Mafia TV series 'Corleone': when reality delivers more drama than fiction

The tragic death of James Gandolfini has been a shock to the many that since 1999 have followed the gripping tales of mafia boss Tony Soprano in the groundbreaking US TV series. But if the popular show, however realistic, was still just the depiction of a fictional mobster's life (which also applies to Coppola's iconic 'Godfather' trilogy) mafia-genre fans have now just been treated to a glimpse into the real world of the notorious Sicilian 'Cosa Nostra' with the impressive TV series 'Corleone', broadcasted on Sky Arts HD.

An enthusiastic audience apparently unfazed by having to watch the episodes in Italian with English subtitles, enjoyed the intriguing series (still available on demand and on the Internet) which follows the vicissitudes of real-life godfather Totò Riina (played by Claudio Gioè) - also known as 'The Beast' or 'the Short One' - dreaded head of the Corleonesi clan and later of the entire Sicilian mafia until his arrest in 1993. Together with trusted right-hand man Bernardo 'The Tractor' Provenzano (played by Salvatore Lazzaro), Riina masterminded one of the bloodiest takeovers in mafia history, which spanned almost twenty years, ruthlessly targeting institutions and rival families alike.


The series accurately describes the Corleonesi's history, from the early days to the events surrounding the 'Maxi Trial' where more than 400 'men of honour' convicted of mafia-related crimes were sentenced to a record-breaking total of over 2665 years. We see 'Uncle Totò' calmly juggling a complicated double life where the loving husband and father juxtaposes with the brutal murderer on the run holding the Italian state in a deadly choke-hold. Despite the humble appearance and despite being barely literate, Riina steadily holds the reins of the prolific criminal organization only to be betrayed by other mafia members, who start testifying against the Corleonesi either to retaliate for the violence they have been subjected to - such as Don Masino Buscetta - or to secure lighter sentences for crimes they have been charged with.

Orders were enforced by childhood friend Bernardo Provenzano - who took over Riina's role as Cosa Nostra's 'Boss of Bosses' until his arrest in 2006 - while murders were carried out mainly by Riina's brother in law, Leoluca Bagarella, as well as Scarpuzzedda 'Little Shoe' Greco and Giovanni 'The Pig' Brusca - who was later identified as the man that killed anti-Mafia judge Giovanni Falcone in 1992. The only completely fictional character is Biagio Schirò (played by Daniele Liotti), the policeman that acts as a thread throughout the 12-episode series, whose perseverance fuelled by the anger against the Corleone mobsters helps securing the conviction of Riina.


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