Inserra Chair in Italian and Italian American Studies 2012-2013 Events

The four panelists speaking to the Montclair State community

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:

Some past events include: