[01/14/05 - 12:00 AM]
National Geographic Channel Infiltrates Centuries of Deadly Secrets 'Inside the Mafia'

[via press release from National Geographic Channel]

National Geographic Channel Infiltrates Centuries of Deadly Secrets 'Inside The Mafia'

Four-Hour Series Pierces Inner Workings of the Criminal Corporation with Global Reach

WASHINGTON, Jan. 14 -- Through a pop culture lens, the notorious and mysterious Mafia is typically seen as entertainment: "The Godfather," "The Sopranos," "Goodfellas," "Donnie Brasco." But the true story is not the romanticized version we often see in the movies. The inside story of the mob is ultimately more harrowing because it's real. Now the National Geographic Channel infiltrates the legendary secrecy of one of the world's most powerful criminal organizations to expose the stark and harrowing realities deep "Inside the Mafia."

With remarkable access to FBI and DEA agents as well as members of crime families, "Inside the Mafia" will premiere over four hours and two nights, from 9 to 11 pm. ET/PT on Monday, June 13 and Tuesday, June 14, 2005 on the National Geographic Channel.

"It's not personal; it's just business," is a popular catchphrase attributed to the Mafia's code of honor. And big business it is -- its global assets are on par with some of the richest nations, bursting, for a time, with profits from much of the world's drug trade. Organized like a multi-national corporation, the Mafia is headquartered in Italy and the U.S.

Cutthroat deals, gangland assassinations and secret rituals within the infamous global mob are described by these insiders in intimate detail. Featured are new and original interviews with influential mobsters like Henry Hill, portrayed by Ray Liotta in "Goodfellas," and Gambino family soldier Dominick Montiglio, and, on the law enforcement side, Joseph Pistone, the fearless real-life FBI agent who infiltrated the Mafia as "Donnie Brasco," and DEA undercover agent Frank Panessa, among many others.

In addition to inside access to important characters and events, the special uses contemporary news footage, FBI and Italian police surveillance, telephone intercepts, transcriptions from major Mafia trials and dramatic reenactments of clandestine meetings and violent confrontations.

"Inside the Mafia" interweaves two parallel stories. The first is the emergence of a "new Mafia" after an historic deal between American and Italian mob families to control the international heroin trade. The second is the tale of the strong anti-Mafia campaign, spearheaded by a small group of law officers determined to permanently undermine the culture and infrastructure of La Cosa Nostra.

Over the course of the series, viewers will become familiar with a core group of warring protagonists. In the Mafia are men like Charles "Lucky" Luciano, a Sicilian immigrant who by 1931 murdered his way to the top of the American Mafia, and who brought the American and Sicilian Mafias together for the first time in the late 1950s; famous mob leader Joe Bonnano; Salvatore "Toto" Riina, who emerged in the 1980s as perhaps the most ruthless and violent Mafia boss ever; Tomasso Buscetta, whose decision to break the Mafia's strict code of silence set in motion a series of events giving U.S. and Italian authorities the upper hand in identifying and tracking key mobsters; reputed Mafia godfather John Gotti; and soldiers like Hill and Montiglio, whose tales of living and working inside the Mafia are gruesome and often shocking.

"The bathroom door was slightly open and there were two bodies hanging with their throats cut," said Montiglio. "Everyone had butcher's kits and they sawed off everything ... chopped off the head, arms, [and other body parts,] then put them in a box and took 'em to the dumpster. Suffice to say, none of them were ever found."

Fighting the Mafia are Giovanni Falcone, Italy's legendary prosecutor who challenged the Mafia's power and paid the ultimate price; Pistone ("Donnie Brasco") who still has a mob contract out on his life ("Once folks found out about my cover, there was a contract on me," he says in the program. "It's not something I think about all the time ... if it happens, it happens ... and may the best man win."); Giovanni Falcone's sister, Maria, an anti-Mafia activist privy to much of her brother's strategy and key events in his life; and lesser-known law officers with colorful and suspenseful "inside" stories, like Panessa and Carmine Russo, who shadowed the Bonnano crime family.

The Mafia became a highly organized global empire, but it first solidified in the mid-19th century as a loose confederation of Sicilian outlaw clans. The rise of the modern Mafia is a gripping and often tragic tale of corruption, crime, murder and betrayal by two distinct operations -- the Sicilian Mafia, running multinational efforts from Palermo, and the American Mafia, controlling the biggest marketplace in the world.

Their separate but symbiotic relationship is one that perpetually eluded and confounded U.S. and Italian authorities. In 1957, a police raid on a Mafia summit in Appalachian New York revealed to the nation the extent of mob activity. However, the Cold War took priority at the time, and mob activity continued to thrive. Major breakthroughs in the 1980s cracked open the Mafia's highly organized and lucrative drug trade, and exposed the global reach and immense profits of its dealings.

In the U.S. today, the mob's activities have been scaled back, particularly now that narcotics are distributed via different mobs from the Far East and South America. John Gotti's prosecution created a domino effect, crippling all of the five crime families of New York. They are now a shadow of an organization that once claimed presidents as their friends.

But in Sicily, the situation is very different. The Mafia has largely abandoned its policy of violence in order to avoid attracting the attention of the authorities, but -- according to the chief prosecutor of Palermo -- they are even more dangerous now that many people believe that the problem is in some way over.

The days of the Mafia's massive, unchecked drug dealing have gone, but "Inside the Mafia" shows that the organization -- particularly its blueprint for how national and ethnic groups can operate on a global scale -- continues to be a thriving and insidious role model for racketeering everywhere.

Inside the Mafia is produced for NGC by Wall to Wall Media. Series producer is Charlie Smith. Executive producer is Alex West. Executive in charge of production is Jonathan Hewes. For NGC, Lawrence Cumbo is executive producer; Michael Cascio is executive in charge of production.

Based at National Geographic Society headquarters in Washington, D.C., the National Geographic Channel is a joint venture between National Geographic Television & Film (NGT&F) and Fox Cable Networks. National Geographic Channel debuted to an initial 10 million homes in January 2001, and has been one of the fastest growing networks in history. The Channel has carriage with all of the nation's major cable and satellite television providers, making it currently available to 52 million homes. For more information, please visit http://www.nationalgeographic.com/channel.

SOURCE National Geographic Channel
Web Site: http://www.nationalgeographic.com/channel

  [january 2005]  


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