Italian Americans have long faced negative stereotyping in the mainstream media. Nancy Savoca and Marylou Tibaldo-Bongiorno are two filmmakers who work to counter those stereotypes. Their films show Italian Americans in a different light, providing a counterbalance to the images of Italian American culture displayed by mainstream Hollywood-financed movies. These images include family, the domestic space, and the role of women in professional contexts.
These issues, among others, were discussed on November 8 at Montclair State University during an event organized by the Inserra Chair in Italian and Italian American Studies. Two strong female presences in independent film, Nancy Savoca and Marylou Tibaldo-Bongiorno, shared anecdotes and personal experiences of growing up in Italian American families in New York and New Jersey. Thanks to the presence of their husbands Rich Guay and Jerome Bongiorno, whom they work with regularly on their films, the evening also approached the interesting angle of what it means to be partners both in life and on the set.
Nancy Savoca is one of the most important women in independent filmmaking today, having directed films such as True Love (1989), which Entertainment Weekly called “one of the best 50 independent films of all time,” Household Saints (1991) and the recent Union Square (2012). Marylou Tibaldo-Bongiorno and Jerome Bongiorno have worked together both on films (Little Kings, 2003) and documentaries (Mother Tongue, 1999), with the latter being nominated for an Emmy in 2000. The Bongiornos spoke about their personal and professional ties to the city of Newark, where they currently live.
Over the course of the evening, the four panelists explained the difficulties of becoming a director, including the added complications for someone from an Italian American or immigrant family. Many of the students present were interested in beginning their own careers in filmmaking. The guests openly discussed the levels of determination and faith in one’s work that are required to succeed in this field and overcome the inherent financial difficulties.
Upcoming events for Spring 2013 are:
- "The Role of Theater in Contemporary Italy: A Conversation with Director Romeo Castellucci," will be held on Thursday, February 14th. Romeo Castellucci is an acclaimed Italian theater director, whose original work has attracted international attention for its simultaneous use of different art forms on stage. The result of this experimentation is a plastic theater rich with visions that aims to provide an integral perception of the arts.
- "The Italian Artistic Legacy in Contemporary Silversmithing: A Lecture by Ubaldo Vitali, in conversation with Ulysses Grant Dietz," will be Thursday, February 28th, in the University Hall Conference Center at 6 pm. Ubaldo Vitali is one of the most important living silversmiths in the U.S., a highly sought after conservator of silver objects, and a refined art historian. He will be joined on stage by Ulysses Grant Dietz (Senior Curator of Decorative Arts at the Newark Museum) for an engaging conversation.
- "Fashion and Film Italian Style During the Post-WWII Economic Boom: A Lecture by Prof. Eugenia Paulicelli" will be held Thursday, April 11th, in the University Hall Conference Center. Prof. Paulicelli will provide a short introduction to the history of Italian fashion and an in-depth reading of the relationships between fashion and film in the late 1950s and early 1960s.
Some past events include:
- The Migrant Transatlantic Voyage in Italian Early Silent Films: A Screening with Live Musical Accompaniment
- Mangia Piano: The Internationalization of Local Italian Foodways