Spotlight thrown on Mafia in Venice festival film

Wed Sep 3, 2014 2:46pm EDT
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By Michael Roddy

LONDON (Reuters) - An Italian documentary about the Mafia whose director said she checked all the facts "1,400 times" cast a spotlight at the Venice Film Festival on Wednesday on a mooted, covert deal between Italy's political establishment and organized crime.

"La Trattativa" (The State-Mafia Pact), shown out of competition at the world's oldest film festival, is directed by Sabina Guzzanti, a former television satirist and a longstanding foe of former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, who, through film clips, figures prominently in her new film.

"In understanding and getting to the bottom of this material, I too, had moments of depression, of fear and I thought the same things all of us have for years, 'I'm leaving (Italy), there's nothing left to do here'," Guzzanti told a news conference after the screenings.

"But I believe the purpose of this film is to enable everyone, including those who don't get into specifics and who don't read the newspapers every morning, or ever, to understand what we are facing and the facts that have changed the course of our democracy."

While never definitively proven, speculation about possible contacts between shadowy representatives of the Italian state and the Sicilian mafia to end a string of bombings in the early 1990s has never gone away. Sicilian prosecutors are currently working on a major trial over the case.

The so-called "Trattativa Stato Mafia" is believed to have formed part of a wider set of relationships between Italian politicians and the mafia reaching to the highest levels.

The film strongly suggests that Berlusconi's party, Forza Italia, was created at least in part to provide the Mafia with a friendlier government that would ease off on prosecutions and restrictions on convicted organized crime figures that limited their activities while imprisoned.

A year ago, a Palermo appeals court convicted Marcello Dell'Utri, a longtime political ally and friend of Berlusconi, of acting as a go-between for the Sicilian Mafia and the Milan business elite, including Berlusconi's companies, until 1992 and sentenced him to seven years in prison.   Continued...

Director Sabina Guzzanti poses during the photo call for the movie "La trattativa" (The State-mafia pact) at the 71st Venice Film Festival September 3, 2014. REUTERS/Tony Gentile