Napoli Napoli Napoli | Scena del crimine

Abel Ferrara | Walter Stokman

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.

Abel Ferrara documentaries. Napoli Napoli Napoli

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.

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