The Mafia Kills Only in Summer (La mafia uccide solo d’estate)

Winner of several prizes including the European Comedy Film Award, this film was a sell-out when I saw it last March at the annual week of new Italian films in London, Cinema made in Italy. And now it’s finally arrived on limited distribution in the UK. A first feature from radio and TV satirist Pierfrancesco Diliberto (aka ‘Pif’), it’s constantly funny and finally deeply moving, triumphantly balancing laugh-out-loud humour with the tragedy of real events. His farcical but engaging everyman hero Arturo (played as an adult by Pif himself) is conceived on the day a famous Mafioso becomes mayor of Palermo, and thereafter his life intersects, knowingly or unknowingly, with key moments of the Mob’s increasing hold over the city and the whole island.

As a child (great performance by young Alex Bisconti) he’s so obsessed with Prime Minister Andreotti that at a fancy dress party he appears among the cowboys and fairy princesses dressed as the politician. That’s just the first of many physical gags undermining the pomposity of Italian establishment members with their feet under the Mafia table. As an ineffectual journalist Arturo’s career stutters, while Mafia atrocities and deaths of good men continue around him, much of it seen via actual film footage of the time.

But Pif’s target is not so much the Mob itself as the naïve and fearful population, decent people most of them, who turn a blind eye and allow it all to continue. The film’s title is a quote from Arturo’s well-meaning parents trying to console the little boy’s fears. But immature denial doesn’t survive the watershed moment of the assassination of the two judges, Borsalino and Falcone, who presided over Sicily’s ‘Maxi Trial’ which nailed several Mafia chiefs, and a Charlie Hebdo moment brings out the population onto the streets to confront their ‘cosa nostra’. For Arturo’s generation’s children, maybe, there will be no fudging or cover-ups. Speriamo.

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