We convinced him to come and I most likely annoyed everyone around me in the theater because I ended up translating a lot, and interestingly enough I was translating a translation, because this movie was actually subtitled even in Italy. The actors spoke in very old fashioned Sicilian dialect and the subtitles were in Italian. Brian, whose grandfathers had made that same journey years ago was very moved by this beautifully told emotional film and I couldn’t wait to get home and tell my friends who’d moved to the US from Sicily about it.
When it came out on DVD I bought it for them, but didn’t get the reaction I expected. They said they’d liked it, but I thought they’d have gone wild over it. I was equally surprised when the David Donatello Awards ( Italian Academy Awards ) gave it the cold shoulder – it was nominated a bunch but didn’t win much of anything. “What’s going on here?” I asked my friend Carlo, from Sicily. He sighed and gave me a sad look. “We don’t always like remembering all the people that had to leave Italy.” I immediately felt like an idiot. I think we Americans imagine the whole world just clamouring to be one of us and we forget that sometimes immigrants are in the US out of necessity and would rather have stayed in the country that they love. I teach English as a Second Language and I should have known better – all of my immigrant and refugee students would move home today if they could live a decent life there.
I respect the Italian reaction to Golden Door but I disagree with it. I think that the movie did an excellent job showing the realities of an Italian’s immigration to America. Instead of the usual scenes of weary but happy foreigners smiling brightly from a ships deck at the first sight of the statue of liberty, Golden Door shows the heartbreak and hardships of preparing for the move, dangers on board the ship, and degradations at Ellis Island.
A couple of years later we were in Sicily and noticed that the Italians we met seemed to love the movie “The Godfather” – I couldn’t help but find it a little ironic. I’ve always thought that Italians have a really good sense of humor about themselves and aren’t very sensitive about stereotypes and jokes at their expense, so they probably just get a big kick out of the whole “small town thug makes good” thing. But I guess stories like the one in Golden Door hit too close to home because they are still mourning a little bit for the relatives they’ve lost to us.
It’s a beautiful movie, with standout performances by Vincenzo Amato, who plays Salvatore, the father, and French actress Charlotte Gainsbourg, who plays Lucy, a young English woman with a shady past. Golden Door tells a story that was already amazing, and it does a good job of reminding us of it.
Director: Emanuele Crialese
Writer: Emanuele Crialese
Stars: Charlotte Gainsbourg, Vincenzo Amato and Aurora Quattrocchi