Netflix Series Spotlights Italy's "Fifth Mafia": Rome's Mafia Capitale

Considering the success of Gomorrah, the critically praised and immensely popular television show about the Neapolitan Cammora, which last year reportedly "doubled" the audience figures of other foreign-language series on the Sundance channel, it's no surprise that Netflix would seek a similar property. (Is Hulu next?)

Netflix has managed to take an admirable shot at doing just that with Suburra, Netflix's first original series from Italy. It's been in the pipeline for years, actually.

The 10-part series, which debuts worldwide on Netflix on October 6, is named for a real 2,000-year-old ancient Roman seaside town where a Mafia group erects a gambling, prostitution, and drug trafficking empire.

It's based on a true story....

In December 2014, Italian law enforcement officials stunned the international media by claiming they'd found "Italy's fifth major Mafia group," though the name and concept apparently didn't catch on. Italy's got too many Mafias as it is; in fact, it already has at least five: the Sicilian Cosa Nostra, Neapolitan Camorra, Calabrian Ndrangheta and Apulian Sacra Corona Unita are considered Italy's four major Mafias. But there's already a fifth, the obscure La Stidda (Sicilian for "the star," a tattoo of which all members wear), which is a direct rival to Cosa Nostra and is even based in Sicily! Two separate Mafia's inhabit Sicily!)

Both Gomorrah and Suburra evolved along a similar creative path. 

Both started out as books,which were made into feature films, followed by television series (where the syndication money is like the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, though foreign television shows aren't typically as longrunning as in America.) Netflix has been involved with Suburra for years. It financed the 2015 film (its tagline: A gangster known as "Samurai" wants to turn the waterfront of Rome into a new Las Vegas. All the local mob bosses have agreed to work for this common goal. But peace is not to last long.)

The Netflix series is a prequel to the feature film, whereas the two Gomorrah properties are more directly related, the series based on the film.Both Suburra properties are based on the novel by Carlo Bonini and Giancarlo de Cataldo, an English translation is available here. Also Suburra's director, Stefano Sollima, also directed the TV adaptation of Gomorrah, based on Roberto Saviano's book.

Hollywood loves films built on successful properties. This paradigm (best-selling book = hit film = hit television series) isn't new but likely will become much more prevalent. (Especially when filmmakers and/or audiences tire of remaking remakes of Batman and Superman, etc.)

"Think of (Suburra) as a Mafia-centric, Italian Narcos, perhaps. It’s not a perfect comparison, but fans of that series are bound to love Suburra," website Decider wrote.

In 2014, law enforcement uncovered a criminal organization in the seaside Roman suburb of Ostia. Rome’s chief prosecutor ordered 37 arrests in a bid to decapitate what he called the Mafia Capitale, a group of gangsters, businessmen, public officials and politicians that had skimmed hundreds of millions of euros from public service contracts involving everything from sanitation disposal to immigration holding centers. The group, which allegedly cooperated with the‘Ndrangheta, was run by a one-eyed ex-member of a far-right terrorist group linked to the Magliana gang of hoodlums that was made infamous by the Italian TV drama Romanzo Criminale.

Mafia Capitale' ringleaders were convicted this past July.

American viewers likely will not recognize many of the actors, though the Hollywood trade pubs have been drooling over a trio of young leads in the show who may have high-powered stardom in their future.

The series is set (and filmed in) present-day Rome and takes place over 20 days of chaos in these crime-ridden circles.

The first episode of Suburra aired at the Venice Film Festival. The series kicks off with a Vatican priest taking a late-night cab ride to a cocaine-fueled orgy.

The saga is aiming to capitalize on the lauded reception that greeted the Naples-based series Gomorrah. Another hot Netflix property is Narcos, about Colombian crime lord Pablo Escobar. That show is a huge success -- "even though 85% of it was shot in Spanish," as Netflix noted.

(Not sure but I think it's alluding to something no one in showbiz will ever admit: Americans generally fucking hate having to read subtitles.)

If this section of a review of the show doesn't interest you, nothing probably will:

Suburra is an atmospheric, fast-paced thriller, which draws on an earlier Italian genre tradition that went missing in action somewhere in the mid-70s, one that managed to be stylish and a little vulgar at the same time. It also taps into another even older tradition, a vision of Rome, the Eternal City, as a decadent succubus, a sink of corruption where everything – sex, votes, even the priesthood – can be bought for a price. That centuries-old view goes back, at least, to the era the film references in its title: in the shadow of the Colosseum and the Palatine, the Suburra was the sleazy area where the rich and powerful of Ancient Rome went to slum it.

It’s telling that this story of the queasy connivance between venal politicians and unscrupulous crime lords in Italy’s capital missed out – by choice, one presumes – on both the Venice and Rome festivals. First-weekend box-office results saw the film place just below Hotel Transylvania 2 and well above The Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials. Although audiences outside Italy are unlikely to know much about the (still ongoing) municipal corruption scandals that underpin Suburra’s plot, that shouldn’t be too much of a hurdle for a film that has so far sold to 14 territories.

Suburra’s sense of barely controlled chaos, its dramatic instinct, and visual verve, should more than make up for that knowledge gap. Some territories have already had the chance to see the film: on the eve of Netflix’s Italian rollout, the increasingly muscular internet TV giant aired Suburra in the US and Latin America on the same day as its Italian theatrical release. Netflix also announced it would host the global premiere of the 10-part Suburra TV series that producers Cattleya are readying for broadcast in 2017.

In early November 2011, Rome was lashed by torrential rainfall that saw the waters of the Tiber rise to dangerous levels; it was just at this moment that Pope Benedict XV took the unprecedented step of announcing his abdication. Suburra takes these two end-of-days omens as the backdrop for a story that pans over the “seven days leading up to the Apocalypse”.

Opening like a poor imitation of The Great Beauty, complete with a panoramic crane shot and decadent party scene, Suburra soon finds its feet when it begins to focus on wheeler-dealing politician Filippo Malgradi (a marvellous Pierfrancesco Favino), who thinks nothing of heading straight from a parliamentary debate to a night of sex with two prostitutes, one of them underage. When the latter dies of an overdose, a chain of events is set in motion that will see Filippo drawn into a net woven by Samurai (Amendola), a former right-wing terrorist turned organized crime boss whose menace is only accentuated by the fact that he looks like a bank manager. ...

Read the whole piece here


  1. Looking forward to checking out Suburra. Gomorrah is a fantastic show, just finished Season 1 not too long ago and starting season 2 soon! Very interesting too the realistic way they portray all the characters as horrible people, meaning there's not really any person I feel comfortable rooting for, unlike many other crime dramas. They're all gigantic POS, but with a very compelling storyline behind it. Allie Shades

  2. i absolutely love this kind of stuff and it doubles the interest when you read that its a true story. what a mind baffling story i am definitely binging on it for the weeken.d keep updating


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