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FILMS Italy

La valle dello Jato: one man and his small television against the mafia

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- Caterina Monzani and Sergio Vega Borrego’s documentary is in competition at the 9th Biografilm Festival (Bologna, 7-17 June), the festival dedicated to biographies and life stories

La valle dello Jato: one man and his small television against the mafia

"There are stories of people that are worth knowing,” is the motto of Biografilm Festival. One of these is that of Pino Maniaci, a volcanic journalist in a struggle against the mafia. Every day, from his little local station Telejato, he puts criminal leaders in the spotlight by giving out names and surnames. His courageous and passionate endeavour is documented in La valle dello Jato [+see also:
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, a documentary by Caterina Monzani and Sergio Vega Borrego, recipient of an award during the RIFF 2013 and presented in the Italian competition section of the 9th Biografilm Festival - http://www.biografilm.it/2013/ (Bologna, 7-17 June), the festival dedicated to biographies and life stories.

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Pino Maniaci (photo) lives in Partinico, a province of Palermo, where mafia infiltrations and rackets pollute social life, as does the Bertolino distillery, which pollutes the air and is owned by a man with family mafia ties. In order to tackle the latter, Maniaci, with his hollowed out profile, imposing moustache and hoarse, smoker’s voice leads a campaign of intense denunciation from the height of his local television news programme, which France 2 channel has defined “the longest news broadcast in the world.” It consists of two hours of first hand, unfiltered local news.

What led two young directors, one 33-year-old from Bologna living in London, and the other, a 31-year-old from Madrid, to make a film on the daily life of a small Sicilian town? “Sergio and I attended the National Film School in England,” Caterina Monzani explained. “A development fund was made available by the BBC and I thought of making a film on Italy, which spoke about journalism and communication in a moment in which there was much talk about press problems in Italy, with Berlusconi, etc. I heard about Pino online and got in touch with him.”  

Telejato is virtuous example of press freedom. Despite threats, attacks, his car being set on fire and antennae sabotaged, Maniaci never stopped going on air. And he is by no means alone. The local population adores him, support him and turn to him when faced with problems. “It takes half a day to report a crime to the police. If you tell Pino, he gets here in five minutes and reports on it,” is what they say of him locally.

A different Sicily emerges from this picture. One which is not paralysed by silence, but rather one which takes part in civic life with a determination to take a united stance against organised crime. Maniaci’s family stands out as serene and professional. Every day, his wife and three teenage sons help him make his newscast, at great personal risk.

Produced by Miafilm, a company founded by the two filmmakers, the documentary has yet to find a distributor but is starting off what will doubtless be a long journey through international festivals. This is also what Italy is: courage, solidarity and a fight for legality, a message that needs to be proclaimed abroad. Pino Maniaci’s is indeed a story worth watching.

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(Translated from Italian)

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