For nearly two decades, Campania, the southern region of Italy where Naples is located, has witnessed an ongoing practice of illegal toxic material dumping in rural and inhabited areas. The management of waste material in the region has been in the hands of the Camorra – a mafia organization with vast economic and political power. This practice has taken place mostly in the provinces of Naples and Caserta and in particular in an area nicknamed“The Triangle of Death.” This area includes the towns of Acerra, Nola and Marigliano, located about 20 miles northeast of Naples, Italy. The material that is illegally deposited in this region comes mostly from industries in Northern Italy. The waste material, including aluminum salts, ammonium salts, lead, acid sludge, contaminated oil, rubber from tires, and asbestos, is unlawfully incinerated. As a result, high levels of dioxin are released in the atmosphere. The types of cancer reported, ranging from stomach, breast, and colon to lung cancer, are connected to highly contaminated environments. In the region, a total of 5,200 illegal trash sites have been found.
The film documents the personal stories of Mario Cannavacciuolo and his son Alessandro, and Bruna Gambardella – all of them living in the Triangle of Death. Mario has experienced the loss of his sheep herd – 3,000 sheep that died due to exposure to toxic substances. Hi son Alessandro, the youngest child in the family, has witnessed the collapse of the family business and the loss of a family member who suddenly died of lung cancer. Bruna had recently developed several health issues. In particular, she was diagnosed with endometriosis and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. Her body contains a high amount of polychlorinated biphenyls – the same toxic substances that were found in the soil near where she lives. The journey through this once fertile territory continues as Gennaro Esposito, a medical doctor and environmental activist, leads us to several areas that have suffered from the illegal activities of the Camorra. The scars to the environment become obvious at the sight of piles of trash left abandoned or sometimes burned in the countryside.
Campania In-Felix (Unhappy Country) is not just a story about environmental issues that relate to just a specific geographical area in Southern Italy. Through the personal stories of Mario, Alessandro and Bruna, this documentary reveals the broken emotional and cultural balance between the people from the Campania region and their land. The film holds a universal message about the way humans interact with their environment and why this connection is so important today as the social and cultural paradigms are shifting.