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“I wasn’t a real person,” Letizia Battaglia says of the days before she took to photography. As an unhappily married housewife stifled and abused by Italy’s dominant patriarchy, picking up a camera opened up her life to realms she’d never otherwise have accessed; as a photojournalist specializing in the crimes and rituals of the Cosa Nostra in her hometown of Palermo, she turned her personal vocation into boundary-breaking activism. It’s easy to see why Kim Longinotto, herself one of Britain’s trailblazing female documentarians, would warm to Battaglia’s story. Palpable affection for her subject permeates the otherwise plain, brisk framework of “Shooting the Mafia,” a potted chronicle of Battaglia’s life and career.
Oddly, that apparent artistic empathy hasn’t made for one of Longinotto’s more essential works. Hampered by an interviewee who seems genial but unwilling to give much of herself away, it’s a patchy biography that often seems undecided as to its true subject: Battaglia’s work, or the Mafia warfare unfolding before her lens. Having turned to politics later still in life, Battaglia herself is more interested in discussing the social landscape of organized crime in Italy than in offering much first-hand insight into her extraordinary photography — which itself doesn’t get quite the extensive showcase you might expect here. Battaglia remains a firebrand, and enough compelling material survives an unfocused approach to make “Shooting the Mafia” viable in streaming and ancillary following its Sundance-led festival tour. Still, an opportunity for something more rousing and revelatory has been missed.
Sundance - Film - Review - End - Wedding
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Now 83 years old, with a wily gaze and a shock of hair that varies in color from coral to rose-pink, Battaglia is a charismatic presence even at her most evasive. The film begins as standard cine-memoir, filling in the early, oppressive details of a working-class upbringing that necessitated...
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