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Shooting the Mafia


Sicilian Letizia Battaglia began a lifelong battle with the Mafia when she first dared to point her camera at a brutally slain victim. A woman whose passions led her to ditch traditional family life and become a photojournalist, she found herself on the front lines during one of the bloodiest chapters in Italy’s recent history. She fearlessly and artfully captured everyday Sicilian life—from weddings and funerals to the grisly murders of ordinary citizens—to tell the narrative of the community she loved forced into silence by the Cosa Nostra. SHOOTING THE MAFIA weaves together Battaglia’s striking black-and-white photographs, rare archival footage, classic Italian films, and the now 84-year-old’s own memories, to paint a portrait of a remarkable woman whose bravery and defiance helped expose the Mafia’s brutal crimes.

The Filmmakers

Kim Longinotto Director

Kim Longinotto is a multi-award-winning documentary filmmaker, well known for making films about female outsiders and rebels. Among her 20 films, she has followed a teenager struggling to become a wrestling star in Gaea Girls (2000), looked at runaway girls in Iran in Runaway (2001), challenged the tradition of female genital mutilation in Kenya in The Day I Will Never Forget (2002), introduced Cameroon female judges in Sisters in Law (2005) and brave South African child advocates in Rough Aunties (2008), shown women standing up to rapists in India in Pink Saris (2010), and told the story of an Indian Muslim woman who smuggled poetry out to the world while locked up by her family in Salma (2013). Longinotto’s most recent film, Dreamcatcher (2015), looks at the life and work of an ex-prostitute who rescues Chicago girls from the street.

Niamh Fagan Producer

Irish producer Niamh Fagan started out working in feature film cutting rooms in Hollywood, London and Ireland. She learned the craft of storytelling and filmmaking from the likes of Jim Clarke, Johnny Jymson, and Gerry Hambling while working on films with directors as diverse as Neil Jordan, Jim Sheridan, Michael Caton-Jones, and Anjelica Huston. From being an accomplished editor, Fagan gravitated towards producing more than a decade ago, creating award-winning TV dramas for Ireland's national broadcasters. Shooting the Mafia is Niamh's first feature documentary for cinema. She was driven to make the film following a chance meeting in a park in the small Sicilian town of Corleone, which lead her to discover Letizia Battaglia's extraordinary work in the local Anti-Mafia Museum. Fagan, and her production company Lunar Pictures, operate from Westport on Ireland's wild Atlantic coast.

Festivals & Awards

Sundance Film Festival


In the streets of Sicily, beautiful, gutsy Letizia Battaglia pointed her camera straight into the heart of the Mafia that surrounded her and began to shoot. The striking, life-threatening photos she took documenting the rule of the Cosa Nostra define her career.

Battaglia was quite the catch. She married young and had children, yet her restless spirit refused to renounce her passions. Breaking with tradition, she devoted herself to photojournalism. Battaglia’s lens was defiant: though her life was in danger she fearlessly captured everyday Sicilian life—from weddings and funerals to the brutal murders of women and children—to tell the narrative of the community she loved that had been forced into silence.

In Shooting the Mafia, Sundance Film Festival alumna and master filmmaker Kim Longinotto breaks from her vérité past and stunningly weaves together Battaglia’s heart-wrenching black-and-white photographs, rare archival film, and candid conversations with Battaglia herself. This audacious documentary brings grit, texture, and critical new perspective to Battaglia’s work and dismantles the romantic narrative of the Sicilian Mafia from the perspective of someone who lived inside it.

+ Festival Website

Berlin International Film Festival


For a long time, the mafia ruled Sicily unchecked, and their crimes were invisible to the world. This changed in the 1970s, when Letizia Battaglia became Italy’s first photojournalist to document the brutal murders and the profound influence of the mafia. Her black-and-white images appear timeless and have lost none of their impact. In order to actively fight the Cosa Nostra, Battaglia entered politics from 1985 to 1996; this was the time of the spectacular anti-mafia trials held by the examining magistrates Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino. In her private life, Battaglia broke with social conventions: after a marriage that ended in an early divorce, she lived a self-determined life with a series of younger lovers. 
Up to now, director Kim Longinotto has always filmed her own observational documentaries. For this portrait however, she and her long-standing editor Ollie Huddleston found a new cinematic form: using carefully edited excerpts from Italian cult films, she illustrates the youth and memories of the fun-loving Letizia Battaglia, thus creating a counterweight to Battaglia’s grim photos of mafia crimes.

+ Festival Website

Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival


Documentary virtuoso Kim Longinotto turns her camera on another pioneering woman and artist: Letizia Battaglia, whose gritty photographs of Palermo's La Cosa Nostra made her one of Italy's foremost observers of Mafia crime during the bloody 1970s. Speeding past police on a Vespa with a camera strung around her neck, she cut a striking image—not only as the country's first female photographer to work for a daily paper, but as a woman who found an unconventional calling in the second half of her life. After getting married at age 16 to escape a controlling father, she was then prevented from attending school by her husband. Battling mental illness and the confines of domesticity, she found liberty in documenting lawlessness. Undaunted by threats, her advocacy for common people eventually sparked yet another career as an activist politician. Now in her 80s, with a shock of pink hair as fiery as her personality, she remains an indomitable woman who charts her own course.

- Myrocia Watamaniuk

+ Festival Website


Incredibly compelling … By the end of Longinotto’s inspiring film, you’ll understand Letizia’s former lovers who just couldn’t stay away: it’s all too easy to fall in love with her spirit.”

-Katie Walsh, Los Angeles Times

Compelling and moving ... Longinotto’s unerring eye for a great subject is underlined by SHOOTING THE MAFIA.”

-Allan Hunter, Screen International

A fascinating look at the Mafia's vice-like grip on Sicily through the lens of photojournalist Letizia Battaglia.”

-Ed Gibbs, Little White Lies

SHOOTING THE MAFIA shows that one's bravery—even if they're only doing their job—can make a difference.”

-Danielle Solzman, Solzy at the Movies