Meet Tommaso Buscetta — Mobster At The Center Of 'Our Godfather' Documentary On Netflix

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Who Is Tommaso Buscetta? New Details On Mobster At The Center Of 'Our Godfather' Documentary On Netflix

Netflix has given us quite a selection of true crime documentaries to choose from. Evil Genius, Abducted in Plain Sight, The Ted Bundy Tapes, Making a Murderer, The Staircase — all these documentary movies and series have made Friday nights on the couch that much more enjoyable. While most of these are solely about murder, serial killers, or unsolved cases, there’s one new documentary on Netflx that has viewers riveted.

Who is Tommaso Buscetta? The new documentary, Our Godfather, focuses on Buscetta, a top-level Mafia boss, who was the first of his title to testify against the mob. According to the description, “It cost him and his family everything.”

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Our Godfather premiered at the Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival in Toronto and as Variety put it, “[Our Godfather] explores one of the most pivotal stories in modern criminal history through Buscetta’s own voice, never-before-seen archival material, dramatic courtroom footage, and compelling interviews with Buscetta’s widow and surviving children, who break their silence for the first time.” 

What makes this so different from all the rest of the Mafia-focused movies? Well, not only did Buscetta help convict more than 400 members of the mob, but 11 members of his family were killed as retribution for breaking the code of silence, known as omertà.

So, what do we know about Buscetta? And what compelled him to turn on his own mob?

Before becoming a member of the Sicilian Mafia, it’s important to understand his upbringing. He was born in 1928 in Sicily, the youngest of 17 children. Raised in a poverty-stricken area, he became involved in crime at a young age to escape it. In 1945, at just 17 years old, he got involved with the Mafia, eventually becoming a cigarette smuggler. 

When he was 16, he married Melchiorra Cavallaro, and subsequently had three kids. He moved to Argentina and then Brazil in 1949 but in 1956, he returned to Sicily, continuing cigarette smuggling as well as drug smuggling with fellow mobsters Angelo La Barbera, Salvatore “Ciaschiteddu” Greco, Antonino Sorci, Pietro Davì, and Gaetano Badalamenti. In 1966, he married his second wife, Vera Girotti and had one child. He married his third wife, Cristina De Almeida Guimarães, just two years later, after moving to Brazil, and had four children with her. 

In addition to his wives, his arrests were also numerous. He was arrested in 1958 and 1959 for cigarette smuggling and criminal association. By 1963, after the Ciaculli bombing that killed 7 civilians and police officers, he was a wanted man. He was eventually arrested in 1970 in Brooklyn, but released four months later. 

In 1971, with a warrant out for his arrest, he moved to Brazil, and even underwent plastic surgery and vocal cord surgery to throw the police off his trail. He set up a drug trafficking network while in Brazil, but was arrested in 1972 by Brazilian military government and extradited to Italy to begin a 10-year sentence.

In 1980, he was released and went back to Brazil to “escape the brewing Second Mafia War instigated by Toto Riina.” In 1982, his two sons, Benedetto and Antonio, by first wife Melchiorra Cavallaro, went missing in what’s suspected to be a “lupara bianca,” a term that indicates the Mafia killing someone in such a way that the body is never found. His brother Vincenzo, son-in-law Giuseppe Genova, brother-in-law Pietro, and four of his nephews, Domenico, Benedetto, Orazio, and Antonio, were all killed shortly after. 

Now, here’s where things get interesting. The deaths prompted him to work with Italian authorities, which ultimately led to the deaths of his allies. He was arrested again in 1983, extradited to Italy, and after a failed suicide attempt, decided to talk with Giovanni Falcone, the anti-Mafia judge, and became an informant, known as a pentito.

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As a pentito, he explained the inner workings and hierarchy of the Mafia, violating the code of silence. He was extradited to the United States in 1984, received a new identity, and was placed in the Witness Protection Program. In 1985, he testified in the Pizza Connection Trial; in 1986, he testified at the Maxi Trial, the largest anti-Mafia trial in history. His testimonies led to 475 Mafia members being indicted, 338 of which were convicted.

In 1992, he was one of the main witnesses in the trial against Giulio Andreotti, then Italian prime minister, who was accused of working with the Mafia. He was acquitted, but Buscetta also revealed the link between politicians and the mob, saying in court:

“It is not Cosa Nostra that contacts the politician; instead a member of the Cosa Nostra says, that president is mine (è cosa mia), and if you need a favor, you must go through me. In other words, the Cosa Nostra figure maintains a sort of monopoly on that politician. Every family head in the Mafia selects a man whose characteristics already make him look approachable. Forget the idea that some pact is reached first. On the contrary, one goes to that candidate and says, ‘Onorevole, I can do this and that for you now, and we hope that when you are elected you will remember us.’ The candidate wins and he has to pay something back. You tell him, ‘We need this, will you do it or not?’ The politician understands immediately and acts always.”

Buscetta died of cancer in 2000, having spent the remainder of his life with his third wife in Florida, living under false identities. He was also buried under a false name. But things didn’t end upon his death. Our Godfather revealed a shocking revelation: his wife and surviving children still live in anonymity in fear of retaliation. Said his son, Roberto, “The Mafia never forgets.”

In an interview with Variety, filmmakers Mark Franchetti and Andrew Meier revealed that upon learning Buscetta’s widow was still alive, “There is an important American chapter in his story — he had given evidence in America, he had been in witness protection. It was not just an Italian story.”

Meier also described their first meeting with his widow, saying, “After our first meeting, Mark and I walked away feeling euphoric. I mean — she’s alive, she’s incredibly intelligent, she’s an absolute survivor. She is strong, she is headstrong, she had lived so many lives. She speaks many languages, she’s lived all over the world, she’s lived decades on the run. We were thinking, maybe this film is equally about her. It’s important to note here that in Italy, Buscetta is still a well-known name, whereas in America, less so. There were very few images of him on the Internet, even in this day and age, let alone of his family.”

“Well, you’ve got this extraordinary story about a man who makes two decisions in his life: the first, to join the Mafia when he’s a young man; and the second, to turn against it after he’s been in the Mafia for 40 years. And we wanted people to feel the impact and trail of death, destruction, and family problems that these decisions left behind him. At the end of the day, the price was paid by his family. To this day, 30 years after the case and many years after his father died, his son is still too scared to go on camera,” Franchetti added.

There’s much more to this documentary than just Buscetta’s life. And if you love all things crime-related, it may just be the perfect movie for you.

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Samantha Maffucci is an editor for YourTango who focuses on writing trending news and entertainment pieces. In her free time, you can find her obsessing about cats, wine, and all things Vanderpump Rules.