Friday, October 24, 2008


Salman Rushdie said last Friday that Roberto Saviano, whose first novel Gomorrah sold over 1,200,000 copies in Italy, was at greater danger from a Camorra death threat than he had been from the Iranian fatwah. 

I decided to go and see the film of the book in our local Exeter Picture House. 
Gomorrah which won the Cannes Grand Prix is a stark gritty unglamorous look at life for the residents of Naples and Caserta under the domination of the Camorra clans. 
Five separate independent strands of the story are covered in a documentary style. 
Toto, a young boy tries to become one of the drug gang; two wild 'coked up' young men challenge the local Camorra boss; Don Ciro, who delivers money to Camorra families becomes involved in a clan war known as the 'faida di Scampia'; Pasquale, a tailor working for a factory producing high fashion, moonlights for a Chinese manufacturer with serious consequences; and a young man Roberto is involved in the Camorra's toxic waste business. 

This is not a film for the casual cinema goer as it runs 137 minutes, and portrays a image of Italy that the tourist hopefully never sees with much of it filmed  on a sink estate that made parts of Peckham look positively idyllic. 
The film reminded me of The Wire, but as if only viewed from the perspective of the gangsters, and the result is both very bleak and frightening. The almost incidental violence is terrible and realistically sudden, human life is cheap and this is not occurring in inner city USA, but in supposedly 'civilized' Europe. 
Gomorrah is an excellent exciting film  but it should be regarded more as an educational event than cinematic entertainment. In other words don't take anyone who is nervous and holidaying south of Rome, this is not the Italy of the Duomo in Florence or the Campo in Siena.
[photo of Roberto Saviano from The Independent, scene from film from The Times]


Anonymous Anonymous said...

and portrays a image of Italy that the tourist hopefully never sees

In other words don't take anyone who is nervous and holidaying south of Rome, this is not the Italy of the Duomo in Florence or the Campo in Siena.

I'm a bit perplexed by these comments.
Surely no one believes Italy (or Brazil,Greece,Cuba,whatever) is only what you see in postcards or tourist brochures?
I would have thought mafia is at least as well known outside Italy as the art or the monuments.
This doesn't mean a tourist should fear visiting Naples or Sicily-and after all the murder rate in Italy is still below the UK and well below Sweden.
The impact of mafia,camorra and n'drangheta is devastating,but it is felt inside,not outside.
Every medium to big European city has its less pleasing aspects- next time you're in Florence,try the bus n.35 or the regional train to Le Piagge-you'll see a very different city.
What's more,this idea of preserving the tourists results in "sweep under the rug" approaches to social problems -the Florentine Municipality f.e. passed very controversial zero tolerance policies against hawkers,peddlers and the homeless-in some Caribbean or Latinamerican countries the measures,official or not,taken to preserve safe havens for tourists may be very drastic indeed.

Finally,here 's a bilingual petition urging the Italian State to protect Saviano.


10:53 AM  
Blogger Uriah Robinson said...

Marc, I was being a bit flippant and merely intending to warn people that this is a violent film.
I agree with you we should not try and hide the reality of the situation but do tourists to London see some of the South London estates that were very violent when I was a teenager in the 1950s and are even more dangerous now.
I also agree with you every city has its disreputable areas and my home city even with its medieval cathedral is no exception. As a local one knows which areas to avoid.
I am slightly surprised that the murder rate in Italy is below that of the UK and Sweden. But then I lived in South London for many years and never knew a murder victim, after I moved to rural Devon I met two people who later were murdered and one whose mother had been murdered.
I apologise if you think I was not treating the subject seriously enough but I would say that to British people who rarely see police on foot patrol the presence of police in Italian cities is reassuring.
best wishes

11:43 AM  
Blogger Uriah Robinson said...

Sorry Marco not Marc excuse my poor typing skills.

11:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just to let you know that,on the subject of perhaps less explored sides of Italy, Words Without Borders has a nice interview with Amara Lakhous,author of Clash of Civilizations over an Elevator on Piazza Vittorio,as well as an excerpt of the novel.


3:06 AM  
Blogger Uriah Robinson said...

Thanks Marco, to me that is a very sad interview. I will have a look at the excerpt later as I have just got back from a three day holiday break.

7:56 AM  

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