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Sunderland Repository records the research produced by the University of Sunderland including practice-based research and theses.

Sharing images of death and grief: collaborative testimonies against the power of the mafia in documentary.

Larke-Walsh, George S. (2021) Sharing images of death and grief: collaborative testimonies against the power of the mafia in documentary. In: British Association of Film and Television Studies Society Conference, April 20-22, 2022, St Andrews University, UK. (Unpublished)

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)


Images related to mafia violence have a unique status in the history of true crime narratives and photojournalism. They are sorrowful, but they are also tied to a specific discourse of intimidation and power. Images draw on intertextual assumptions, such as evidence of mafia activity, or as media ‘messages’; they are glorified as the voice of the mafia, suggesting the mafia ‘speaks’ through its actions. In contrast, my paper suggests how such images act as collaborative testimony by examining documentaries that bring together journalists, artists, lawyers and witnesses and provide narratives of cross-pollinating activism to wholeheartedly speak against the mafia. I explore Kim Longinotto’s Shooting the Mafia (2019) and Marco Turco’s Excellent Cadavers (2005) who both focus on the work of Letizia Battalgia; her photojournalism operates as visual testimonies of grief and collaborative resistance. My paper draws on concepts of affect and image ethics to show how news images of dead bodies can be reproduced to challenge traditional perceptions of Sicily and organized crime. The intention is to balance the argument that images reinforce the mythology of the mafia through their evidential status as criminal ‘messages’ against the possibilities for them to operate as rejection and resistance. This paper argues that while true crime documentary rarely provides a solution to mafia violence it can function as a conduit for collaborative resistance and help to undermine the mythological status of the mafia.

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More Information

Depositing User: George Larke-Walsh


Item ID: 14753

Users with ORCIDS

ORCID for George S. Larke-Walsh: ORCID iD

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Date Deposited: 06 May 2022 13:42
Last Modified: 06 Dec 2022 14:29