Hot Docs 2019: Our Review of ‘Shooting the Mafia’

Hot Docs 2019: Our Review of ‘Shooting the Mafia’

Our true calling in life does not always reveal itself until much later in life. For pioneering photographer Letiza Battaglia it came as she was approaching her 40s. Finding a love for photography, she quickly became one of the premier photographers for mafia related crimes in Palermo. Battaglia’s intriguing life and defiant personality is on full display in Kim Longinotto’s invigorating and fascinating film Shooting the Mafia.

Utilizing testimony from Battaglia, archival footage and old film clips, Longinotto paints a vibrant portrait of a woman who would not let others define or intimidate her. Tracking how the famed photographer overcame an abusive marriage and mental illness to becoming the first female photographer for a newspaper, Longinotto’s film is an empowering tale. What makes the film truly magnetizing is the way it effortlessly juxtaposes Battaglia’s rise with the paralyzing tyranny that the La Cosa Nostra had over Italy at the time.

Detailing a world where numerous crime families had a vice like hold on a society, the film is a captivating portrayal of resilience in the face of fear. Longinotto weaves together a hypnotic tale of crime and violence that is more disturbing than any work of fiction. Even the fiery as Battaglia is still visibly shaken by some of the horrors that her camera captured over the years. However, she never let her fears derail her from speaking truth to power as both a photographer and a politician.

Shooting the Mafia could have easily been two distinct films, one a portrait of an artist and one a crime saga, but in Longinotto’s hands it blends beautifully. The film effectively captures why Battaglia is a trailblazer who, even at 80-years-old, is still calling her own shots.

Tuesday, Apr 30, 9:30 PM, TIFF Bell Lightbox 1
Wednesday, May 1, 10:15 AM, Isabel Bader Theatre
Sunday, May 5, 9:15 PM, Isabel Bader Theatre

  • Release Date: 4/30/2019
This post was written by
Courtney is a Rotten Tomatoes approved critic and the founder of Cinema Axis. He can frequently be heard discussing film as co-host of Frameline on Radio Regent. Courtney has contributed to several publications including Leornard Maltin, That Shelf, Black Girl Nerds, and Comix Asylum Magazine. He also celebrates diversity in cinema as co-hosts of the Changing Reels podcast and is a member of the Online Film Critics Society.
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