In the early 1990s, 17-year-old Rita Atria became one of the Costa Nostra's fiercest foes when she offered to testify against the Italian Mafia. She had kept detailed diaries of the criminal organization's inner workings as a vendetta after the brutal murders of her father and brother. Atria went on to receive death threats, get spurned by her mother and community, live in a witness protection program under an assumed name. After the murder of Italian judges overseeing the Mafia trials, she committed suicide. If that true story sounds as if it would make a good movie, it already has . . . twice.
Marco Amenta spun his 1997 documentary One Girl Against the Mafia into the feature film The Sicilian Girl, which is tonight's Italian Spotlight film at the Newport Beach Film Festival. Part courtroom drama, part gritty crime flick, The Sicilian Girl adeptly shows how a girl who thought the world revolved around her was forced to grow up quick and eventually become a social activist. That rings true thanks to the fine central performance by Veronica D'Agostino, who convincingly renders a character arc that goes from headstrong girl to uncompromising avenger bravely breaking the Mafia's Omertà ("code of silence").
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The Sicilian Girl (La siciliana ribelle) plays on two Edwards Island Cinemas' screens tonight, at 7:30 and 7:45 p.m. Go here for ticket info.
Also recommended and playing today at NBFF: Citizen Architect: Samuel Mockbee and the Spirit of the Rural Studio; I Am Love; Suck.
The long list (today's entries that sound promising): Black Winter; Bran Nue Dae; Camp Chuck; Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child; My Run; Shaped.
Theaters: Regency Lido Theatre, 3459 Via Lido, Newport Beach; Regency South Coast Village Theatre, 1561 W. Sunflower Ave., Santa Ana; The Studio at Sage Hill School, 20402 Newport Coast Dr., Newport Beach. Visit newportbeachfilmfest.com for times, theaters and ticket information.