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Film Review: "The Sicilian Girl"

September 16, 2010 12:24 a.m.

KPBS film critic Beth Accomando looks at the new Italian film "The Sicilian Girl."

Related Story: Review: 'The Sicilian Girl'


This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

KPBS-FM Radio Film Review: "The Sicilian Girl"
By Beth Accomando
Air date: September 16, 2010

"The Sicilian Girl" had a sold out screening at the San Diego Italian Film Festival's Anti-Mafia Film Series earlier this year. Now the film is receiving a theatrical release. KPBS film critic Beth Accomando speaks with one of the festival's board members about the film, which is based on a true story.

SICILIAN(ba).wav SOQ 3:59

(Tag:) "The Sicilian Girl" opens tomorrow (Friday) at Landmark's Ken Cinema. You can find more of Beth's film and DVD reviews online at K-P-B-S-dot-O-R-G-slash-cinema-junkie.


Rita Atria was born into a Mafia family in Sicily. As a result she had little respect for the police who occasionally came by to try and solve crimes in her village.

CLIP Yells at cop in Italian

In 1985, when she was eleven years old, her father was gunned down by fellow mafiosi.

CLIP (gunshots) Papa!

Even as a little girl she wanted revenge but her brother advised caution and patience. But six years later her brother was also killed by the Mafia.

CLIP Carmelo!

So at the tender age of 17, Rita decided to defy the tradition of omerta, the Mafia's code of silence, and go to the police. The true story of Rita Atria serves as the basis for "The Sicilian Girl." Marco Amenta's film is a straight-ahead but engrossing police procedural that chronicles Rita's story. She is disowned by her family, threatened by the Mafia, and uncertain of Italy's justice system. But she persists in her vendetta against the mob, and along the way learns the difference between revenge and justice.

SDSU professor Clarissa Clo says the film was selected for the San Diego Italian Film Festival's Anti-Mafia Film Series in part because it focused on a female character. The more common narrative is of men fighting against the Mafia. It's also set at a pivotal point in Italy's fight against crime syndicates.

CLARISSA CLO: Well the turning point in Italian politics and in the fight against the Mafia was the assassinations of two judges that were making a lot of progress in the fight against the Mafia… and so those killings really provoked a huge outrage in Italy and in the following years, there have been a younger generation of judges and I have to say especially women who stood up and not many are willing and are willing still to go to Sicily and participate in what they call these Maxi Trials against Mafiosi. That is the context and that's what's relevant to the story of the film.

Clo sees Rita as a kind of modern Antigone struggling with divided loyalties. Rita grew up in a Mafia family but felt betrayed when her father was killed. When she turns to the police for help, they suspect her motives while her mother disowns her.

CLARISSA CLO: (0844) She does get to be disavowed and rejected by her mother who belongs to a different generation of women who still believe in the protection that Mafia offers in an environment where so few other resources exist.

The film shows how the Mafia is woven into the fabric of everyday life. It doesn't show this with quite the same intricate detail as the recent film "Gomorrah" but it does make clear how deeply rooted the Mafia was in Rita's village. When the arrests come down from Rita's evidence, we see her hometown being cleared of its men and even some officials.

CLIP News report.

Clo says Rita chooses to rebel against what's accepted, and the more accurate translation for the film's Italian title is actually "The Sicilian Rebel."

CLARISSA CLO: Rebel in the Italian title draws some connection with the lineage of rebels, Sicilian women who are often not singled out but are part of a movement and have been present in the fabric of Sicilian society for a long time and I think in that sense it is important to acknowledge the rebellious aspect of the title and of the character.

In real life, Rita's sister-in-law had preceded her in going to the police and speaking out against the Mafia. Filmmaker Marco Amenta had previously made a documentary about Rita and her sister-in-law before creating the narrative feature "The Sicilian Girl." Both films offer a rare focus on women actively challenging the Mafia.

For KPBS, I'm Beth Accomando.