In March 2018 students in Professor Mattavelli’s class Italian Through Film had an exciting opportunity to skype with Pierfrancesco Diliberto (known as Pif), TV host and director of the movie The Mafia Only Kills in the Summer. The students watched the movie, read some articles and prepared a few questions for him.
One of the most striking elements of the movie is the way in which the mafiosi are depicted. Pif explained that, through the use of comedic elements, he aims at highlighting the difference between the myth created by films like The Godfather and the reality of the mafia. And because he grew up in Palermo (Sicily), he can laugh about the mafia in ways that others can’t.
Pif answered a few questions about the role of the mafia today and explained how things have changed since the assassination of Falcone and Borsellino, anti-mafia magistrates, in 1992. Some examples are the fact that he has never received threats for his mocking of the mafia in the media but, more importantly, today people all over Italy can watch a show that makes fun of the “boss of bosses” Salvatore Riina on national TV.
The students enjoyed listening to Pif’s perspective. Emily Knoche (class of 2019) valued the chance of hearing someone’s first-hand experiences: “Pif was able to give us more nuanced insight into the narrative of the Mafia that we would not have necessarily understood solely from the film and readings.” Kate Donati (class of 2020) appreciated how direct and genuinely interested in the conversation Pif was: “There was no feeling of him placating us or simply entertaining our questions, he seemed to genuinely be considering his answers!”
When asked the million-dollar question about the most pressing problem in Italy today, Pif had a very interesting answer as Kelly Konrad (class of 2020) noted: “he mentioned the lack of true national sentiment, and he made many comparisons of how Italy differs from other countries, including the United States, in that aspect. It was very interesting to hear his take on the issue and how he was able to relate and compare it to our experiences as Americans.” And because our conversation happened after the general elections in Italy, the class was interested in Pif’s opinion on the topic. Christian Virgona (class of 2021) noted how Pif’s comments on the Italian political situation “drew some comparisons to our most recent election here in the US where a person with no political background won.”
In general, this was a great experience for the students who were able to converse in Italian with Pif and, as Judith Tauber (class of 2021) said: “it was impressive that we had the opportunity to talk to a well-known Italian actor and film director.” Grazie Pif!