The Italian Almanac

Clemente Russo


Tatanka, a new film based on a gritty story by acclaimed antimafia writer Roberto Saviano, is a cinematic portrait of a young Southern Italian man's degradation and redemption through boxing. Michele, played in an acting debut by real-life boxing champion Clemente Russo, is doomed to a life of crime, but manages to emancipate himself through boxing.

The film follows Michele through stark, devastated landscapes, both human and environmental, on an adventure that will take him from the organized crime-ridden hinterland of Caserta, plagued by the Neapolitan Camorra mafia, to the inferno of clandestine boxing rings in Berlin and beyond.

Taken from Saviano's third book, Beauty and the Inferno, the film is loosely based on the real life of Russo, who was 2007 World Amateur Champion and a silver medalist at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Dubbed "the white hope," Russo's real-life nickname, Tatanka, the Sioux Indian word word for bison, refers to his fighting style in the ring.

Saviano, author of worldwide anti-Camorra bestseller Gomorrah, profiled him in l'Espresso magazine on the occasion of the 2008 Olympics, then included the piece in his "Beauty and the Inferno" collection, in which he describes people who inspired him in his personal and literary growth.

Director Giuseppe Gagliardi's second feature, Tatanka also stars Giorgio Colangeli, Carmine Recano, Rade Serbedzija, Susanne Wolff, Alexander Yassin, and Linda Chang.