Italy, 2009, 102 min. | Nederland, 2010
Two films on Naples are filled with statements, stories, context and interpretations. While director Stokman takes a kind of helicopter view, director Ferrara immerses himself in Naples. As WilleMien SAnDerS writes, the first looks at various aspects of the crime scene from a traditional distance, while the other interweaves several fictional storylines with interviews and historical film material – and himself.
Two films picture the Italian city of Naples. Both focus on the omnipresence of the mafia. Walter Stokman’s Scena del crimine sketches the city and a number of its inhabitant and includes a note of hope: there is another option besides joining the sistema. Abel Ferrara’s Napoli Napoli Napoli, a mix of documentary film, historical footage and scripted scenes with a reflexive note, is more negative: the Mafia; that is all of us. Both filmmakers are outsiders who enter a complex and controversial society to make a film about it. Ferrara is of Italian descent but was born in the Bronx, NY, and Stokman is Dutch. The outsider Ferrara is present throughout the film, making it highly reflexive. A few minutes into the film we already see him in the streets, explaining something, and in a car apparently driving up to a women´s prison.
Throughout the film, single shots of Ferrara and the crew are interspersed. And we hear Ferrara asking additional questions or requesting more information during interviews, which were obviously conducted by someone else, someone who speaks the language. Ferrara ends the film with images of a performance he gave with his band during a festival in Naples. This footage is mixed with images of a meeting with the women we recognize as participants (is he recruiting them here?).
Reflexivity is also present in Ferrara’s filming style. Interviews with various locals, such as politicians, a social worker, a journalist and a former judge, are all filmed from two angles, and one suspects with two cameras, which makes it possible to film the interview situation itself as well. During one of the interviews with a female convict we see the cameraman walking towards her. A microphone is visible and it seems no effort has been made to hide or correct this.
In contrast, in Scena del crimine the camera is observing, sometimes close, sometimes more distanced. Stokman just seems to listen and watch quietly, taking his time, looking around, adding images that just show us where we are, as establishing shots. As a traditional documentary filmmaker he ‘hides’ himself and lets the film speak for itself. The only explicit stylistic choice he makes are black and white contrast images of juvenile delinquents to protect their identity. In the opening scenes of Scena del crimine we see photos of crime scenes: blood-stained spots, a switch, a mattress, a car. We hear a telephone conversation between a female police officer and someone reporting a robbery. A fiction film could open like this, and it underlines the closed narrative of the film. Stokman then takes us to Nisida, a youth prison. Over the convicts’ tales we see images of prison life as well as images of Naples, the streets, the buildings, a stray cat. This way he adds images to illustrate the stories but moreover relates the story being told to the city instead of to a singular individual.
The story transcends the person telling it. Most of the interviews in this film have been detached from their speakers. The film shows the personal account of a grandmother who stayed away from drugs (she says) but takes care of five grandchildren. Then images of robberies, some surprisingly shameless, in broad daylight, in front of children, without the perpetrators making an effort to conceal their identity. Later we arrive at the other side: a forensic expert talking about his work accompanied by images of his research and of crime scenes.
And last the Nunziatella military academy, where the recruits talk about their choice to join the army but also of the circumstances that made this possible: a supporting family that can afford it. Through the more personal and individual stories of Emanuela and petty criminal Mauro who is under house arrest we return to Nisida youth prison. Stokman shows these people and places in seven consecutive chapters. Scena del crimine explores, looks around, observes, and listens. The interviews are individual and personal; the film gives space to individual participants to show themselves, not interrupted and cut into a larger story per se but as individuals. Yet, the stories are lifted to a more general level through the editing.
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