better money. And then the mafia being hired to kill them. I didn't know about that. 

Well, there's this young trade unionist in a village, and Leggio was hired to, to and they took him out in daylight. They walked him out onto this mountain, and they hanged him. And they dropped him into a pit where all the sheep carcasses went, and a shepherd boy saw them, and he was 11 years old. And they took him down, and they murdered him. And that was like a real shock. And I thought, Wow, this isn't the mafia. I've been watching films about all my life, you know, this is something else. And we got very involved with the mafia, and we ended up making a sort of four hour film about how the mafia were reinstated by the British and the Americans, when they liberated Sicily. 

And the more you go into it, and Ollie and I were going, we're thinking no, where's Letizia, we had to sort of keep her in the film. Do you know what I mean? So and also, there was very, very little footage of Letizia, so we wanted to give an atmosphere of her girlhood of what, and that film Anna that you see in the film, when she's dancing - Anna is dancing, not Letizia - it's a film that she grew up watching and loved. And it's a film where a woman becomes sort of, is out and about, and then she ends up as a nun in the film, because she feels so guilty. And her lover ends up in hospital, so and she's a nun/nurse. So it's kind of one of those things, but we just showed the bit when she was having a good time, and attracting men like flypaper. 

But, you know, so we tried to think of imaginative ways or ways that we could sort of bring her life to life, you know. And I remember the very first screening, I was really upset because we had a screening at Sundance. And this American woman came up and said, Oh, I didn't know Letizia was dancing in a nightclub. And I thought, oh, no, you think the fiction is her? You know. So we tried to make it clear that by putting our home movie at the front and then showing it again, now I'm thinking maybe we should have put a little title. I mean, I hope none of you thought that was Letizia. No. Oh good!
You know, we didn't know how much information, you know. And the same with the tuna fish, the sort of the tuna fish, that's meant to be a sort of visual thing for what Riina was doing, the slaughter, you know, all the people being killed. And that same woman said, why are they killing the dolphins? [Audience laughs] And I thought, oh, no, you know, so I suppose you have to trust your own hope that they get it? And if they don't, you have to not let it, but I wish remember every word of the bad reviews, and then don't remember the good ones.

Laurence Topham: Do you rewatch a lot of your films? Do you go, ever go back?

Kim Longinotto: No, no, I never rewatch them. No. Because I know them so well, I'm thinking come on this bit's long. You know, I can't.

Laurence Topham: Have you taken, is this film gonna play in Sicily? Do you think there's a...?

Kim Longinotto: Well, that's the only place that Letizia doesn't want it showing, because that's where her daughters live. And I don't know what you guys think about the daughters' bit. But you know, she says I don't want to talk about my daughters. And I thought that was really good that she said that because often, it doesn't happen so much with men. 

I mean, I don't want to make it [like that] because we live now in 2019. It's all you know, we're all coming together. So you know, it's not men, women so much, but in Sicily it is and I think it was really good. She said I don't want to talk about my daughters, because she's sort of saying, I mean, we get the sense very strongly, by the end, I hope, that they disapprove of her, and that it's not particularly good between Letizia and her daughters. 

Well anyway, you know, if you've left home and gone and become a journalist, there's a sense that somehow you haven't really been a perfect mother. And I think a lot of daughters wouldn't want a mother with a man that's probably younger than them if you see what I mean. But I liked her saying, I don't want to talk about my daughters, because in a way, they've got their lives. They're separate people. They're different. They're not her, and they didn't want to be in the film. So that's fine. I don't want to talk about my daughters. 
You know, it's a bit like, if you think of somebody, a man that would make a film, and having his daughters in it...it was just good, oh, well, we're not going to do the daughters. But you do learn in it that one of the daughters became a drug addict and became clean. So you know, there's a lot of damage there and a lot of promise. But anyway, she doesn't want it shown in Sicily. And we said fine, and I think she'll show it eventually I think she just needs to get her courage up.

Laurence Topham: It's a very brave thing to be the centre of a whole film and I guess of course, there's a must be a lot of, on your part, a lot of trust building, you know, in that relationship and getting her to a place where she feels that she can impart all this personal information in a way that she...

Kim Longinotto: She sort of loved it, you know, she sort of loved it, because I think she sort of then really realised how amazing she is. I think she's usually just interviewed briefly about the mafia stuff. And she doesn't really like I mean, you can see that, in talking about those photographs. She hates those photographs, she loves them, and she hates them, it's a really ambivalent thing. Because if you think about those photos, for example, if you think about the photo, it's a man with a tattoo on his back, and his T-shirt's pulled up.

Laurence Topham: The one on the wall

Kim Longinotto: Yes, and you can see that take that photo, you will have had to have gone like that, and pointed the camera down. So the only way you can take that photo, so in a way to take a lot of those photos, you have to be incredibly, you have to not have this idea of somehow being squeamish about the dead or respecting the dead, you have to put yourself forward. And she says herself that in crime scenes, because of this morality thing, again, oh, your're a woman, you shouldn't see a dead body. They're trying to keep her back. 

And I think for most of us here, I think I would find it really hard to make a huge scene to be allowed to go into the crime scene. But she the first sort of 5, 10 years, every time we'd have to scream and shout and make a huge fuss, to be allowed in to do the photos. And you know, the one of the, there's one of a judge who's been killed through the window of a car, and you can see all the people round. It's all men, there's not one woman there. It's all a huge group of men. And she's had to push her way through and shout. 

And what I love about the archivist, Claire, she found the actual film of it, of the actual time. So it's almost like you're Letizia, and you're seeing the men watching. And then you're seeing that. But then you can see the difference between a piece of live film, and the photo. The same with the prostitute, the beginning that's killed, you see the camera, people going up the stairs, and then you see them filming the crime scene, but somehow her one photo, and she's got one photo at the top, of the men at the top of the stairs, and one of the woman, it's so much more powerful, because she's framed it perfectly. It's just the most perfect considered shot. And it's held. And it's a completely different thing. 

I learned an awful lot about the sort of beauty of photography as opposed to filming something, that it allows you time to think about it in the way that film doesn't. But I love that bit of film of them very lovingly putting the man in the coffin. And then you see his feet with the socks on and then putting his feet in. And that's what you don't get in the mafia films, you don't get that people have to come and clear it up and and put them in coffins. And the trauma that the paramedics and the police and everybody had to go through again and again and again. The ripple effects. Yeah, exactly.

Laurence Topham: And well, I'd like to open this up to the audience. So you guys get a chance to ask some questions. So put your hands up, and I'll try and get through as many of you as I can.

Kim Longinotto: So it might not be anyone. It's very hard. It's much easier to answer questions and to ask them because, you know, I've asked a question once and he said it was a stupid question. I haven't dared to but it is hard. You don't have to ask aquestion you can just make a comment. 

Audience member: It's very simple question really, it's how did you first discover Letizia's work? How did you first come across her as a subject? 

Kim Longinotto: Well, I'd never heard of her at all. But Niamh Fagan who's the producer, went to Sicily on holiday with her family, and went to this anti mafia Museum in Corleone and went to the museum and it's all Letizia's photos. And then was pretty amazed by the pictures. And then went and found out about Letizia and then she got in touch with me. The more I learned about Letizia, the more I learned about the mafia. 

I thought how lucky I was that somebody had asked me to do the film really, you know, it was everything that I was interested in, you know, a woman standing up to, to her culture and these kind of weird families, these mafia families where you were brought up in hate and to me Letizia is about love, in all sorts of ways - friendship, love, you know, love in sexual relationships and the love of the people round her, and the love of taking photographs. 

It's all about love and the love for Falcone and Borsellino, who had this courage to say, I'm probably going to die, but somebody will replace me. That selflessness is, to me the strongest thing against the mafia, which represents power and money and hate. You know, that's what we can put against them and gives us back the feeling of joy. You know,

Laurence Topham: What was your first step in your process? And once you discovered her, do you go away and spend weeks and weeks reading about her? What do you first do?

Kim Longinotto: I think we had some books of her photographs. We looked at her photographs. And then Ollie and I started looking at archive. And then we went to film Letizia. She's amazing, actually, she's got a very strong presence to her. And I immediately sort of really liked her. Yeah, just that, there's something, she's a free spirit. You know, she really doesn't care about what you think of her. But yet, then she does. It's, I mean, I think we're all a bit like this. You can say, I don't care what people think. And then of course you do. 

You know, I'm always trying to pretend that I don't care what people think. And I desperately care, you know. So she says, some of the things she says in the film, it's so encouraging, because you think, well, you can walk away from your family, your children, your husband, your culture, not care. But of course, she does care, you know, but you can tell yourself, you don't and you've put your work first. We're all contradictions, aren't we, all of us that, we know, we tell ourselves what we feel and it's not always true is it.

Laurence Topham:Somebody else, please. There's somebody at the back.

Audience member: Hi, when she says to you, oh, you're, you're really upsetting me with,you're making me think about all this, you know, the past and mafia. She kind of smiles after that. So I wasn't really sure... 

Kim Longinotto: Oh she meant she meant she totally meant it. I think, you know, when she says at the beginning film, I want to burn my negatives. You know, I think that's a very powerful feeling. I think it's very interesting with photographers. War photographers write about this or talk about this a lot. 

Don McCullen talked about this, where you feel somehow, you lose a little bit of your humanity, when you film something, take a photograph or something. So if you can imagine, if you can imagine if somebody in the cinema falls down dead or is shot, and your first instinct would probably be to cover them, the body with your jacket, or, you know, stand back. But whereas what Letizia is doing every time is she's going as close as she can, and she's framing it, and she's, she's bearing witness, she knows why she's doing it. In her mind, she's bearing witness, she's holding the mafia to account. 

But she's, she says she felt embarrassed by taking them. And when you take photos of a grieving mother when her son's just been shot, and she's completely, she's being held, because she's almost fainting with the pain of it, and you go up and you stand right above her and you, frame it and you plan your shot. That's a really hard thing to do. So you have these two emotions. One, a part of you thinks I'm a monster, I don't have normal human feelings. The other part is, I'm a good photographer. I'm taking the best photo I can, you know.

Laurence Topham: Do you grapple with that yourself. I mean, you know, some of your most famous films have been, have witnessed very intimate moments in people's lives where bad things are happening or have happened. They're bearing witness.

Kim Longinotto: Yeah, you know, you feel guilty because I think even more in film because you're sort of thinking, I'm filming this terrible thing that's happening there, now having to go on panning there so we can edit it. You have to sort of turn off in a way. So I think for Letizia, she has very, very mixed emotions about her photographs. And they remind her of experiences, which she's lived through that have been very painful. And the thing about not filming Falcone, I think, I mean, that would have been almost superhuman to, somebody you really love and they've been blown to bits, and their bodies and bits, and how do you take a photograph of that? 

But she's still chastises herself for not taking a photo, because somehow she's shown herself unworthy as a photographer for not taking the photo. So it's really mixed, and you can't win. She's, she feels guilty if she takes the photo, and she feels guilty if she doesn't take it. So, and I think it's what I mean about all of us having mixed emotions is you feel two things at once. 

So in a way, she didn't want to revisit those photos and that time and those feelings, but in another way, it made her feel good to know that people had come from England, and we're appreciating her work and loving her work. And we're celebrating her work. Because at the end of the film, she says for 20 years, nobody loved me. She doesn't just mean a man hasn't loved her. She means that there's been so much disapproval in Sicily, particularly and she's in Palermo. People really disapprove of her. And I think that's really hard to live with on a day, even though people love her as well, other people love her. 

So if you go on a demonstration where there's a lot of communist people or trade unionists, she's loved there because they're all political people and they're against the mafia. But I think families and people that have got the mafia mentality, really don't approve of her. So it's a difficult... she says at one point, I'm always struggling. I'm always fighting. So I think we're asking you to revisit things that are painful. 

Laurence Topham: Yes the lady at the back there

Audience member: Hi, I have a question about how much did you involve her permission about which elements you used in the film because you exposed very vulnerable moments of her. So, I guess, there must have been internal struggle for you as well, which parts exposed but how much was she actually involved as well.

Kim Longinotto: She wasn't involved at all, we edited the film. And the first time she saw it was in Sundance, when we had the premiere, because I knew Letizia, I knew she'd be really difficult, and she'd want this out and that out, that will never end, you know. And also, there was things that we really had to really, really fight to get her to give us. 

The thing I really wanted in the film, and I know it's a painful thing to look at, but it seems so important to me, particularly that I think once you've seen that the mafia have killed a child on the forecourt of a petrol station for witnessing his dad's murder. For me, there's no going back to being men of honour for me. I thought, you know, in the context of Scorsese, Coppola, and all of that stuff of them being glamorous, in a way. So we wanted that photograph of that child. And she'd never exhibited that photo. And she'd never looked at the photo in colour. And so there were things that were really hard to get her to give us. But it was quite hard to get any of the photos over, because she's very protective of her archive. And also, she does have this ambivalence about the photos. 

So I knew that having been so hard, to get her to watch the film or not want to edit anything, but we did show her, she said, I want to see the interview with me and Roberto. So we sent her the interview with Roberto, and then we got a message back. And in the original one, she said, it's amazing to me that Roberto loves me, but he's a homosexual. And she sent back and said, I want to change that bit. Can you change that bit? And I thought, oh, no, that's really a shame. She's gonna change it to something that's more anodyne than that. And actually, all she wants to do is clarify that he's attracted to transsexual men, to men that identify as women. She wanted to actually clarify it. And I thought that was really good, because that's she got it absolutely precise of what his sexual proclivity was, but he loves her as well. And he really does love her. And it's a beautiful thing to see. 

And I, I love the fact that she says, I looked at his world and it frightened me, and I thought you've seen the mafia and you're frightened of, you know, a few gay bars, and that frightens you. And I thought that's amazing, that’s the next thing that's frightened her and I just think her honesty in that was brilliant. 

Host: I'm afraid we have to end. Sorry!

Kim Longinotto: Oh, no. What were you gonna ask?  

Audience member: I was gonna ask if you knew that there was a Tommaso Buscetta documentary? 

Kim Longinotto: Oh, he was asking did I know there was a Tommaso Buscetta [documentary]. Yes, I've watched it. There's a documentary about Tommaso Buscetta, which you can watch. I think it's on Netflix. But actually there again, even though I did enjoy it, it's very much from the point of view of a mafia family. And he was as mafia go, not as bad as the others obviously, because he became an informer. 
But it is so weird that we will keep on you know, sort of making films and looking at them, the mafia. What about the people that you know, the brave Sicilians that stood up to the mafia? What about the trade unionists that gave their lives and the magistrates and, things have to start to shift, you know, the emphasis that they put on things and you know, what they want us to follow and what they don't let us really consider and that's the thing about how the mafia have been shown.

Laurence Topham: Kim Longinotto [audience applauds]

Ellen E Jones: Thank you for listening to this Barbican ScreenTalk on Shooting the Mafia with director Kim Longinotto. It's not often that this crime thriller obsessed art form digs a little deeper into the morality of glorifying gangsters. The Barbican ScreenTalks archive is full of such thought-provoking gems waiting to be pulled out and polished up for your listening pleasure. If you'd like to hear more and support Barbican Cinema, please rate and subscribe to this podcast via Apple podcasts, Acast or wherever you get your podcasts, or by visiting barbican.org.uk. We'd also love to hear your thoughts on Shooting the Mafia or any other film featured in the series. You can find us on social media @BarbicanCentre. Barbican ScreenTalks Archive is presented by me Ellen E. Jones and produced by Jane Long for Loftus Media. We'll be back next time with a discussion of the 2019 dance documentary Cunningham, which explores the work of legendary American choreographer Merce Cunningham. Until then, be well and goodbye.

 

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