American audiences have certainly been exposed to a wide variety of American-made mafia movies, but relatively few films, beyond 2008’s “Gomorrah” have crossed the shores to present an authentic Italian take on the genre. Opening Friday, April 24, exclusively at the Nuart Theatre in Los Angeles is a gritty Italian mob tale, “Black Souls.” Adapted from Gioacchino Criaco’s novel, “Black Souls” (“Anime Nere”) that chronicles true events, co-writer and director Francesco Munzi takes a slow burn approach to the endless cycle of violence within a mafia family.
A family morality tale, “Black Souls” examines the Carbone family and its three brothers – Luigi (Marco Leonardi), Rocco (Peppino Mazzotta) and Luciano (Fabrizio Ferracane). Luigi and Rocco run the family business, which in this case is international drug smuggling. The eldest brother, Luciano, has remained in their ancestral town of Africo and has stayed out of the family business. He is instead a goat herder and farmer. Sadly, Luciano’s 20-year-old son, Leo (Giuseppe Fumo) despises his father’s life. Leo idolizes his two uncles, Luigi and Rocco; that’s a life he yearns for.
Although Africo has the look of a picturesque historic Italian village, it’s also home to a few Mafia families who reside peacefully, at least for now. But young Leo decides to rock the boat, shooting up the business front of one of the families. Retribution must be paid. The Carbone family though, has differing views on a situation that stems far back to its family’s roots.
On the page, this story may sound simplistic – another violence begets violence type of story. But Munzi crafts a tale dealing more in internal beliefs than violent plots. Also the film feels disturbingly authentic, mostly because Munzi actually shot his film in Africo in the southern Italian region of Calabria. Known for its crime and true-life mafia (‘ndrangheta’), shooting in Africo was an obvious risk for the filmmaker.
But Munzi solicited the help of the book’s author Criaco, which lent credibility to his project. The residents’ curiosity turned to trust. Munzi explains in his film’s production notes, “I mixed my actors with the residents of Africo, who acted and worked with the cast. Without them, this film would not have been as rich.”
Munzi is absolutely right and fans of the mafia genre will certainly want to catch the gritty and authentic “Black Souls.”
“Black Souls” is 103 minutes, Not Rated and opens April 24 at the Nuart Theatre in Los Angeles.