* "Gomorra" shows brutal world of Naples crime gangs
* Hopes high for international success
* Controversy over filming of organised crime
By James Mackenzie
ROME, June 6 Crime dramas often strive for
gritty realism but few have had as timely an echo in the real
world as the Italian TV series "Gomorra", inspired by Roberto
Saviano's bestselling 2006 account of the Naples underworld.
The show, which ended its first run on Tuesday night,
recalls U.S. series like "The Wire" or "The Sopranos" in its
unrelenting portrait of violence, corruption and drugs in the
crumbling high-rise tenements around Naples.
Made by News Corp's Italian pay-TV unit Sky Italia, it has
attracted some of the highest ratings in the station's history
and has been sold in more than 50 countries including Britain
and the United States, profiting from the recent boom in
big-budget TV series like "Game of Thrones" or "House of Cards".
Based loosely on a war between rival factions of the
Camorra, the Naples mafia, in the suburb of Scampia 10 years
ago, it shows the area as a lawless zone of killers, drug
dealers and corrupt local politicians.
Almost as soon as it began showing, Antonio Iovine, a former
Camorra boss turned police witness, provided depressing
testimony of the power of organised crime in Naples in a
"There was money for everyone in a system that was
completely corrupt," Iovine, who said he had committed so many
murders he could not remember them all, told investigators as he
described an elaborate shadow economy of bribes and protection
money controlled by Camorra gunmen.
Andrea Scrosati, the Sky Italia executive in charge of
programming, said the series, made by the team responsible for
the successful Italian series "Romanzo Criminale", based on the
1970s Rome underworld, needed to be as realistic as it could be
"It wouldn't have been possible to make it any other way,"
Saviano's "Gomorra" (a play on the name of the biblical city
of sin and the Camorra) has already been filmed by director
Matteo Garrone, whose stripped-down version of the book was
shown at the Cannes film festival in 2008. But apart from the
title, the series is not linked to the film.
The series was shot mainly in the Naples periphery and
production involved long negotiations with local community
activists but, the producers insist, no dealings with the local
Far from the fading baroque splendour of central Naples, the
action takes place on anonymous motorways, bits of urban
wasteland and the Vele di Scampia, ("The sails of Scampia") a
decaying 1960s housing project long synonymous with the Camorra.
The mainly unknown cast of local actors deliver the dialogue
almost entirely in a thick Naples dialect which many other
Italians struggle to understand and which prompted the
broadcaster to offer subtitles in standard Italian.
"That was a real dilemma," Scrosati said. "We had big
discussions about that. As a broadcaster, we were worried about
it but the writers said it was impossible without it, and they
Even before being broadcast, the series was accused of
glamorising the Camorra, making a show out of real suffering and
stereotyping an entire zone.
Some local activists say the fact that the series, while set
in the present, is based on the events of a decade ago, hides a
more complex reality in which the gangs have changed and
increasingly moved away from Scampia into other areas.
The overall success of the programme however has already led
to a second series, building on a recent wave of success for
Italian film - following others such as Paolo Sorrentino's
Oscar-winning "The Great Beauty" or Alice Rohrwacher's "The
Wonders", which won second prize at Cannes this year.
(Reporting by James Mackenzie; editing by Andrew Roche)