Sunday, 29 November 2015
I watch Black Souls and remember an Italian road trip
Sometimes when I watch a movie, I can't help having that 'been there' thing play in my mind. It was the case with a recent mafia-style movie which is set mainly in the toe bit of southern Italy.
We'd been on a road trip holiday which had somehow ended up deep down in Italy at an agro-tourism farmhouse. Vines and olives, that kind of thing. Multi national guests, sharing evenings with farmhouse food. The last few kilometres to the farmhouse and its converted barns were along one of those Italian white roads, which kick up dust and rightly give the impression of being in the middle of nowhere.
Our nearest village was similarly remote, up on a hill and with people who could have lived there for many generations. They'd be out sitting in groups on the pavements and the older folk chattered to one another with a kind of genial familiarity that could have gone right back to their schooldays.
My recollection of our time in the southern part was of sunshine, although this movie mainly reserves the sun for the north of Italy, with the southern home village giving a pervasive tone of darkness.
In Black Souls, the movie settings show sleek glassy business blocks in an opulent version of Milan. That's where the practicing gangsters operate. Then down south to the goatherding part of the same family in their small Calabrian hometown.
There's three brothers in this ‘Ndrangheta family. A mafia family, two of the brothers are involved with Columbian cocaine trafficking and the movie starts with them in Amsterdam doing a drug deal with a Spanish smuggler. There's the leather-jacketed action man hoodlum brother and the well-dressed crime syndicate book-keeper brother.
Hundreds of kilometres south in Calabria, it is rural to the extent that it's difficult to see how any of the crime money would have found its way back to the village. Indeed, the third brother has got out of the life and instead tends goats. Okay, he could buy half of the adjacent mountainside, but what would he want it for? He'll get along with this simple life.
His 20-year old son doesn't agree and wants to go north and get into the main family business. He'll need a suit and a scrub-up to impress in Milan.
Before he leaves the village he shoots up the signs on a bar close to home. It belongs to a rival family where a balance of peace exists but the machismo vandalism can only mean an old feud will reawaken.
There will be trouble.
The real ‘Ndrangheta is big business. Nowadays they reckon it turns over around 3% of Italy's GDP. It is reckoned to be bigger than McDonalds if its books were visible. As a part of the wider mafia, it probably represents around 1/3 of their circa €160bn annual turnover.
So, to lighten the tone a little, here's a piece by Andrea di Marco, explaining the background to that particular branch of the well-known crime syndicate.