Shooting the Mafia is a fascinating look at Latitzia Battaglia’s career as photojournalist from the perspective of the artist herself, through interviews and voiceovers. It is built from sometimes seemingly random recollections of her life and experience.
Filmmaker Kim Longinotto plays sentimental music like O Solo Mio and Volare over Battaglia’s crime scene photos and of the artist in her youth, as she speaks of a dark childhood memory that impacted the rest of her life.
Longinotto also uses romantic Italian songs to accompany scenes from both home movies, and films of the day meant to represent the artist’s feelings of the time, but this technique becomes a bit confusing. We don’t know if it’s her, or some famous Italian film star.
Over these various scenes, Battaglia also speaks of her mental breakdown, which resulted from the stresses of motherhood and a confining marriage, being the victim of domestic violence at the hands of her first husband, and of turning to extramarital affairs in “her struggle to be somebody”.
This aspect of the movie is meant to speak to her frame of mind and the motivation that led to her career as photojournalist, and is less compelling then when she speaks directly of the photographs that made her famous. That is when the film comes alive.
Battaglia had a fearlessness that is powerfully feminist, and the viewers experience her complicated perspective as an Italian woman with a passion for her work. We are drawn into her conflicted feelings about a subject matter that, at its core, expresses violence, cruelty. and pain. Shooting the Mafia is imperfect, especially as it doesn’t highlight the artist’s work nearly enough, but it shines a light on a complicated woman and truly compelling artist.