Filmmakers Discuss Italian Immigration

By Michael Wright, Contributing Writer

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A photo exhibit and documentary excerpts compared past and present Italian immigrants.
Photo Credit: Therese Sheridan

Dr. Teresa Fiore, the Inserra Chair, along with UNICO National, welcomed documentary filmmakers John Maggio and Christian Piazza and filmmaker-photographer Michele Petruzziello to discuss past and present Italian immigration to the U.S. through excerpts from their films as well as a photo exhibit, on Monday, Feb. 8.

According to the speakers, Italian immigrant parents met transitional problems when they first arrived in America. They disapproved of the way American teachers were trying to convince the students that their culture was not the ideal way of life in America. They were trying to encourage them to abandon their perception and adapt to a new way of life if they wanted to be accepted into mainstream society.

However, the first generation of Italians didn’t convert to the American way of life, but continued practicing their own cultural values. In fact, they didn’t believe that the American lifestyle was sufficient for them. They were strong believers in carrying on their original principles and were finally accepted after a long time by American mainstream society.

“In 2011, more Italians left Italy to come to America,” said Fiore. “Currently, there are 1.5 million Italian-Americans living in the United States. Furthermore, a total of 26- to 27-million Italians migrated to the United States.”

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Michele Petruzziello’s photo exhibit was on display at the event.
Photo Credit: Therese Sheridan

This enormous migration was the largest in the country. Italian immigrants had common motives for leaving their country — they made money in America so they could take care of their families back in Italy and these new-found funds allowed them to travel back and forth as well.

Today, the younger generation’s reason for migrating to America is for the sole purpose of finding employment opportunities. Italian immigrants want to live out their dreams and ambitions and America is the ideal place for them to do it.

Both movies that were featured, Maggio’s “The Italian Americans” and Piazza’s “WAITING,” contrasted past and present Italian immigrants and were based on Italian culture. Maggio’s film, which was a PBS documentary, pictured the productivity of Italians in America and painted a picture of mainstream Italians in America today.

“I thought it was interesting. It gave perspective on past and present day Italians,” said Lindsey O’Brien, a sophomore communication major, when talking about the event.

“I think it was a great match,” said Ashly Espinoza, a freshman student. “It gave examples of what Italians went through.”

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