On Wednesday, April 20th, the Coccia Institute was thrilled to present Potentially Dangerous: When it Was a Crime to be Italian to the Montclair State University community and the greater Italian American community within the East Coast. This was the premiere on-campus screening of this film, accompanied by an engaging Q&A discussion with the Director of the film, Zach Baliva, presented in the state-of-the-art School of Communication & Media Presentation Hall.
Potentially Dangerous is a documentary on the untold story of Italian immigrants interned and persecuted as America’s “Enemy Aliens” during World War II. It won the 2021 Russo Brothers Film Forum, a competition sponsored by Hollywood directors Joe and Anthony Russo (Captain America, Avengers, Cherry), AGBO, The National Italian American Foundation, and the Italian Sons and Daughters of America to support projects that tell original Italian American stories.
During World War II, the U.S Government restricted the actions and freedoms of 600,000 Italian residents of the United States. All were declared “Enemy Aliens,” and many were placed under curfew, banned from their workplaces, evacuated from their homes and communities, and even placed in internment camps. Many of these people had been in the United States for decades, had children born in their adopted country, and had sons serving in the U.S. Military. During that era, Italians made up the biggest foreign-born group in the country. As the Department of Justice would later say, “The impact of the wartime experience was devastating to the Italian American communities in the United States, and its effects are still being felt.” Most Italians refused to speak about what happened to them. Even 80 years later, many have remained silent.
This event was met with great reception from both the campus community and the Italian American community, prompting many to research this topic and learn more of this untold story within American history.