Kim Longinotto is a veteran British documentary filmmaker, who has been working since the late 1970s. Often dealing with the female experience, her films include Sisters In Law (2005) about women working in the judicial system in Cameroon, and Dreamcatcher (2015), the story of a charity that helps women leave the sex industry. Her latest film Shooting the Mafia follows Italian photographer Letizia Battaglia, who has spent much of her career documenting the Cosa Nostra.
ASFF: How did the local Sicilians react when you came in to make this film?
KL: I think they’re used to people making films in Sicily. And it’s quite upsetting actually; Sicily is known for the Mafia and it’s a tourism thing. The son of [Bernardo] Provenzano, the last Mafia [figure] to be caught, he is actually making money taking people on Mafia tours. Americans, largely. And there is a sort of weariness about it – ‘Oh, they’ve come because of the Mafia.’ Even our sound recordist said, ‘Oh god, why are you making a film about the Mafia?’ It’s always shown in this glamorous way, the Mafia – they’re the heroes.
ASFF: Did you know your subject, Italian photographer Letizia Battaglia, before you started on this?
KL: No, I didn’t. Letizia never took us seriously. There was another filmmaker, Franco Maresco, making a film – whenever we were there, he came first. So she didn’t really have time for us. But we kept going back.
ASFF: Her background is fascinating – a very radical woman for the era she grew up in…
KL: I think a lot of people, when they talk about their lives, they re-write it, and they say, ‘From the age of 6, I always wanted to be a photographer.’ But the truth is, Letizia fell into taking photos as a coincidence. She went to get a job as a journalist and they didn’t have a photographer there – they were all away. And she just had a knack for it, and she fell in love with it. Most of our lives are much more haphazard than you think. I love her honesty: ‘I wasn’t interested in the Mafia.’
ASFF: How do you think photographing the aftermath of these crimes affected her?
KL: I think it damages you. I think she’s quite damaged by it. But I think for all of us, if you’re in a situation and you have to deal with it…that was her one chance to get away from her family. She wasn’t going to get another job. She had this chance and she went with it.
ASFF: How difficult is it to put together an archive-based film?
KL: Actually, archive films are a big thing now. Like Amy and Maradona. With archive films, the truth of it is, they’re not made by one person but they’re made by a team. They’re always talked about as if one person has magically managed to make this film. But you can only make the film you can if you’ve got archivists, often going to extraordinary lengths to get you footage. On this film, one of the archivists told me she had to wait on a train platform really late at night and somebody came and gave her a VHS and then disappeared!
Shooting The Mafia is released in cinemas on 29 November. For more details, click here.
1. All stills from Shooting The Mafia.