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Teen Rat Versus the Mafia in The Sicilian Girl

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The Sicilian Girl
Directed by Marco Amenta
Music Box Films
August 4 through 17, Film Forum

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The facts are more gripping than the filmmaking in Marco Amenta's routine docudrama about tenacious teen informer Rita Atria. The 17-year-old Sicilian spitfire made jaws drop in 1991 by testifying against a homegrown capo—a reliable way of commissioning your own murder. The Palermo-born director sketches Rita's childhood as the headstrong daughter of a "respected man" who is gunned down in their (beautifully photographed) seaside town. The movie's most touching undeveloped idea is Rita's loyalty to Dad after growing up and grasping his Mafia connection (their bond is conveyed through the universal language of riding a motorbike together and making airplane arms). But the bulk of the movie dwells on her life in hiding under a witness protection program in Rome. Instead of fleshing out life under Mafia rule, Amenta rolls out testimony and raid montages, and shows Veronica D'Agostino (spirited but limited as pazza Rita) reacting to headlines; as the prosecuting judge, Gérard Jugnot is about as commanding as a sleepy vole. The movie bides time between highlights: spotlit lash-outs ("True justice would be to crush the bastards' hearts"), tabloid memories (Rita staring down the defendants in their prison cages). Yet, to his credit, Amenta does not flinch from the conclusion to Rita's adolescent (though courageous) tantrum.

 
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