You’re first or second generation Italian; maybe you’ve visited but most of what you know about Italy is from your Nonna’s stories? Here are some movies to make you feel all warm and fuzzy.
A few years ago when my husband, Brian and my daughter, Lauren and I were in Rome, Lauren and I were trying to see every movie in the theaters, and the standout was Nuovomondo, or as they have renamed it for release in the US, Golden Door. It’s the story of a family from Sicily who hears the tales of the land of milk and honey with streets paved in gold and decides to come to America. Lauren and I liked it so much that we decided that Brian should see it, even though he doesn’t speak Italian. It was his family’s story, having come from southern Italy on a ship through Ellis Island to America. They too were poor, small town people looking for a better life – and we knew that he didn’t have to understand the words to appreciate it.
You can watch this very moving and fascinating story of traveling to America and Ellis Island now in the US with English subtitles.
Noi Credevamo The 2010 movie, Noi Credevamo (we believed) is about the Italian Unification and after having watched the movie I know two things: 1) I hadn’t understood very much about Italian history and 2) I still don’t. I also have learned, from the movie, that Italy’s struggle for freedom was like most country’s – it was long, hard and complicated. The process started around 1815 and ended around 1871 with the Franco-Prussian War, so many of the people who began the uprising weren’t around to see the results, and there were many who were born into a conflict that they had nothing to do with the conflict’s birth.
Benvenuti al Sud Both of my husband’s grandfathers are from southern Italy, one from Calabria and the other from a little town near Naples called Bagnoli Irpino. We don’t know much about the Calebrese relatives but we have visited the ones in Bagnoli – it’s a wonderful little town. I think everyone was relying on me to speak Italian when we got there but thank God we found English-speaking cousins because I didn’t understand a word anybody was saying and I felt like an idiot ever having told anybody that I spoke Italian in the first place.
In director Luca Miniero’s 2010 “Benvenuti al Sud” I was a little vindicated because when postal employee Alberto (played by Claudio Bisio) gets transferred to a small town near Naples much like Bagnoli Irpino he has a hard time with the dialect, too – and he’s Italian. Benvenuti al Sud is funny and sweet and will make Italians from the north and south of Italy proud of their heritage.
Baària Baaria is Giuseppe Tornatore’s autobiographical story of three generations of the Sicilian village, Bagheria where Giuseppe Tornatore, the director and writer, was born, Baarìa its Sicilian slang name. Like his earlier CInema Paradiso it’s beautifully filmed and very sentimental (maybe more so). It has a huge cast, a zillion plots and subplots and a it’s a real treat for Italian Americans.