Interview: Italian director Bellocchio portraits mafia traitor

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by Federico Grandesso

CANNES, France, May 31 ( Xinhua) -- "My concern was to avoid doing a conventional film but at the same time I felt it was necessary to make a 'popular' movie, which could be also simple," said Italian film director Marco Bellocchio about his film The Traitor, which was recently presented in competition at the 72nd Cannes Film Festival.

The film, which was well received in Cannes with 13 minutes of applause, landed on Thursday 11 nomination to the Golden Ribbons Awards, a top cinema Italian prize. The Traitor was immediately released in 350 cinemas in Italy and will be distributed in China.

The film is set in the early 1980s, where an all-out war rages between Sicilian mafia bosses over the heroin trade. Tommaso Buscetta, a made man, flees to hide out in Brazil. Back home, scores are being settled and Buscetta watches from afar as his sons and brother are killed in Palermo, knowing he may be next. Arrested and extradited to Italy by the Brazilian police, Buscetta makes a decision that will change everything for the Mafia: He meets with Judge Giovanni Falcone and betrays the vow he made to the Cosa Nostra.

"I convinced myself studying this character, because my private life is completely unrelated, I come from the quiet northern city of Piacenza and I have no connection with Palermo or the killings atmosphere of that area," Bellocchio told Xinhua in a recent interview.

The starting point for the Italian director was the producer Beppe Caschetto, who suggested he made a movie about the famous mafia informer Tommaso Buscetta. Bellocchio didn't know much more about him than what was written in the newspapers, so he started his research process, meeting people that knew him. After that, he built up the story and various versions of the screenplay.

"The main character, Buscetta, is not a hero but he is a brave man, a quality that I don't have. He risked his life but he doesn't want to die without a good reason; he protects his life, his family and his own tradition. In this regards he is a little bit 'conservative', he is not someone who wants to change the world but he wants to defend his past," the Italian director said.

He was always coherent and calculating, in this way he saved his life by telling everything, but this was only way to protect himself. What he said about the mafia was true, but he didn't say everything. "This was a way to protect himself," Bellocchio explained.

"He was fascinating but in a different way with regards to the characters that belong to my culture and tradition. He was an ignorant man and he wasn't ashamed about that, that he didn't even read, while some other mafia members started to read about philosophy and other complicated subjects," the director added.

Buscetta loved life very much and in this sense he was very Italian, he betrayed his wife, even though he loved her. He was someone with a remarkable personality, everyone who met him said that he was like a "magnet" and he had real charisma. Having said that, Bellocchio stressed that he was not a hero and the film shows that.

There was another important aspect, the theatricality; there is a defensive theatricality about mafia members because they wanted the big mafia trial. On the other side, Buscetta contrasted the other mafiosi with his own theatricality.

Concerning dramaturgy, this film was very complex: "I was happy because I could keep his entire story with his "demolition" at the end. After the terrible killings of the judges Falcone and Borsellino, we see how some issues were a little bit 'covered up,'" Bellocchio said.

In 1991 Bellocchio won the silver bear at the Berlin Film Festival with his film The Conviction. He has participated many times in competition at the Cannes Film Festival and in 2011 he won the honorary Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival. Enditem

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