Idlewild’s Italian language classes start again March 7. Until then, here’s a selection of contemporary Italian films online now dealing with the topic of crime and politics. Americans are used to seeing Italians depicted as mafiosos in our most beloved films, but the following Italian films present a grittier, more nuanced version of the Italian crime world–call it neo-neo-realism.

 

Gomorrah

Matteo Garrone (2008, Italy) Netflix

When Gomorrah came out in 2008, it caused a sensation. For American audiences, it showed the reality of life in a region in Italy still controlled by the mob–no romance, no drama, just casual corruption and all-too frequent murders. For Italians, it was a highly anticipated fictionalized version of a best-selling 2006 exposé published by Italian journalist Roberto Saviano. If you’re wondering about the truth behind the film’s plot, it’s enough to know that since the book’s publication, Saviano has lived in a secret location protected by a security detail paid for by the Italian state.

 

Suburra

Stefano Sollima (2015, Italy/France) Netflix

The fight to turn a small seaside town near Rome into a shining new gambling resort brings to the surface all the seediest elements of contemporary Italy. Corrupt politicians, ruthless mobsters, and prostitutes people a noir-influenced Rome in the days surrounding the abdication of Pope Benedict. Is it the end of the world, or just the same corruption that’s existed since the days of Caesar?

 

Human Capital

Paolo Virzi (2013, Italy/France) Netflix

On Christmas Eve, a waiter cycling home from his job at a catered party is hit by a car and left for dead. The accident draws together the fates of two families–one fabulously wealthy, one middle-class–and exposes the class divisions in contemporary Italy in this darkly satirical comedy.

 

Terraferma

Emanuele Crialese (2011, Italy/France) Netflix

This film came out in 2011 but the story couldn’t be more relevant today. Sicily, famed for its insularity, becomes the scene of a culture clash between native fisherman and a boat full of desperate African refugees. When fishermen are punished for saving the drowning refugees and creating an immigration problem, everyone must choose for himself what is right.