As posted on CLAUDIA
The true story of the women who had the ‘boldness’ to unite and face the ultra-violent Calabrian criminal faction, the ‘Ndrangheta, yielded a bestseller signed by journalist Alex Perry, in 2019 and is the basis of the StarPlus series, The Good Mothers, available on the platform since the beginning of April. It is a series that mixes suspense and drama, making the heart tighten and race at the same time as it is a story of courage and a lot of determination told from the perspective of women who have united against Crime. Unsurprisingly, it was the big winner at the 2023 Berlin Film Festival.
In a way, it is an opposite version of The Godfather because it does not bring glamour to the crime and even more, it is seen and told from a female perspective, something very rare in this tradition. Divided into six episodes, The Good Mothers tells the tragic stories of abused, threatened women who still did not shut up. In an extremely sexist and violent scenario, the prosecutor played by Barbara Chichiarelli realizes that she can convince wives and daughters to try to unite and destroy the system that uses them only as an object, from the inside. The biggest motivation comes after the “disappearance” of Lea Garofalo (Micaela Ramazzotti).
Sorry for the spoiler, but it’s impossible to avoid it. We follow the drama of Lea, who in the early 2000s provided the Italian police with details about the internal feuds within the mafia and caused the deaths of about 40 people. Lea entered witness protection in 2006, along with her daughter, Denise Cosco (Gaia Girace). However, leaving the program in 2009, she ended up being lured to Milan by her former partner, Carlo Cosco, for what would be a friendly conversation. She was kidnapped, tortured, and killed by his brothers. Denise escaped and testified against her uncles and her father and helped the prosecutor to reach Giuseppina Pesce (Valentina Bellè), a mother of three who also accepts to face the patriarchy that oppresses her and which, in turn, brings her best friend, Maria Concetta Cacciola (Simona Distefano), who is also having problems at home for daring to question the order of things. Their fates may be the same as Lea’s, but they view their luck in the same way.
The prosecutor’s strategy to discover what happened to Lea and at the same time bring down the ‘Ndrangheta, depends on the contribution of these women because they know the details of the criminal scheme like few others. However, as Lea knew, breaking the age-old code of silence known as “omertà”, which boils down to being faithful to your family or dying, can be fatal. The behind-the-scenes tragic fallout from all this action is in Alex Perry’s book, but the cast focused more on the research they did. “I didn’t read the book, because the preparation time was very limited and that’s why the script became our Bible, in many moments it seems like a horror story”, commented actress Valentina Bellè in an exclusive telephone interview with CLAUDIA this week, direct from Rome. “It’s very rare to see women who commit themselves in this way and who go against their own family to seek a new way of experiencing things, the mafia seen from the outside has many faces, doesn’t it?” added Barbara Chichiarelli.
The actresses, rightly so, were very impacted by the story as there are tragic consequences for some who collaborated with Justice, such as what happens to Maria Concetta Cacciola. “It was important to live them”, Simona commented to CLAUDIA. “Valentina and I talked a lot to understand the submission of women in this context [of the mafia] because for me, as a woman, it was difficult to fully understand what it was like for them and I needed an awareness work”, she confessed.
“Yes, and I would add that there are many differences between women linked to the crime. For example, in the case of Gomorra [another mafia faction that operates in Italy], there are women at the top, women who directly manage power, but, in the case of the ‘Ndrangheta, no. Women are the most sacrificed and forced to suffer”, continued Simona. “That’s why it’s very important to get to know these stories a little more closely, to enter more deeply into the reality of this violence”.
For those who are used to seeing a paradisiacal Italy in cinemas and series, the realistic, dirty, and suffocating scenarios of the poorest regions of the country will find it strange. With no alternatives, it is the sisterhood that unites them, even if they face their own mothers and brothers, forced to respect the age-old “rules” of the mafia. Without falling into victimization traps, The Good Mothers bring a realistic, real, and very human story to the screen.
“Unfortunately, the criminal model of the ‘Ndrangheta has been exported all over the world, from Canada to Brazil, so I hope that The Good Mothers can collaborate to create a public debate around something fundamental like freedom”, suggests Barbara. “By raising issues of a dynamic that we highlight in a very crystalline way and that not only women but also men can also understand how the language of the mafia works and its consequences”.