I was confused, at first, about the lack of attention that the 2006 Nuovomondo (or as they called it here in the US, The Golden Door) was getting in Italy. I first saw it at the Eden Film Center in Rome and I felt in the presence of greatness as I watched this story about a poor Sicilian family who decides to go to America around the turn of the 20th century. Virtually ignored by the David di Donatello awards (it won for best costume, best production design, and best visual effects but none of the major awards), it did better at the Venice Film Festival; director Emanuele Crialese was awarded the Silver Lion Award.
It seemed to me that Italy had little interest in this movie, and I spent a lot of time trying to determine what it was about this Italian story that an American would find so compelling and so endearing that Italians would not take to. A Sicilian friend explained to me that Italians emigrating to America was not a popular topic in Italy – that it made them sad. Maybe it is as simple as that.
I’m sure that Americans with grandparents that came to the US and went through Ellis Island in the early 1900s will find this story of the poor farmers who heard of the land of milk and honey very emotional. It is beautifully filmed and told in a meticulously historically accurate way, Crialese going so far as to have the actors use an old-fashioned Sicilian dialect – in fact, the film had subtitles even in Italy so that Italians could understand the dialogue.
It stars Vincenzo Amato as Salvatore Mancuso, the head of the family who meets Lucy, played by Charlotte Gainsbourg, a mysterious English woman with a shady past. We don’t get to see anything of their life in America – that’s not what this is about. It’s the story of the decision to go, the preparations for the trip, life on the ship, and the stay at Ellis Island.
One of the best scenes is the one with the single women who have come to meet prospective husbands, most of whom they’ve never met. One of the brides is played by Isabella Ragonese (Dieci Inverni) ; she’s been promised a handsome young husband and is very outspoken about her disappointment when she meets the man that’s intended for her.
This is a film that has been too ignored and underestimated. If you are of Italian-American heritage gather the family and watch it tonight – but make sure there’s a box of tissues nearby.
Read my review HERE.
Enjoy the trailer.