For almost a century, American filmmakers have glamorized the Mafia, depicting their ranks as so charismatic and quick-witted that you might want to invite them over for dinner.
Audiences saw this most recently in “The Irishman,” which reunites a star cast of the usual suspects – Robert De Niro, Al Pacino and Joe Pesci – but also in “The Sopranos” and “Boardwalk Empire.”
The Mafia’s glamorized sheen in America’s collective conscience might be due to the fact that the Mafia never attained much power in the U.S. Compared with Italy, fewer lives have been lost and fewer businesses destroyed by the organized crime syndicate. Today many see the Mafia as a relic of the past.
Not so in Italy, where mafias remain as powerful and dangerous as ever. Their menace has been reflected in Italian films and television series, which have long cast mobsters in a negative light.
But as someone who studies media depictions of the Mafia, I’ve noticed a shift: Italian films and TV shows have started to glorify criminality, crafting and portraying mafiosos as alluring antiheroes.
In Italy, a break from tradition
It’s long been common practice in Hollywood to cast conventionally attractive actors as sympathetic criminal antiheroes. Humphrey Bogart in “King of the Underworld,” Al Pacino in “The Godfather” trilogy and Denzel Washington in “American Gangster” are just a few examples.
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INTERPOL has launched the Cooperation Against ‘Ndrangheta (I-CAN) project, a joint initiative with Italy to combat the increasingly insidious and global threat of mafia-type crime.
Funded by the Italian Department of Public Security, the project will focus on the ‘Ndrangheta which is the most extensive and powerful criminal organization in the world.
Present in 32 Countries, 17 of which are European, the ‘Ndrangheta is supported by its enormous financial power built mainly on drug trafficking, corruption and the diversion of public funds through fraud and rigged contracts.
“We need a global approach to counter a global threat. We have promoted a targeted project with INTERPOL for a global attack to eradicate it, involving the State Police, the Carabinieri and the Guardia di Finanza,” said Prefect Vittorio Rizzi, Deputy Director General of Public Security.
Whilst the project will initially be focusing on specific countries, the ultimate goal of the I-CAN project is to enhance the ability of law enforcement worldwide to more effectively identify and combat mafia-type organizations.
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A Mafia bust — believed to be the biggest in the Canadian province of Ontario — has resulted in 15 arrests and the seizure of homes and sports cars worth $33 million.
“Project Sindicato” targeted the Figliomeni crime family which has links to Italy’s notorious ‘Ndrangehta Mafia clan in Italy, York Regional Police announced Thursday.
“(The Figliomeni crime family) has benefitted from generations of crime to live a glamorous and indulgent lifestyle at the expense of law-abiding citizens,” Police Chief Eric Jolliffe said, according to the Toronto Sun. “We have dismantled the financial structure of this organized crime organization both here and in Italy.”
The investigation led to separate arrests of 12 individuals in Calabria, Italy, according to CTV News. Those arrests were announced Wednesday by Italian State Police.
York Police launched the investigation 18 months ago in response to a spike in shootings and arsons in Vaughan, a city north of Toronto, CTV reported.
Those arrested were accused of operating nearly a dozen illegal backroom gambling dens in various cafes and extending loans to tapped-out gamblers at extortionate rates who were then threatened with harm if they didn’t pay up, CTV reported.
The arrests included the reputed head of the crime family, Angelo Figliomeni, who was charged with directing a criminal organization, money laundering and fraud, police said.
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