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Kim Longinotto
Letizia Battaglia
Writing Credits:

Italian photographer Letizia Battaglia spends her career documenting the life and crimes of the Mafia.

Rated NR

Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
Italian DTS-HD MA 5.1
Italian Dolby 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 98 min.
Price: $34.98
Release Date: 3/24/2020

• “A Conversation with Director Kim Longinotto” Featurette
• Trailer & Previews


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Shooting the Mafia [Blu-Ray] (2019)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (April 15, 2020)

Given its title, one might expect 2019’s Shooting the Mafia to provide a violent crime drama. Instead, it brings us a documentary about a photojournalist.

In Sicily circa the 1970s, 40-year-old Letizia Battaglia decides to become a photojournalist. As she builds her talent, her focus shifts toward more serious subjects.

Where she lived, that meant the Mafia, as that organization dominated many aspects of daily life. Battaglia fixes her camera on this group, with the threats that comes along with this choice.

Now in her 80s, most of the commentary in this documentary comes from Battaglia herself. We also hear from her assistant Maria Chiara, photographers/Battaglia’s former lovers Franco and Santi, and journalist Eduardo. (For reasons unknown, the filmmakers don’t credit the last names of those men.)

In addition to the interviews, we get ample evidence of Battaglia’s work. We also see home film footage from her life and topic-related domains.

As I went into Shooting, I expected a revealing documentary about a courageous photojournalist and the ramifications of her work. I didn’t get that.

Instead, Shooting brings us a sloppy mess of a documentary, a film with a nearly complete lack of focus. Though Battaglia’s life and career frames the story, matters flit around so much that the result becomes a nearly incomprehensible slog.

For much of the movie’s first half, it concentrates on Battaglia’s life and career, but it does so with little consistency. We find seemingly endless comments about Battaglia’s beauty and her romances, all of which fall into “who cares?” territory.

While these scenes should add complexity to Battaglia and allow us to understand why she did what she did, they don’t. We just find a superficial view of her life with precious little effort to dig deeper.

Much of this seems to stem from Battaglia’s reluctance to examine her past in this way. When the film prods her to discuss issues, she complains and demurs.

Perhaps director Kim Longinotto fought with Battaglia about her refusal to comment on important areas, but as depicted here, we see no resistance to her. This leaves us with a film that doesn’t find much depth in its lead subject, so we get precious few insights about Battaglia.

As Shooting progresses, it delves more into the world of the Mafioso, but it also falters in that department. This topic demands a full documentary of its own, not just a half-hearted summary.

Matters suffer even more because Shooting gives us so little context and it rushes through the material so rapidly. We get only the most superficial overview of the criminal figures and their importance before the movie progresses to something else.

As a biography, Shooting fails because we learn so little of import about its subject, and the film never offers an insightful look at other domains. Loose to the degree of pointlessness, this becomes a weak documentary.

The Disc Grades: Picture C+/ Audio C+/ Bonus D+

Shooting the Mafia appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.78:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. With its mix of new interviews and archival footage, Shooting looked adequate for this sort of program.

As always, I viewed the old material and the new shots with different expectations, and the archival stuff jumped all over the place. It could look pretty good at times, but we also got some messy clips.

I didn’t have any real problems with those, however, as I figured they were about as good as we could get. In any case, the flaws of the old bits didn’t interfere with my enjoyment of the program. They blended just fine and didn’t cause distractions.

Overall, the new footage offered nice visuals. Sharpness was good, as only minor softness impacted on the new footage. Those elements appeared mainly concise and accurate.

Colors were reasonably natural, and no notable defects affected the new footage. Blacks and shadows followed suit, as they seemed perfectly positive. Overall, the visuals were solid given the program’s parameters.

As for the DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack of Shooting, it became a low-key affair. Stereo delineation of music appeared positive and the overall soundfield seemed more than acceptable, with use of the surrounds to reinforce the score.

Effects lacked much to do, as dialogue and music dominated. A few violent moments came with good effects but don’t expect much in general.

Audio quality was solid. The new interview comments sounded just fine, as they offered perfectly acceptable clarity. No issues with edginess or intelligibility occurred, as they provided warm and natural tones.

Music also demonstrated good range and definition, while the occasional effects appeared well-reproduced. This mix did enough right to earn a “C+“.

A featurette called A Conversation with Director Kim Longinotto runs five minutes, 38 seconds. Here the filmmaker discusses aspects of the production. We get some good insights but the “Conversation” is too short to tell us much.

The disc opens with ads for Joan the Maid, Britt-Marie Was Here, Serendipity and A Fish In the Bathtub. We also get a trailer for Shooting.

As a look at a pioneering photographer who documented organized crime, Shooting the Mafia should offer a powerful tale. Instead, the movie feels scattershot and largely ineffective. The Blu-ray brings acceptable picture and audio as well as negligible bonus materials. Though not a total loss, the documentary lacks depth and disappoints.

Viewer Film Ratings: 1 Stars Number of Votes: 1
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