Filmmaker Vincenzo LeRose and the mayor of New York City have something important in common: family ties to a small town in southern Italy, Grassano. LeRose was born and lives in Torino, and De Blasio, of course, New York, but Italian-Americans with southern Italian roots will undoubtedly be emotional watching this sentimental journey back to the land of their fathers.
I have no Italian relatives or ancestors, but I was in tears by the end of this tender and bittersweet documentary about a town, a home, and a way of life that is slipping away. If your grandparents came from Southern Italy, My Cousin Is The Mayor Of New York is an absolute MUST SEE, not only because it will be your chance to “go home” with De Blasio, but to understand the dilemma that young Italians are facing today, much like the one your grandparents grappled with; “Should I stay or should I go?” Can I make a good living here or will I have to leave?
In a town without jobs, what would any of us do? Young people in the film talk about their close-knit families, the love for their communities and the longing to stay near their families, but most of them fear that their bright futures lie elsewhere.
“If I have a child someday I would want to raise him like I was raised here”, says one young woman. But will that be possible in London, New York, or even northern Italian, if a good job takes her there?
As LeRose speaks to us from behind the camera, he introduces the people of Grassano getting ready for the big event, a visit from the cousin who made it big, Billy from New York. The food is without a doubt the biggest concern, and since De Blasio has requested his grandmother’s parmigiana, it’s on the top of the list. And though most everyone in town is pretty excited, they are also a little sad and reflective, remembering all the cousins that had to leave town to “make it big”.
My Cousin Is The Mayor of New York will be screened with another film, Four Journeys, at the NYC Independent Film Festival on May 1, but you can also watch it May 2 on Fandor.