Judge Roman Martel was finally brought to justice, after his cat's secret diaries were used as evidence against him.
She defied The Family to avenge her own.
Over the years, stories about the mafia and their influence in American crime have given us some great films. But it can be safely said that many of these films glamorize the mafia and don't give us a real picture of what it's like to live in their world. Talk to anyone from Italy and you will get a very different picture of the mafia. The Sicilian Girl provides a taste of that world.
Facts of the Case
As a child Rita (Veronica D'Agostino) lived a wonderful life. Her father Don Michele (Marcello Mazzarella) was the most respected man in their village. He would step beyond the law to help people in trouble. And best of all he loved his daughter very much.
Then on the day of her first communion, he is brutally murdered. Her brother Carmelo (Carmelo Galati) tells her that the cunning Don Salvo (Mario Pupella) had their father murdered. The two siblings bide their time waiting to strike. But Salvo strikes first and Carmelo is murdered. Rita needs revenge and she decides to turn to the head prosecutor of the district (Gerard Jugnot). The prosecutor puts Rita in witness protection, but Rita finds that her desire for revenge is at odds with the discipline of justice. Either she compromises her beliefs or she ends up another casualty of mafia violence.
Rita is the focus of the story, and her quest for revenge is what drives the film. Instead of using violence to achieve her ends she goes to the law and does her best to bring down the men who destroyed her father and brother. It's this conflict that makes Rita a fascinating character.
She was born and raised in a mafia controlled world. The things she witnesses as a child seem horrific to us but are normal and even forgettable to her. But she absorbs enough to feel an intense need for vengeance against the men who wronged her. It's a disturbing sight to see a seven year old girl filled with rage, holding her father's gun and heading into a building to shoot a grown man dead.
And yet, when she's finally forced to, she goes to the prosecutor, the very law her father and his peers spit on. But Rita is not interested in justice. She only wants Don Salvo and his cronies taken down. But the prosecutor needs to build a case, he wants to actually put a dent into the mafia's hold in Sicily. Rita's journals are the key to this. But he has to get her to understand goal of the law. Because once she is on the witness stand, her character will be attacked. The daughter of a mafia boss wanting revenge is not going to get convictions.
Director Marco Amenta has done a good job crafting the film and setting up this dynamic between the Sicilian girl and the prosecutor. This movie is based on actual events. Rita was a real woman and the journal entries used in the film are from her actual writings. Amenta and his writing team do a good job taking events that span a little over a decade and giving a clear story with very little fat on it.
Amenta films Rita's childhood almost like a fantasy, full of bright colors and happy moments. But once the mafia starts to close in, things become gritty, grey and bleak. This visual shift is subtle but effective. He also keeps the dialogue heavy film moving, punctuating scenes with actual narration from Rita's diary or moments of violence.
The Sicilian Girl would not work without strong leading actors. Veronica D'Agostino does a stand out job as Rita. She plays the part well, diving into all the emotions that the character endures, from youthful love to frustration to despair. She does an excellent job showing us the inner conflict of a woman trying to come to grips with her past and what she has to do. Her performance is the glue that holds the film together.
Playing the prosecutor is French actor Gerard Jugnot. He conveys his determination to strike the mafia hard, as well as his frustration in dealing with Rita. Amazingly, the actor does not speak a lick of Italian, and most of the cast did not speak French. But both leads learned each others parts and used body language to determine how to react to each other.
Music Box Films provides a solid transfer for the film. The picture looks good, capturing the Sicilian vistas with clarity. The sound balances dialogue and the sparse but atmospheric music well. The subtitles are clear and easy to read. You get a featurette that runs a little over 20 minutes. Director Marco Amenta does most of the talking, and is obviously excited about the film. He discusses several points including the challenges of working with two cast members who speak different languages and yet must interact in key scenes. He describes the production design and what they did to show the passage of time. It's an informative piece and worth checking out after watching the film.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
This story is pretty familiar to anyone who's watched a film about a witness in a court case involving organized crime. This version is bit more realistic and gritty, but many of the story's beats will not surprise someone who watches a lot of these types of films.
Jugnot spoke all his lines in French and was overdubbed in Italian later. Unfortunately this creates an odd visual disconnect that can be very distracting. All the other actors speak and look completely normal, but when Jugnot speaks he looks like he's stepped out of an old Pippi Longstocking film.
The Sicilian Girl does an excellent job of telling a compelling story about a woman who is driven by hate to do something good. It's a well crafted tale with some great acting.
Rita and this film are not guilty.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Music Box Films
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