By Daniel Wirtheim, Features Editor
Published in print Mar. 17, 2015
There are a lot of tourists who come to Sicily specifically because of Francis Ford Coppola’s “The Godfather.” They might take a bus to see the spot where Michael Corleone was married, have lunch at a bar outfitted with Vito Corleone memorabilia, get back on the bus and leave. Because of it’s history of housing mafia leaders, Sicily has become synonymous with the life of the fictitious, Hollywood Corleone’s. Today a new generation of Sicilians are combating the mafia-stereotypes, showing another side of Sicily, another Corleone.
For over four years Dr. Anthony Fragola, Professor Emeritus of Media Studies at UNCG, has compiled interviews and video-footage of farm cooperatives that are battling the Mafia’s rule in Sicily. His latest documentary film, “Another Corleone: Another Sicily,” depicts three farming cooperatives across Sicily as they use social gardening methods to gain a foothold in a region once controlled by the mafia.
“Another Corleone: Another Sicily” follows Fragola as he talks with farmers at three cooperatives in Sicily, where farmers are cultivating land once controlled by the mafia. Before they became known for their dealings in the illicit drug trade, the mafia focused on agriculture. Mafioso owned nearly all of the fertile land in Sicily until the rise of Mussolini’s fascist regime, which divided all unused land among Sicilian peasants. That idea was turned on its head during the American occupation, when a democratic ideology was promoted. Struggle over ownership of the land culminated in the Portella Massacre of 1947, where it’s generally believed that the mafia fired upon a group of unarmed, celebrating peasants.
Through archival footage, “Another Corleone: Another Sicily” takes the viewer through a brief history of mafia rule in Sicily. It’s a heart-wrenching story of abuse and massacre by the mafia only for the reason of strengthening their grip on Sicily. Fragola’s film de-glamorizes “The Godfather,” it champions the working class of Sicily and the power of communal, hard work.
There’s a handcrafted feeling to “Another Corleone: Another Sicily.”
Fragola shot the entire film himself over a four-year period. A few of the shots are grainy, the tripod shakes at times, but there’s a charm to those moments. Fragola is less of an expert on mafia history as he is a storyteller. His narration is earnest and personal—well suited for the score of operatic and traditional Italian compositions that comprise the soundtrack. He makes a few cameos, walking through a field and musing on the martyrs who died fighting the mafia.
For the people of Sicily, the mafia has been a longtime threat to their livelihood, and they were nearly everywhere—a windmill operator or the man selling produce on the corner could be cooperating with the mafia. The threat of the mafia is not what it is today. Fragola calls the modern mafia, “white collar mafia,” because they work as doctors, attorneys and various other white-collar jobs. Building a society devoid of the mafia is what the farming cooperatives aim for.
Yielding enough crops to distribute internationally is a long-term goal, but for now the produce from these cooperatives is only distributed locally.