Yesterday at the festival I saw Daniele Gaglianone and his La Mia Classe, a sort of mockumentary about a Italian as a second language class and their teacher, played by Valerio Mastandrea. Both were present for the screening and stuck around for Q&A afterwards, and the biggest fuss I’ve ever seen in a movie theater broke out. When a man in the audience challenged the film’s message, it sent Gaglianone into the crowd in a fury. Would we have seen a physical confrontation if film festival representatives hadn’t stepped in? It’s hard to say, but I understand the passion of the topic.
I teach English as a second language and I see, every day, refugees and other immigrants who come to the United States to improve and at times save their lives and the lives of their families. I have been asked, at times, about what “those people” are doing in our country. Are they working? Is the government paying for their food, their house, and their children’s education? People want to be charitable but fear strangers will drain our already strained resources.
And Italy, a country in crisis, has the same worries, as refugees who are also trying to save their lives and the lives of their families flood their country. Italy is by nature a very charitable country, and yet it is being tested severely these days. No one wants to be the one to deny food to another human being, and yet how can you give what you don’t have?
La Mia Classe is bittersweet look into the lives of a group of immigrants who are trying to learn Italian and find jobs so that they can stay in Italy. Their stories are different and yet the same, all homesick and sad, but determined not to return to the impossible problems that they’ve left behind.
With Gaglianone and Mastrandrea were the students themselves, real ones, clearly very nervous and yet proud to have been part of the very moving project.