bratty girl becomes incorrigible teenager

“Even tomatoes tasted like blood,” says Rita, the bold Sicilian girl whose story is told in this based-on-truth film by Marco Amenta. The bitter red taste pushes Rita to take justice into her own hands. She sets her sight on nailing her kingpin “uncle,”  Don Salvo, after he murders her father, a Mafia boss, and her brother, who is also in the Mafia. It’s a complex story. Rita’s boyfriend Vito is also Mafioso. (He kills her brother and is expected to also take care of Rita.) Her mother–even more conniving and contemptible than HBO Tony Soprano’s doozy of a mom–hisses like a cobra, says her daughter’s dreams will never come true, and demands she shut up. But Rita will not not kiss the hands of men who should be dead.

In her diary, she records the going-ons in Balata, a fictional Mafia headquarters outside Palermo, and takes photos of men trading money, guns and drugs. She chronicles the hierarchy and identifies corrupt  politicians. She denounces the system handing over the evidence to a judge, breaking Omertà–the code of silence. Still, to win the case, 17-year old Rita has to make an agonizing journey: from adoring daughter to bitter state’s witness, from the desire for revenge to the desire for justice.

In Italian with subtitles, The Sicilian Girl, is based on the life of Rita Atria, a witness in a major 1992 Mafia investigation. The two judges who presided over these anti-Mafia trials (Falcone and Borsellino) were assassinated. Watch this 2009 film (on DVD & instant Netflix streaming) to observe the Italian legal system,  traditional Sicilian pageantry, small town mentality, and the sad fate of whistleblowers. You’ll applaud the intractable heroine.