Our Godfather review – a polarizing documentary feature

March 9, 2020
M.N. Miller 0
Film, Film Reviews


Our Godfather is a gripping, yet polarizing documentary feature that has no heroes, just one man wanting a second chance at life.



Our Godfather is a gripping, yet polarizing documentary feature that has no heroes, just one man wanting a second chance at life.

Our Godfather is an interesting case study — fascinating really, in taking away the Hollywood lore of most gangster films for a clean, no-nonsense, but arm’s-length approach that looks at the aftermath of when one turns on their own. There are no heroes here, just one man wanting a second chance at life.

Director’s Mark Franchetti and Andrew Meier’s documentary film chronicled an Italian mafia boss, Tommaso Bruscetta, who became the first high-ranking member to turn against the Cosa Nostra. His testimony, that includes some fascinating archival footage of the trial testimony that resembles controlled chaos of inquisition, helped convict almost 500 members of the Italian mafia, becoming the most wanted man in the world, and losing so much in the process of his own undoing.

Our Godfather is an interesting documentary on a polarizing figure, but not simply because he decided the error of his ways and turned his back on his Mafioso brotherhood; he turned on his family at home and abandoned them to be left like lambs to the slaughter. Eleven members of his family were killed, including his two adult sons, as his old bosses wanted to know where he was hiding. Where was he? He was in Brazil and started a second life with a local woman in Rio de Janeiro, including a new family, effectively starting over the way the most never get that chance.

That, right there, within the director’s tight framing, archival footage, and detailed timeline, is why Our Godfather is such an enthralling documentary feature. It not only found a completely gripping storyline but an actual, real-life anti-hero in Bruscetta. A man who, by all means, was not a good man. He had been convicted of drug charges and admitted carrying out murders, decided the mafia changed the rules and lost its way by killing members of their own working family, along with turning to heroin and cocaine trade— these were the ’80s after all and poisoning his community. However, by turning state’s evidence, he signed a death sentence for his bloodline in his home country, effectively losing everything, letting them be killed instead of coming back, in order to not be deprived of everything he rebuilt for himself.

While I ultimately give Our Godfather an above-average recommendation, it has a heavy-handed opening and ending that would have benefited from the way many documentary films lean on recreating scenes or adding their own spin. For instance, the heavy-handed approach of dark lighting, and burning pictures, is overdone. The money shots have to do with the Italian trials and footage of a younger Rudy Giuliani questioning Tommaso Bruscetta to be the first to link a witness as being part of the Sicilian mafia. You even get interviews with Tommaso’s third wife, and children who have currently not left witness protection and still fear for their lives.

Be warned, Franchetti and Meier’s documentary strips away the “it” factor with mob entertainments like The Godfather and The Sopranos. Our Godfather gives you a wide-eyed look that’s sobering, gripping, effective, if not confounding, as you question the subject’s decisions and motivations.

The Traitor, an Italian film from Marco Bellocchio, was released this week in the United States. You can read our review of that film by clicking these words.

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