Vendetta: Truth, Lies and the Mafia Review 2021 Tv Show Series Season Cast Crew
Vendetta: Truth, Lies and the Mafia is an Italian six-part Netflix documentary series about the people battling organized crime in Sicily — and specifically, two figures who have a little bit of notoriety themselves. One is a self-appointed TV journalist and the other is an official with the power of the state behind her. Both are controversial figures, and neither takes kindly to the other.
In the 1990s, Italy was scarred by so many “mafia massacres,” an anti-mafia movement emerged, led by journalists and judges. “But are they all real heroes?” asks a subtitle. One of those journalists is Pino Maniaci, who says his anti-mafia activism makes him fear retaliation — every time he goes to start his car, he wonders if it’ll explode. One of those judges is Silvana Saguto, who says she worked to seize “billions” in assets from mafia organizations. These are the main characters of this series, and their conflict is as follows: Maniaci accuses Saguto of being corrupt. Saguto accuses Maniaci of being a mafioso himself.
That’s the gist of the gist here. The episode settles down in Partinico, where Maniaci lives and works. In 1999, he acquired community television channel Telejato and shifted to journalism after a couple of different professional endeavors. He runs the station himself, along with his wife and children. His homegrown, amateurish news programs caught on with a large audience when he used his brash persona — self-aggrandizing, signature pushbroom mustache, cusses on air — to confront local gangsters who terrorize locals and appropriate violence. Maniaci is described as “eccentric,” “not a saint,” “vulgar” and “reckless,” an attention whore on the wild fringe of professionalism who nevertheless has his journalistic guns pointed at the right people when he goes on the air and calls mafiosos “pieces of shit.” But he also dislikes injustice, his sister testifies. And for his trouble, his enemies burned his car, killed his beloved pet dogs and tried to strangle him with his own necktie.
Next, we go to Palermo, where we meet Saguto. She became a judge in 1981 and eventually made it her mission to take down mafiosos. She has an omnipresent bodyguard as a result. We see her shooting a gun with deadly accuracy, and verbally sparring with notorious gang boss Salvatore Riina in court. She says she’s scared of bugs, but she’s not scared of mafiosos. In 2010, she became President of the Department of Protective Measures, an agency empowered to seize mafia assets without a criminal trial, forcing the accused to prove the assets weren’t acquired illegally.
After the Protective Measures began seizing alleged mafia businesses and goods, Maniaci and Telejato began reporting on corruption within the office. Companies would get seized, then neglected, putting people out of work; even worse, positions in those companies were allegedly given to friends and family members of those working for Protective Measures. Some residents claimed they paid extortion money to the mafia under the threat of death, then were labeled mafiosos by the department — guilt by association. Saguto came under fire. She got a call from “some weirdo from Protinico” who “isn’t even a real journalist.” She says she’d never heard of Maniaci, who was trying to expose her. His work was rendered credible after the national news began reporting the same story, and in 2015, the state investigated her for corruption. And then, Maniaci was arrested when authorities rounded up a batch of accused mafiosos.
Vendetta takes a sensationalist approach to a story about sensationalism, amplifying the rivalry between its two principals, whose true motives remain in the dark after one episode. Are they using an anti-mafia platform to benefit the greater good, or to further themselves and their careers? Both, probably. Maniaci comes off as too much of an intentional firebrand to not be self-serving; he frequently speaks of himself in the third person, as if he’s created a Pino Maniaci character for television. And Saguto — well, did anyone else’s eyebrow arch at the phrase “without criminal trial,” and wonder if the Protective Measures bureau’s powers leave the door wide open for fraud?
So far, the series moves at a brisk pace and emphasizes its personalities — at the expense of detail, I’m afraid. The first of a string of six episodes shouldn’t belabor its exposition, but neither should it prompt us to Google further information for relevant context. It’s hard to get a handle on whether Maniaci is considered by viewers and professionals as a citizen journalist or just a joke. It doesn’t give us any idea of Telejato’s range (Wikipedia says it has a potential viewership of 150,000 people), merely stating that Maniaci is “popular.” If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times: If a documentary prompts us to look at Wikipedia, then it’s not doing its job.
However, Vendetta may boast enough mafia-adjacent content to please that corner of obsessives. It’ll also trigger our guilty-pleasure sensors with that wait-Maniaci-might-be-a-crook-TOO cliffhanger, which might be enough of a compelling development to let the autoplay roll us right into the next episode. It exists in the median between TigerKing-type trash and credible journalism, and the story is strong enough that we may just see it through the next five chapters.