Described as the last of the people’s bandits, a sort of Italian Robin Hood, but Salvatore Giuliano’s banditry was never as simple as that. Accused by some of being an outlaw in the pay of the Italian government and by others as a hero fighting for independence for the people of Sicily. With the government being in cohorts with the mafia and the remaining Italian fascists, the idea of an independence fighter would seem nearer the truth but until 2016 when government secret files are due to be made public we will not know for sure?
We know he belonged to a political movement called ‘Sicily and Freedom’, which was set up to fight for an independent Sicily. Although he was not a politician he was a political freedom fighter, a guerrilla fighter in the vain of Che Guevara, the difference being that Che was an internationalist and Giuliano was a nationalist, campaigning only for Sicily. Just like the modern UK Westminster parliament the Italian government worked for it own interests and not for the interests of individual regions of the country or its people.
In 1946 their King had granted Sicily autonomy, which soon became state law and consequently inserted into the Italian constitution. Sicily is very much like Scotland with its own parliament, its own flag, and national anthem and is a nation in its right. But just like Sicily, Scotland must continue to fight for its independence although as you my of heard we had the chance to become just that, with out the bloodshed that has accompanied Sicily’s and many other country’s fight for freedom. All we had to do was put a cross on a ballot paper but because of lies and half-truths sent out from the powerful and rich could not manage to complete this important, but simple, task. The Italian government hives away all Sicily’s resources along with all the local business tax – sound familiar?
The Portella della Ginestra massacre, of mainly poor peasants at the May Day celebrations in Sicily on May 1st 1947 that coursed all sorts of repercussions, was attributed to Giuliano but allegedly no evidence exists to substantiate this. It is certainly more likely that the government and their Mafia hit men were to blame with orders said to have come not only from Rome but our old friends the Americans, both wanting to stop the Communists who had gained more seats than the Christian Democrats at the 1947 election’s. It’s now believed that Giuliano was made a scapegoat for these killings.
There are six different versions of his death, with the one shown in Francesco Rosi’s version shown in the 1962 film Salvatore Giuliano seemingly nearest to the truth. Giuliano’s body was exhumed in 2010 and DNA tests run but nothing concussive was reported, as being found and even solving the mystery surrounding his death may have to wait until 2016.
Rosi’s movie is like a historical document exploring the consequences surrounding the life and death of the charismatic Italian ‘bandit’ - but is not about the character per se. These consequences include his death, the Portella della Ginestra trial and following the Allied invasion of Sicily in 1943, the Sicilian revolution for which the government sent in 3000 armed soldiers and a detachment of tanks that Giuliano defeated and of course how Sicily’s autonomy was still not being honoured. The movie was shot in Montelepre where Salvatore Giuliano was born and also in the house in Castlelvetrans where he spent his last months and the courtyard where his lifeless body was found. Rosi utilised to great effect the inhabitants of the area, most of which had actually lived through the events depicted. The director has said that his film was never meant to be a documentary but a feature film with a clear plot narrated through a screenplay and scripted. His DOP Gianni Di Venanzo does a great job of emphasizing the emotions that the director wanted the audience to experience and also powerfully recreated the reality required giving the film a profound authenticity.
The restoration of what was a defining work of the period was completed in December 2013 and is now available on DVD with many extra’s that have helped explain the background to the story as Italian politics are certainly complicated and this is a film that certainly warrants more than one viewing.