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Montclair State Student Subtitles Acclaimed Documentary, The Rule

Posted in: Inserra, Italian News and Events, School of Communication and Media

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This summer, Serena Pederiali, an Italian major at Montclair State, produced the Italian subtitles for the celebrated documentary The Rule as a project for a Co-op Ed class focusing on translation from and into Italian.

The Rule, the latest documentary by Emmy-nominated, award-winning, Italian-American, Newark filmmakers Marylou and Jerome Bongiorno, explores how the Benedictine monks of Newark Abbey achieve success in the heart of one of America’s most dangerous and impoverished cities with one of its most vulnerable populations: inner city African American and Latino teenage males. While Newark, New Jersey has an abysmal high school graduation rate, students at St. Benedict’s Prep have defied the odds to achieve a near 100% college acceptance rate. The film details how the monks’ recipe for success, which follows the 6th-century rule of Italian Saint Benedict of Norcia, can serve as a model for inner city school success.

“Reaching a global audience is our goal,” says filmmaker Marylou Bongiorno. “The Italian subtitles will allow us to attract a wider audience, particularly groups in Italy that have screened our past films, and spread our mission to offer the St. Benedict’s Prep model as the solution for urban school reform.”

For Pederiali, who is a native speaker of Italian, taking on the project was an easy decision. “My Italian professor Marisa Trubiano had talked to me about this project and I was so interested in it that I decided to enroll in the class,” says Pederiali.

Subtitling is an exacting process. Pederiali first prepared the full translation of the transcript of the film. She then adapted that translation into subtitles, using time codes and English subtitles provided by the Bongiornos as a starting point. They then inserted the Italian subtitles into the film. The entire process took three months.

“Translating is not as simple as it seems. Cultural and extra-linguistic peculiarities play a big role in the translation process”, says Pederiali. “Perseverance and the guidance of Professor Trubiano got me through.”

For associate professor of Italian and Inserra chair Teresa Fiore, subtitling The Rule has brought welcome attention to issues pertaining to education, equal access to opportunity, and community service in New Jersey. The project is also important for other reasons. “First, it’s in line with our Italian program’s academic focus on training students for a professional field like titling that requires knowledge of the Italian language and culture,” she explains. “Second, thanks to the University’s Co-op Ed program, this project is the result of a collaboration between students, professors and Bongiorno Productions, a film production company with whom we have established a relationship over the years through screenings and panels.”

It is this relationship that prompted award-winning filmmakers Marylou and Jerome Bongiorno to turn to Montclair State for subtitling. “This is all due to our long-standing relationship with the Inserra Chair and Teresa Fiore and the excellent programs they host, including one on subtitling, that inspired us,” says Marylou Bongiorno. “Working with Professor Trubiano and Serena Pederiali was efficient, enlightening and fun — particularly as we discussed the ‘art’ of subtitling and translating idiosyncratic expressions into Italian.”

Trubiano notes that The Rule subtitling project, along with the recent “Translating Voices Across Continents” surtitling project with the Piccolo Teatro di Milano, aligns with the Italian program’s longstanding focus on pre-professional opportunities for students. “These projects also reflect curriculum development in the area of translating and audiovisual translation in collaboration with the University’s new Center for Translation and Interpreting,” she says.

A growing audience is enjoying The Rule, which was screened on campus in November 2014. It was released theatrically in New York City, Los Angeles, and in Ontario, Canada, is broadcast on national PBS, is distributed on DVD and via streaming, and is on a college tour. A free companion Curriculum Guide for High School students is being developed. The film is being broadcast on Hungarian public television. “We also plan to broadcast in other countries,” adds Bongiorno.

The White House initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans will screen The Rule in December.  The Bongiornos are also working to deliver an Italian-subtitled DVD to Pope Francis. < For Pederiali, subtitling The Rule was a memorable experience. “I enjoyed putting into practice what I’ve learned over the years. Translating is a never-ending journey that is simply fascinating.”

Learn about Montclair State’s past screening of The Rule.

For more about The Rule

The Rule trailer

Twitter or @TheRuleFilm