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

Images of death and grief in true crime documentaries about the mafia

Larke-Walsh, George S. (2021) Images of death and grief in true crime documentaries about the mafia. In: True Crime Conference, 23rd June 2022, Newcastle University. (Unpublished)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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Depositing User: George Larke-Walsh


Item ID: 14919

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Date Deposited: 15 Jul 2022 11:26
Last Modified: 15 Jul 2022 11:26


Author: George S. Larke-Walsh

University Divisions

Faculty of Arts and Creative Industries > School of Media and Communications

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