Opening 11 Sep 2008
Writing credits: Roberto Saviano, Maurizio Braucci, Ugo Chiti, Gianni Di Gregorio, Massimo Gaudioso
Principal actors: Salvatore Abruzzese, Simone Sacchettino, Salvatore Ruocco, Vincenzo Fabricino, Vincenzo Altamura
The Camorra is the worldwide largest criminal organization and responsible for the death of 4.000 people in the past 30 years. They control a heavily populated area around Naples and Caserta, dealing not only with drugs (earning up to 500,000 dollars a day) but also investing in legal projects like Ground Zero. Director Matteo Garrone (The Embalmer, First Love) follows five storylines taken from Roberto Saviano’s bestseller of the same title, filmed on original locations like the dingy cement housing blocks in Scampia, a notorious suburb of Naples. He lets us take a glimpse into the lives of the “small” criminals, the foot soldiers of organized crime.
Don Ciro (Gianfelice Imparato), a civilized, quiet and shy bookkeeper-type, does not like the escalation of brutal shootings but is caught in a war between rivalling families of the Camorra. He is a “harmless submarine”, a money-runner, dishing out payments to families of imprisoned Camorra to help out until the men return.
Totó (Salvatore Abruzzese) is an eager 13-year old and cannot wait to be accepted in the drug dealing scene, dreaming to work his way up in the hierarchy. He gets his chance when asked to prepare the murderous shooting of friendly Maria (Maria Nazionale) for whom he used to do shopping.
Marco and Ciro (Marco Macor, Ciro Petrone) are older but behave like irresponsible kids playing cowboy. They are naďve and blind to the dangers when discovering crates of weapons. They try out their loot by shooting into the sunset on the shores of a tranquil river, happily dancing in their swimming trunks, waving heavy guns. Drunk with power they imagine being clever, outsmarting the big bosses.
Franco (Toni Servillo), a ruthless business man, takes on Roberto (Carmine Paternoster), who is fresh from university, to assist him with lucrative waste disposal contracts. The Camorra makes millions of dollars with illegally dumping toxic waste, polluting the districts around Campania, which resulted in a 20 % increase of cancer in the area.
Middle-aged master tailor Pasquale (Salvatore Cantalupo) works for a Camorra-funded fashion firm since he was a boy. Working hours are long, pay is meagre. When approached by an illegal Chinese company to teach the staff his trade, he feels appreciated and honoured.
The almost documentary style is impressively simple and artful. Cinematographer Marco Onorato makes full use of the bleak housing with dark interiors and long outdoor corridors, giving a feeling of being in prison. Many non-professionals have been cast, making for added authenticity. The youngsters Marco Macor and Ciro Petrone give a very honest performance and Salvatore Abruzzese as Totó is a natural. At times it is not very clear who is affiliated with whom but it does not matter in the general picture. The overall impression is witnessing a human drama and feeling outraged how easily youths are lured into violence and corruption. There are people to be liked and disliked, some act stupid, are ego-boasting, others are trusting and kind. This is no mystical, glamorous gangster movie, but the pot-bellied killers appear casually in shorts and plastic flip-flops. (Birgit Schrumpf)