The Sicilian Girl

Dir: Marco Amenta
Star: Veronica D'Agostino, Gérard Jugnot, Mario Pupella, Primo Reggiani

Rita (Agostino) is growing up in Sicily, devoted to her father, until he is gunned down for his refusal to co-operate fully with the local mafia. Unable to take direct revenge at her young age, she vows those responsible will be held accountable, and begins to document their crimes and corruption. After a further family tragedy, she visits anti-Mafia prosecutor Paolo Borsellino (Jugnot), and eventually turns over all her diaries to him. Realizing the goldmine it contains, he brings Rita in to protective custody just in time, spiriting her away by helicopter just before the gangsters capture her. However, they still have to convince a jury of the accuracy of Rita's testimony, and that she is not just a delusional teenager, fabricating facts to frame those she blames for her father's murder, while Rita also has to cope with being disowned by her family - her mother in particular. And as the truth comes out, it becomes increasingly clear that Rita's idealized picture of her beloved Dad, may not necessarily be in full accordance with the facts either.

The main thrust here is the difference between vengeance and justice, with Rita initially caring only about making them - whoever they might be - pay. However, as the ramifications of what she has done gradually become clearer, and as the Mafia step up their increasingly-violent efforts to derail the investigation, it becomes less personal and more about the broader picture. It's based on a true story. While Rita's family were apparently unimpressed by this version, or the documentary on the same subject previously made by Amenta, this quote from the "real Rita" is appropriate: "Before fighting the Mafia you must first examine your own conscience, and then, after you have defeated the Mafia inside yourself, you can fight the Mafia that's in your circle of friends." That's as much what this is about as anything, and while some of the performances seem somewhat overwrought - her mother, in particular, comes over as a right bitch - it's likely an appropriate depiction of Southern Italian passion. The end is something of a stunner, and will likely stay with you, overcoming the earlier Mafia clichés: we can only hope to show the same levels of courage and dedication against evil.

[January 2014]

Why Rita gives the Mafia the boot
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