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Italy anti-mafia film sparks anger with relatives

 An undated handout photo shows Italian actress Miriana Fajia playing the fictional character Rita Mancuso as a girl, kneeling over actor Marcello Mazzarella in a scene from the feature film La Siciliana Ribelle (
An undated handout photo shows Italian actress Miriana Fajia playing the fictional character Rita Mancuso as a girl, kneeling over actor Marcello Mazzarella in a scene from the feature film La Siciliana Ribelle ('The Rebellious Sicilian'). REUTERS/Eurofilm S.r.L./Handout
— image credit: Reuters

By Eliza Apperly

ROME (Reuters) - An Italian film inspired by the tragic death of a celebrated anti-mafia informer has sparked controversy with her relatives and an association named in her memory.

La Siciliana Ribelle ("The Rebellious Sicilian") tells the story of Rita Atria, a 17-year-old girl from a mafia family who braved the fury of the organization in 1991 by collaborating with authorities after the mafia killed her father and brother.

A year later, Atria was dead: throwing herself from the seventh storey of her Roman safe house in despair just a week after the mafia killed her protector, anti-mafia attorney Paolo Borsellino, with a car bomb in Sicily.

In her diary she wrote: "You have died for what you believed in, but without you, I too am dead."

For its director Marco Amenta, who also made a documentary about Atria, the film is an "important and symbolic story." Although the central character of the film is called Rita Mancuso, she clearly represents the tormented Atria.

"It is an homage to Rita Atria, but it is also a universal story, a human story, the story of a little girl who fights against a big power," he told Reuters.

For him, Rita's significance lies partly in that she was the first young woman from a mafia family to revolt openly against such a resolutely masculine organization.

But Rita's family have condemned the film. Her niece, Vita Maria Atria, who has been in hiding since 1992, said she was tired of "seeing speculation about her aunt's memory."

"I don't believe that any of this helps to commemorate my aunt, but only serves economic ends which I really do not consider appropriate," she said.

Vita Maria said Amenta had not returned family footage "entrusted to him in good faith" for the 1997 documentary.

Together with the Rita Atria Anti-Mafia Association (http://www.ritaatria.it/), Vita Maria complained the documentary did not sufficiently alter faces and voices as agreed, placing herself and her mother in serious danger.

"I don't know if they've seen the film," Amenta said, noting that Borsellino's widow had personally congratulated him. "I feel that I respected her memory and I know people all over the world have been touched."

Amenta said footage showing Rita's face and funeral in the film was taken from television archives and private sources, but he said he did not wish to become embroiled in an argument.

"It's a real pity because it doesn't help the anti-mafia fight. We should all be united against this common enemy."

(Editing by Paul Casciato)

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