Based on the book by Italian-American author Alexander Stille and featuring the photos of Sicilian photojournalist Letizia Battaglia, EXCELLENT CADAVERS chronicles the recent history of the Mafia and its integral—and seemingly ineradicable—relationship to postwar Italian politics. Whereas in the past the Cosa Nostra used to kill only their own, beginning in the Seventies the Mafia began assassinating prosecutors, judges and others who were fighting them, and thus began producing the "excellent cadavers," as Sicilian writer Leonardo Sciascia called them.
EXCELLENT CADAVERS focuses on the efforts of two courageous prosecutors, Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino, whose efforts in the mid-Eighties led to the Maxi-Trials in Palermo, where, in a heavily-protected underground bunker the size of a football field, hundreds of Mafia defendants were tried and convicted. The film features interviews with both Falcone and Borsellino (both of whom were assassinated by bombings in 1992), details their investigative techniques, and shows highlights from the Maxi-Trials, where informants confronted Mafia bosses, and mob 'soldiers' recounted horrifying stories of murders and mysterious 'disappearances,' including the dissolving of bodies in vats of acid.
Through contemporary interviews with magistrates involved in these historic trials, archival footage, and Battaglia's shocking and heart-rending photos of public assassinations, EXCELLENT CADAVERS traces the history of the relationship between the Mafia and Italian politicians since the end of the Second World War, when the criminal Sicilian organization became a useful tool during the Cold War struggle against the Italian Communist Party. From the increasingly sophisticated nature of their international criminal enterprise, the periodic bloody power struggles between rival factions, and the Maxi-Trial revelations of informats, it is a history that has repeatedly exposed the collusion between the Mafia and the highest members of the Italian government-including former Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti.
Indeed, as EXCELLENT CADAVERS makes clear, although the courageous efforts of Falcone and Borsellino show that the Mafia can be brought to justice, the continuing involvement of the Mafia in Italian politics is evident to everyone. Nevertheless, and perhaps the best proof of this reality, is that successive Italian governments—including the former Berlusconi regime—either ignore the Mafia or essentially do nothing about it.
"Behind the 'hits,' the families, and the inter-mob politics lies an entity that exists to profit from the exploitation of innocent people. EXCELLENT CADAVERS gives us that story-an unromantic account of the mob told from an outsider's perspective... Turco forces viewers to see the story through the eyes of most Sicliians-those everyday people whose work makes the mafia's luxuries possible."—Jonathan J. Cavallero, Film & History
Best Documentary, 2005 Festival dei Popoli (Florence)
2005 Locarno International Film Festival
Nominee, 2005 IDA/ABC News Videosource Award
2006 Biarritz International Festival of Audiovisual Programs
" * * * * [4 stars]! Tragic, riveting...Excellent!"—Time Out Chicago
"Angry and meticulous."—The New York Times
"Staggering, insistent... This is urgent, intelligent work."—New City
"A truly shocking story. It is possible to do something about the Mafia, and a few courageous souls have indeed tried. But you put your life at risk by doing so, and if this film is correct, you can guarantee that you will receive no support whatsoever from the Italian government. As the cadavers pile up in Sicily, a parallel story of collusion unfolds. The Mafia has swum in the tank created for it by successive Italian governments. Nobody is prepared to do very much to stop the Mafia, and the two stars of this film, prosecutors Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino, die for their pains."—Nick Fraser, Commissioning Editor, BBC
"A beautifully disturbing work. The moving images are wonderfully balanced by the stunning insertion of vivid images from Sicilian photojournalist Letizia Battaglia."—Professor Jerome Krase, Brooklyn College, for H-ItAm