The Sicilian Girl
Directed by Marco Amenta
The well-intentioned code-of-silence-buster The Sicilian Girl opens with a young girl scribbling with red lipstick on bedsheets hung out to dry; the girl's scold of a mother disapproves, her doting father likes the joke, and then the carefree kid applies some lipstick herself. The freedom writing is already on the wall: Rita Atria (Veronica D'Agostino) grows into a plucky teen who avenges the deaths of her father and brother by forking over her explosive diary to a Palermo prosecutor (Gerard Jugnot), revealing an unprecedented amount of Cosa Nostra dirt and thereby putting her life on the line.
This is all based on a true story, and in conventional docudrama fashion writer-director Marco Amenta admires Rita's fortitude in the face of her multivalent personal crisis. First she must fend for her life; then she must struggle internally with the fact that her father and brother were Mafia members, cold-blooded killers themselves, her father slain only on account of his inconvenient opposition to the organization's involvement in the drug trade. Rita's fiancé, whom she apparently loves, is also in the mob, and he's occasionally sent to run interference for the local kingpin.
The Sicilian Girl, which premiered locally at last summer's installment of the Film Society of Lincoln Center's annual new-Italian-cinema survey, is a likeably straightforward if oddly bloodless film. But there is something vaguely unseemly about the way in which Amenta—who made the 1997 documentary One Girl Against the Mafia, also about Rita Atria—has scrubbed his protagonist's story of peripheral detail in the name of only the highest drama. Confrontations play out in anonymous, dimly lit interiors that don't evoke mounting dread so much as the sense that these characters are collectively fumbling toward the bathroom in the middle of the night. Rita's should-be-wrenching displacements—from blood-soaked piazza, to sparsely furnished witness-protection Rome hideaways, to high-decibel courtroom (as in Francesco Rosi's Salvatore Giuliano, the defendants are caged)—feel like routine movements. Amenta goes on to conclude with a handicam glimpse of the real-life Rita Atria, as if to excuse the entire foregoing feature's simplification of her story.
Opens August 4 at Film Forum