The Traitor tells the true story of Tommaso Buscetta, the man who brought down the Cosa Nostra. In the early 1980’s, an all out war rages between Sicilian mafia bosses over the heroin trade. Tommaso Buscetta, a made man, flees to hide out in Brazil. Back home, scores are being settled and Buscetta watches from afar as his sons and brother are killed in Palermo, knowing he may be next. Arrested and extradited to Italy by the Brazilian police, Buscetta makes a decision that will change everything for the Mafia: He decides to meet with Judge Giovanni Falcone and betray the eternal vow he made to the Cosa Nostra.

  • Directed byMarco Bellocchio
  • Screenplay, DialogsMarco BellocchioLudovica RampoldiValia SantellaFrancesco Piccolo
  • Director of PhotographyVladan Radovic
  • Production Sound MixerGaetano Carito, Adriano Di Lorenzo
  • Original musicNicola Piovani
  • Costume DesignerDaria Calvelli
  • Art DirectorAndrea Castorina
  • EditorFrancesca Calvelli
  • ComposerNicola Piovani
  • Production CompaniesIBC MovieKavac Film with Rai CinemaAd Vitam ProductionMatch Factory ProductionGullane Entretenimento
  • Tommaso BuscettaPierfrancesco Favino
  • Cristina, Tommaso’s wifeMaria Fernanda Cândido
  • Pippo CalòFabrizio Ferracane
  • Totuccio ContornoLuigi Lo Cascio
  • Giovanni FalconeFausto Russo Alesi
  • Totò RiinaNicola Calì
  • Tano BadalamentiGiovanni Calcagno
  • Alfonso GiordanoBruno Cariello
  • Franco Coppi, avv. AndreottiAlberto Storti
  • Luciano LiggioVincenzo Pirrotta
  • Stefano BontateGoffredo Bruno
  • Benedetto, Tommaso’s sonGabriele Cicirello
  • Antonio, Tommaso’s sonParide Cicirello
  • TV JournalistElia Schilton
  • Giuseppe “ Scarpuzzedda ” GrecoAlessio Praticò
  • Cesare (chief escort)Pier Giorgio Bellocchio

Tommaso Buscetta, “Il Traditore,” is the most historically- significant mafia informant in world history, a transcontinental gangland powerhouse who brought down mob bosses and crime families in Italy, Brazil and the United States. The fabled Sicilian Mafia in which he was a member was brought to its knees by his cooperation in the 1980s and hasn’t been the same since, in terms of influence and industry. There were roughly 500 arrests and convictions attributed to his testimony in courtrooms around the globe.

Born into poverty on July 13, 1928 in the mafia-hotbed region of Palermo, Sicily, Buscetta was the youngest of 17 brothers and sisters. His blood family had no connections to the mafia, but he was raised surrounded by it nonetheless due to its prevalence in the community. It didn’t take long for him to gravitate towards the rackets and the men in town with all the money, power and respect.

A mob apprentice as early as the age of 15, Buscetta was “made” into Sicily’s infamous Porta Nuova crime family at just 20 years old in a 1948 ceremony where he took a blood oath to officially enter the ranks of the Sicilian Mafia. Buscetta was a fast learner and known for a razor-sharp acumen in crooked business and a knack for networking.

Giuseppe “Pippo” Calo, the Sicilian Mafia’s financial wiz kid and a legend in the Porta Nuova rackets, was an early ally and showed him the ropes. Honing his craft as a Mafioso, Buscetta became an expert in both drug and cigarette smuggling, expanding into Argentina and then Brazil, fronting his black-market business endeavors through a Brazilian glassworks studio.

In the 1950s, Buscetta partnered with the cagy Gaetano “Don Tano” Badalementi of Sicily’s Cinisi mob faction and several Badalmenti allies out of Palermo and forged ties with heroin traffickers around the world to build a massive drug pipeline from Europe to New York. He also began accumulating an arrest record that put him squarely on the radar of law enforcement on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean.

What became known as the First Mafia War erupted in Palermo in the early 1960s over a lost shipment of heroin, sending mob clans from different regions of the province into a bloody conflict, where old grudges came bubbling to the surface and new feuds coalesced to cause deep fissures in the fabric of the Sicilian underworld. The battle raged from 1961 to 1963 and shook the mafia in Palermo to its very core. On June 20, 1963, a car bomb intended to assassinate a partner of Buscetta’s detonated in the town of Ciaculli and killed seven policemen instead. The bombing was dubbed the “Ciaculli Massacre,” and brought about the kind of government and judicial scrutiny the Sicilian Mafia had never before encountered in its centuries of existence. There would be 70 fatalities in the First Mafia War, two of them ordered by Buscetta himself in the fallout from the Ciaculli Massacre. Wanted for murder in Palermo, Buscetta fled for the United States. Settling in Brooklyn, he aligned with the American Gambino and Bonanno crime families and oversaw his smuggling networks with their protection and partnership. Sensing the Sicilian authorities were hot on his trail, Buscetta moved to Brazil in late 1970 and underwent facial reconstruction surgery to alter his appearance. His time on the run was coming to an end however and in November 1972, Brazilian police located and arrested him on orders of the Sicilian government, extraditing him to Italy in the days before Christmas.

Undeterred by his predicament in a Palermo prison, Buscetta, the man known in both European and South American underworlds as “Don Masino,” ran his criminal empire from behind bars. Serving eight years for the two murders from the 1960s, he was paroled in the winter of 1980 and immediately returned to Brazil, looking to escape escalating tensions in the Sicilian mafia tied to the rise of Salvatore “Toto the Beast” Riina of the “Corleonesi,” (the large mob clan from the town of Corleone, Sicily) and Riina’s desire to take control of the entire Sicilian Mafia “Commission” (a board of directors for the country’s biggest mob dons) for himself.

Although Buscetta tried to stay out of the fray, seemingly safely tucked away in Brazil, his decision to stay neutral actually pulled him further into the raging fracas and left his own family exposed. His boss in the mafia, “Pippo” Calo, – by then the Godfather of Porta Nuova – had backed Toto Riina’s power play to seize the Commission by force and his former partner Don Tano Badalamenti was ousted from his seat on the Commission and kicked out of the country, relocating to the United States. Riina had Badalamenti and Buscetta’s allies in Palermo, mafia bosses, Stefano “Il Falco” Bontade and Salvatore Inzerillo, gunned down within two weeks of each other in the spring of 1981 and as a result, the Second Mafia War, more commonly referred to in Sicily as the Great Mafia War, was ignited.

The Second Mafia War dwarfed the First Mafia War in terms of body count and would turn into a war on the state, an assault aimed at the very people tasked with putting Riina and his fellow mob czars in prison. There were more than 1,000 murders linked to the feud. And even from in-hiding in Brazil, as hard as he attempted to refrain from picking a side, Buscetta couldn’t avoid being dragged into the war, its cruelty paying him a visit in the most ruthless of ways, viciously ripping through his family tree in a systematic slaughter. This unprompted attack on his loved ones planted the seeds of doubt that would soon blossom into full-fledged disillusionment and his historic cooperation.

On September 11, 1982, Buscetta’s two oldest sons, Benedetto and Antonio, disappeared in Palermo. They were slain on Riina’s orders – strangled to death by Salvatore Cancemi– for their father’s refusal to engage in the warfare and his decision to leave Sicily upon being paroled, something Riina interpreted as a sign of disloyalty and weakness. Buscetta’s brother, brother-in-law, son-in-law and four of his nephews, were murdered shortly thereafter, soon driving Buscetta into the eager and waiting arms of the Italian government.

Buscetta was arrested in San Paulo on October 23, 1983 and once again extradited back to Italy, where he attempted suicide by ingesting a bottle of barbiturates he had stolen from the prison infirmary. Having escaped death by his own hand, Buscetta experienced a long-awaited epiphany and decided to betray his oath to the Sicilian Mafia and begin his life as a “Pentito” or informant. From his hospital bed, he requested to speak to the famous Anti-Mafia Judge Giovanni Falcone, who was without question the No. 1 nemesis for every major mob figure operating in Italy at that time, and quickly cut a deal for himself.

Falcone debriefed Buscetta for six straight weeks in the summer of 1984 and he provided a treasure trove of groundbreaking intelligence regarding the Sicilian Mafia’s structure, both the First and Second Mafia Wars, international narcotics trafficking and dozens of unsolved homicides dating back decades on multiple continents. Later on, in the 1990s, he would lift the veil on the rampant corruption in the corridors of power in the Italian government and shine a light on the fact that the mafia, in many ways, ran a shadow administration to benefit racketeers and black- market influence-peddlers stationed around the country. The written confession he ended up signing was 3,000 pages in length. Buscetta arranged for himself to be placed in the U.S. Federal Witness Protection Program in exchange for help breaking up the so-called “Pizza Connection” heroin smuggling operation which stretched from Sicily to a string of mobbed-up pizza parlors in New York and New Jersey and was headed by his old pal Don Tano Badalamenti. Buscetta’s epic testimony began in late 1985 at Badalamenti’s trial in Manhattan, where Badalamenti and 20 co- conspirators were found guilty – the first batch of defendants to fall prey to Buscetta as a star witness. Hundreds more would follow.

The crown jewel of Buscetta’s testimony though occurred the following year at the storied “Maxi Trial” in Palermo. Because of invaluable information provided by Buscetta, the Giovanni Falcone-led prosecution landed the indictment of 475 mob chiefs, caporegimes and soldiers and finally proved the existence of the Sicilian Mafia once and for all. His own Godfather, Pippo Calo, was one of the government’s prize catches.

Buscetta took the stand at the Maxi Trial in 1986 and testified against 19 dons, unspooling the secrets of how the mafia, in essence, ruled the entire country, through a series of bribes, kickbacks and bullish enforcement tactics. He laid out the structure of the Commission and detailed the inner-workings and hierarchies of every crime family in Sicily. One of the dons at the defense table, Luciano Leggio, the longtime boss of the Corleonesi and Toto Riina’s partner, even acted as his own attorney.

The two-year legal saga was the largest, most successful mob trial the world had ever seen, resulting in hundreds of convictions and lifelong prison sentences and made Buscetta a hero in law enforcement circles in Europe and the United States. Falcone became a living martyr, knowing his work dismantling the mafia would eventually culminate in his demise. He was assassinated in a 1992 car bombing just four months after the Maxi Trial convictions were confirmed on appeal.

Buscetta was given a new identity and lived out his final years quietly with his third wife Maria Cristina in Miami, Florida – they had fallen in love in Buenos Aires when Buscetta arrived in Brazil in 1970. Stricken with cancer in the late 1990s, Buscetta died on April 2, 2000 at 71, never having stopped looking over his shoulder in fear of reprisals from overseas.

In the days before he was killed, Giovanni Falcone was succinct in articulating Buscetta’s incredible impact as a witness and the weight of the reported $1,000,000 bounty resting on his head courtesy of the very Sicilian Mafia he betrayed.

“Tommaso Buscetta is the most important, most wanted and most endangered witness of all-time and he will be until the day he dies,” Falcone said.


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