Photo of Italians In America

Italians in America: Recent Documentaries and Photographs

Monday, February 8, 2016 – 6.45-8.45pm
University Hall 7th Floor Conference Center

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Gio‌vanni and wife, graphic & web designer

Join documentary filmmakers John Maggio and Cristian Piazza and filmmaker-photographer Michele Petruzziello for a round table discussion of issues related to past and present Italian immigration to the United States. As a country of historical emigration from which young people are currently leaving once again to find opportunities abroad, Italy constitutes a unique lab to discuss issues of mobility and relocation.

New documentaries and photographic works capture the tension between outbound and inbound flows as well as the reverberations of the past onto the present.

Blending a desire for documentation and a search for a dynamic aesthetic expression, these documentaries and photographs are both personal and collective. They speak eloquently to migration in the U.S. as well as global migrations. The panel will also include the screening of excerpts from the speakers’ works and a photo exhibition: Good Bye My Love by Michele Petruzziello.


  • Introductory remarks: Dr. Teresa Fiore (Inserra Chair, MSU)
  • Speakers:
    John Maggio (Executive Producer, Producer/Director, Writer at Ark Media): “Filming and Producing The Italian Americans for PBS”
    Cristian Piazza (Filmmaker): “The Making of WAITING: Stories from Recent Italian Immigrants”
    Michele Petruzziello (Filmmaker/Photographer): “The Past in the Present: Photographs of Recent Italian Immigrants”


Filmmaker John Maggio has spent a decade making documentaries hailed for their social impact and exceptional craft. Maggio’s films have been honored with the National Emmy Award, Writers Guild Award, an Independent Spirit Award, a National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Image Award, as well as multiple News and Documentary Emmy Award nominations. His work has premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and has been shown at film festivals around the world. He most recently wrote and directed the landmark four-hour PBS series The Italian Americans in 2015. He’s currently at work on Into The Amazon, a two-hour exploration of Theodore Roosevelt’s fateful 1914 trip down the River of Doubt in Brazil. Maggio has also made several films for FRONTLINE (College Inc., Growing up Online, The Private Life of Bradley Manning) and American Experience (Billy the Kid, The Lobotomist, The Boy in the Bubble, Kinsey).

Cristian Piazza is a filmmaker and the founder of City People Films, his own film production company. He practically grew up inside a movie theater, like the protagonist of Tornatore’s classic film Cinema Paradiso. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Literature and he has studied Film Directing at New York University’s School of Professional Studies. Piazza has published articles about films and books in Argentina, Venezuela, the U.S., and Spain, including interviews with James Lipton from Inside the Actors Studio, Franco Battiato, Paolo Sorrentino, Enrique Vila-Matas and Alberto Manguel. Born in Venezuela to Sicilian parents, he moved to New York City in 2001 and visits Italy on a regular basis. He feels as South American as he is an Italian and a New Yorker. He likes to paraphrase Bob Dylan by saying: “He’s convinced that he was born very far from where he’s supposed to be, and so, he’s (always) on his way home…” WAITING (2015) is his first feature documentary. Selected for the 12th Edition of the Big Apple Film Festival in Manhattan and featuring a voice over by actor John Turturro, it tells the story of three Italian immigrants in New York City.

Filmmaker and photographer Michele Petruzziello was born and raised in Rome where he studied at The Roberto Rossellini School for Cinema and Television. While acquiring experience working for local TV channels, he studied acting and worked both as an actor and a director across Italy. In 2003, he moved to New York City to work as a reporter for RAI TV, covering politics, entertainment, sport events, natural disasters and more, in the U.S. and South America. His first photography exhibit in New York entitled “Man Against Nature and Nature Against Man” (2005) centered on the Terry Schiavo case and Hurricane Katrina. Petruzziello’s passion for and research on the history and the stories of Italian immigration to the United States inspired his most recent effort, “Good Bye My Love”, a photographic project in which hope and anguish emerge as the past and the present overlap. “Good Bye My Love” was hosted at the Italian Cultural Institute of New York in the spring of 2015. In the same year, in recognition of this project, Michel Petruzziello was awarded the Amerigo Journalistic Award for best photographer.

Photo credit: Michele Petruzziello.


Excerpt from The Italian Americans
Interview with John Maggio about The Italian Americans documentary (in Italian)
Good Bye My Love (full photography project)
Video Interview with Michele Petruzziello about Good Bye My Love exhibit (by RAI correspondent in NY, Giovanni Botteri)
Excerpt from WAITING

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