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First Italian Netflix series infiltrates Rome mafia

© AFP / by Catherine MARCIANO | Suburra is a cocktail of power, violence, and religion set in Italy's capital

VENICE (AFP) - 

The "mafia" corruption trial that has gripped Rome is barely over, but the fictional version it inspired is ready to hit TV screens -- the first Italian Netflix series and a cocktail of power, violence and religion.

In the first episode of "Suburra", aired this week at the Venice Film Festival, the Eternal City's sins are revealed when a priest at the Vatican takes a taxi under the cover of darkness to a cocaine-fuelled orgy.

It follows an explosive corruption case that hit the Italian capital at the end of 2014, ending with the conviction of the gang's ringleader in July.

The organised crime saga hopes to enjoy the sort of rapt reception awarded to the Naples-based series "Gomorrah", which follows the lives of mobsters in one of the most run-down areas of the southern Italian city.

"Suburra", named after an ill-reputed area of ancient Rome, will be released on October 6 for Netflix's 100 million subscribers in 190 countries.

- Eye on Europe -

The world's oldest film festival rolled out the red carpet for the entertainment company, which also premiered the romantic movie "Our Souls at Night" with screen legends Jane Fonda and Robert Redford.

Erik Barmack, Netflix's vice president of international productions, said making an Italian series was part of the company's market strategy in Europe, with new projects popping up in Germany, Poland, Spain and Sweden.

"The more local it is, the more authentic it is," he said, with European shows available in their local language with subtitles.

The show "Narcos", about Colombian crime lord Pablo Escobar, has been a huge success despite 85 percent of it being shot in Spanish, he said.

Among the new projects is "The Eddy", a series set in a Parisian jazz club, two episodes of which will be filmed in French, English and Arabic by Oscar-winning American director Damien Chazelle, the man behind "La La Land".

Since 2012, the company says it has invested two billion dollars on European series, including rights acquisitions.

"Suburra", adapted from a book, also comes on the heels of a 2015 film of the same name.

A one-eyed convicted gangster with a history of involvement in violent far-right groups was accused of operating a "mafia-style" network, the criminal tentacles of which reached into almost every department of Rome's City Hall.

The scandal culminated in a trial which saw the gangster get 20 years behind bars in July.

The judges ruled that the ringleader and his right-hand men were guilty of corruption but not mafia association, much to the disbelief of some experts.

by Catherine MARCIANO

© 2017 AFP