The Traitor: True story of mafia informant is Italy’s entry for the Oscars

Italy has picked the real-life story of a mafia informant to represent it at the 2020 Oscars.

The Traitor: True story of mafia informant is Italy's entry for the Oscars
Marco Bellocchio (L) and Pierfrancesco Favino, the director and star of The Traitor. Photo: Alberto Pizzoli/AFP

Il traditore ('The Traitor'), directed by veteran filmmaker Marco Bellocchio, was selected on Tuesday by Italy's national cinema association as its entry for Best International Feature Film at the 92nd Academy Awards.

It stars Pierfrancesco Favino as Tommaso Buscetta, the first Sicilian mafia boss to turn pentito ('informant') on his former associates.


The Palermo native climbed the ranks of the Cosa Nostra as a smuggler, first of cigarettes and then of drugs. But in the 1980s, disillusioned after years as a fugitive, multiple arrests, a prison sentence, and the deaths of several of his friends and family members – including two of his sons, whose bodies were never found – Buscetta revealed crucial details of the inner workings of the organization to crusading anti-mafia judge Giovanni Falcone.

His testimony would help Falcone and fellow prosecutor Paolo Borsellino convict more than 300 mafiosi at the infamous Maxi Trial, Italy's biggest and most successful anti-mafia prosecution in history.

Watch the trailer for The Traitor here:

Falcone and Borsellino were assassinated for their efforts in 1992, but Buscetta continued collaborating with the authorities, revealing links between organized crime and politics as well as the identity of brutal mafia boss Salvatore “Totò” Riina

He also testified at the so-called Pizza Connection Trial in the US, explaining how the Sicilian mafia would traffic drugs abroad and launder the profits via small businesses, many of them pizza parlours.

READ ALSO: How the brutal murder of an anti-mafia hero altered Sicily

His cooperation on the case allowed him to move to the US under witness protection, where he remained until his death from cancer in 2000 at the age of 71.

The Traitor covers the entire period from Buscetta's change of heart in the 1980s throughout his turns as star witness and into his later years.

“I tried to show a character who in my opinion isn't a hero but is a brave man,” director Bellocchio said. “He's a traitor, yes, but also a conservative – he's not aiming to change the world, rather to defend his past.”

The two-hour-plus biopic picked up seven prizes at the Nastri d'Argento film awards, the 'Italian Oscars', including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actor, and has made more than €4.7 million at the box office since its release in Italy in May.

READ ALSO: Around Sicily in ten classic Italian films

It comes out in the US in November. The Academy will decide on its shortlist of five contenders for the foreign film Oscar on January 13th, ahead of the ceremony on February 9th.

The last time an Italian film won the Oscar was in 2013, for Paolo Sorrentino's La grande bellezza ('The Great Beauty').

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French film club for English speakers returns to cinemas

Lost in Frenchlation, a film club that screens French films with English subtitles in Paris, is returning to cinemas this weekend after holding virtual screenings during lockdown.

French film club for English speakers returns to cinemas

Wednesday saw the reopening of cafés, restaurants, museums, theatres and cinemas in France since October.

This means that Lost in Frenchlation can return to cinemas, and film buffs who struggle to watch French movies without English subtitles can meet up again this weekend at the Luminor Hotel de Ville where the first screening is taking place this Sunday.

READ ALSO: French cinemas face 400-film backlog as they prepare to reopen

What’s on the programme?

The first event taking place on Sunday, May 23rd is a screening of Albert Dupontel’se César awarded film “Adieu les cons” (Bye bye Morons), a comedy drama about a woman who tries to find her long-lost child with a help of a man in the middle of a burnout and a blind archivist.

On Sunday, May 30th there will be a Mother’s Day special screening of “Énorme”, comedy, starring Marina Foïs and Jonathan Cohen, at Club de l’Étoile in the 17th arrondissement in Paris. 

On Saturday, May 22nd, there will be a virtual screening of “Joli Mai” by Chris Marker (1963) which inspired the documentary film Le Joli Mai 2020. The screening will be followed by a Q&A with Chris Marker specialist & journalist Jean-Michel Frodon.

Lost in Frenchlation is a company that sets up screenings of recent French film releases with English subtitles to give Paris’s large international community access to French culture and meet others in the same situation.

For more information, check out their website or sign up to their newsletter (link here).