The Good Mothers: women against the ‘Ndrangheta


BERLIN – The true story of three women, brought up in the heart of the most ferocious clans of the ‘Ndrangheta criminal organization, who decide to work alongside a brilliant young prosecutor, Anna Colace, to try to destroy the brutal system from the inside. In competition at Berlinale Series, The Good Mothers, an original Italian series from Disney+, which will begin streaming the six episodes on 5 April, won the first ever “Berlinale Series Award”, a new award inaugurated this year. Inspired by the bestseller of the same title by reporter Alex Perry and written for the screen by Stephen Butchard, The Good Mothers, produced by House Productions and Wildside, was directed by Julian Jarrold and Elisa Amoruso.  The ensemble show approaches the ‘Ndrangheta crime organization from the perspective of the women who dared defy it.  These women - always marginalized, through violence and oppression, within the unbowingly patriarchal structure of the criminal organization - will fight their own families for the right to survive and build a new future for themselves and their children.

“The theme of organized crime is always seen from a male point of view because it is men who hold the power.  But we wanted to use a female approach – says the director – to talk about those women who, only a few years ago, lived in families so oppressive that they could not leave the house except to take their children to school, who did not choose motherhood but have become mothers at fifteen or sixteen. These patriarchal structures can be found in many cultures and situations, at all levels, and so it is important that the message of the series can be spread as widely as possible”.

There is no explicit violence in the film, it is instead a threatening, dark presence that looms constantly, like an almost palpable nervous tension. A world of extreme contradictions is the setting for these titular “good mothers” who live in a state of precarious balance, unsure when this violence will explode and in what way. “The challenge was to tell these stories of violence without showing it – Elisa Amoruso continues –. The tragedy in this story is that violence and love are embodied in the same people for these women, the elements are fused together. They begin to love someone who later treats them with violence”.

Anna Colace (Barbara Chichiarelli)’s investigation begins with the chilling disappearance of Lea Garofalo (Micaela Ramazzotti), who had given evidence against her husband Carlo Cosco to escape his grasp and start a new life with her daughter Denise (Gaia Girace). “I am proud to be part of this series because Lea Garofalo, who grew up in fear and omertà, did something extremely brave: she became a witness for the prosecution, rebelling against her family, while fully aware that her own family would kill her”, Micaela Ramazzotti points out. “Lea Garofalo was determined to give her daughter strength and freedom, she later was a witness against her father and the people who killed her mother”.

The Good Mothers also stars Valentina Bellè as Giuseppina Pesce, who, like Concetta Cacciola, played by Simona Distefano, also fought the ‘Ndrangheta; two women who are very different to Lea Garofalo but are united by the same experience of living in that oppressive, suffocating environment and by the same aim of escaping to give themselves and their children better lives. “This film was an extraordinary but also terrible experience. While we were working, a lady approached to complain about the story of the series and to tell us that not only did the ‘Ndrangheta not exist in Calabria but neither does the State. On the other hand, if you grow up in an environment where there is no choice it is almost inevitable that you would think like that”, says Valentina Bellè who continued, questioning what makes a good mother: "Is it simply the way you relate to your child or is it also in fighting for freedom, above all one’s own?”

Locations in The Good Mothers, made with the support of the Calabria Film Commission, include Palmi, Fiumara and Reggio Calabria, in the area around the Duomo, the Castello Aragonese and Lungomare Falcomatà. Scenes were also shot outside of Calabria: in Rome; Milan; Genoa; and around Rome, in Civitavecchia and the woods of Rocca di Papa, Nemi and Velletri.

The settings were included among the motivations that brought the series the Berlinale Series Award.

All the locations featured in the series can be found here.

(Carmen Diotaiuti)