By Brian Brooks | Indiewire February 12, 2009 at 3:01AM
iW CONTEST: In anticipation of the release of “Gomorrah,” indieWIRE is giving away 10 copies of Roberto Saviano’s book. The winners have been chosen... but please check back for future iW contests!)
After its press screening ahead of the New York Film Festival back in September, the audience seemed to take a collective breath as the credits rolled on Italian director Matteo Garrone's stunning "Gomorrah," which screened last spring at the Festival de Cannes. Unlike many a mafia story, "Gomorrah" is devoid of much of the romaticized and almost fairytale elements of a Hollywood mob film. Without a doubt, the film's focus on hard reality is in the spirit of author and co-screenwriter Roberto Saviano's book "Gomorrah," which sold over 1.2 million copies in Italy alone. His success has resulted in a loss of personal freedom, as he now lives under constant police protection. "I was afraid at first when we started," Garrone recalled in a late 2008 conversation with indieWIRE. "When we started to work on the screenplay in Rome, he used to come to my house with police protection."
Based on Saviano's bestseller, Garrone's film depicts five interwoven stories set in the Italian provinces of Naples and Caserta where residents live with the constant presence of the Camorra whose wealth, power and brutality are a preeminent reality. Citizens in this area of Italy cannot avoid the Camorra who set the rules for the region and whose reach is global. Not only is the "enterprise" one of Italy's most powerful, it is one of the largest in the European Union with an estimated annual global intake of 58 billion euros.
indieWIRE presents an exclusive clip from the "Gomorrah." The film opens on February 13 in New York and Los Angeles and will be made available on February 18 nationwide through the cable VOD platform, IFC In Theaters.
Not only is the Camorra's illegal activity confined to drugs and arms trafficking, extortion and a "protection" racket, but its economic prowess also reaches into the "legitimate" economy including construction, tourism, textiles, restaurants, banking, fuel, transport and more. The group's violence is also a remarkable statistic. According to official figures, there have been fewer victims in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict since the beginning of the Intifada.
"When I read the book for the first time, I was shocked because it was very powerful - visually powerful," Garrone told indieWIRE by phone from Los Angeles. "There was a possibility to make a movie that's different from the ones I had seen before. [I thought] we could make a movie from the inside and change the formula without any glamorization of the characters - [and] I wanted to give the feeling of the audience that they were there..."
Still, Garrone does make one ode to a famous gangster film early in"Gomorrah." He references a scene in "Scarface" when Al Pacino's character buys a lavish home with a double staircase, exemplifying the moment when a boss lavishes himself with a palatial manifestation of achieving the pinnacle of gangster success.
But "Gomorrah" fundamentally focuses on the everyday lives of typical people in this region of Italy who survive on all ends of the food chain. One person, Don Ciro, pays the families of prisoners that are affiliated with his crime syndicate, but must contend with the crumbling structure of his clan. Meanwhile, Toto is 13 years old and cannot wait to join the system. Marco and Ciro want to engage in gangster-like activities as independent souls living out a dream of a Brian de Palma film, until the establishment begins to acquate their bravado with disruption of the pecking order.
As a recent graduate, Roberto finds work as a protege of Franco who offers him a lucrative opportunity working in toxic management. But the realities of his work break his moral standards. The fifth story in the film focuses on talented tailor Pasquale, who works with little fanfare by a subcontractor for the haute courture industry. Chinese competitors lure him over on the side to teach their workers his trade and is seduced by the attention and money they offer him, which aggravates the "system," with potentially life threatening results.
"What was important for us was to be rigorous and not to be sentimental - it was important for these people to be 'alive,'" said Garrone about developing the film. "I feel close to every character...When we showed the movie, we didn't want to [be] judgmental [because] when you grow up in this situation, it is very difficult to understand the line between good and bad."
Before contemplating good vs. bad, Matteo Garrone started out as a camera assistant at age 20, working for a family friend who was a D.P. He transitioned for several years to concentrate on being a painter, but then found himself evolving back to cinema. "I always worked with visual [arts]... When considering projects, it always comes down to a visual inspiration. [Additionally], my father was a theater critic...and a lot of my actors come from theater."
For "Gomorrah," Garrone again turned to theater when deciding on its eclectic cast. "I worked with young actors who were from a local theater company in the area as well as actors who worked in a prison theater company. It was very important for this movie to have the right faces - the faces were very important."
Also a crucial component for Garrone is an honest and realistic depiction of Camorra as an unalterable monolith. When asked by indieWIRE if he believed the notorious drug cartels waging a bloody narco war in Mexico had ties with the Camorra in Italy, Garrone deferred to his co-screenwriter who had recently spent time south of the border.
"I think there is a connection," commented Maurizio Braucci who was traveling with Garrone in Los Angeles. "There is a parallel [with Naples] because of corruption among the public administration and the police. The death rate in Mexico is very high and the army has been invited in just like in Italy. Of course this could be avoided if the corruption and economic disadvantage changed." Continuing, he added, "When I was in Mexico, I met some Italian narcos and [one guy] was invited by the Cali because he had to translate for the Camorra."
"The whole world is connected to Camorra," said Garrone.
iW CONTEST(Question 1 of 5)
Q: The name Camorra comes from blending two Italian words together. What are those words and what do they mean?
A: capo (boss) + morra (Neapolitan street game)
Winners: Amy Heller, Justin Stayshyn(Question 2 of 5)
Q: “Gomorrah” was not nominated for the 2008 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film amid much controversy. Name the last Italian film nominated for an Oscar in that category, along with the year it was nominated.
A: “The Beast in the Heart,” 2005
Winners: R.T. Lechow, Eric Hernandez
(Question 3 of 5)
Q: Garrone’s first feature film, “Terra di mezzo,” expands upon an earlier short film he directed. Name the film.
Winners: Paula Buxbaum, Mark Oddino
Question 4 of 5)
Q: In 1998, police arrested Francesco Schiavone, a high profile member of the Camorra. Give the nickname that Schiavone is known by popularly in Italy and its origin.
A: Sandokan – after a popular 1970s television series starring Kabir Bedi – because of his thick, dark beard.
Winners: Taso G, Dave McDougall(Question 5 of 5)
Q: Garrone’s “Gomorrah” is not the first movie to be made about the Camorra. Name another film based on the organization, along with the director and year it was made.
A: “Camorra” (1972, Pasquale Squitieri) OR “Il Camorrista” (1986, Giuseppe Tornatore)
Winners: David Casassa, Jennifer deGroot