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The Sicilian Mafia (History Channel, 2002)

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The Sicilian Mafia (History Channel, 2002)

This is one out of five episodes from a series called "The World History of Organized Crime". See the COMPLETE post here:

"The Mafia has no goal other than to enrich itself, and get power."—Richard Martin, Former Assistant U.S. Attorney

It comes as no shock to any self-respecting gangster movie fan that the first installment in this series is about Sicily, about the old world in which "blood and honor meant everything." The narrative begins with the 1992 mob assassinations of two crusading prosecutors—first Giovanni Falcone, then his successor and childhood friend, Paolo Borsallino—whose status as folk heroes for daring to take on the cosa nostra led to their martyrdom. (Alexander Stille is especially good on these circumstances; his fine book on the subject, Excellent Cadavers, was the basis of an HBO movie of the same name.) There is a trove of fun facts here—for instance, at one point the crime rate in Sicily was ten times higher than in the rest of Italy. The narrative goes back for a sketchy retelling of the origins of Sicilian organized crime, and the seriousness of omertà, the blood oath of silence taken by made men. And the men of respect were listened to in their time: "When he says the marriage must take place, there will either be a marriage, or a funeral."

The U.S. Army comes off particularly badly—Mussolini and the mob were fierce antagonists, and after World War II, looking for anti-Fascists, the Allies blithely appointed well-known Mafiosi to top government posts. Things come undone, of course, most colorfully in a mass trial of 450 or so Mafia defendants in the 1990s—the specially built courtroom was ringed in the back by dozens of prison cells, each of them filled with dozens of mobsters, baying at the proceedings like packs of rabid animals.