The Italian American Association worked in collaboration with the Interfaith Center to show an Italian film called Respiro. The film was based in Lampedusa, a small Sicilian island in Italy and it provides a typical neo-realist depiction of community. This means that the events were more realistic than "Western" fantastical screenwriting; and moreover, to add to this sense of realism, the actors were unprofessional - being amateurs and using improvisation - the attire was common, and the language was mainly in the Sicilian dialect. The IFC provided the venue and the IAA brought snacks and drinks for the film. The event itself was successful: not only were there more attendees than expected but the discussion after was highly insightful.
The story follows the main character, Grazia and her troubles with depressive behavior in a society that does not necessarily understand her disposition. Her actions are witnessed not only by her family but are scrutinized, to her demise, by everyone throughout the small town. In the movie, an emphasis is placed on the love of family and on other spiritual influences. There were many examples of cultural differences between the society depicted in the film and the average American lifestyle. For starters, in the film, the community was a small, under-educated, and impoverished fishing village. The actors never once used a cell phone or watched a television; but rather, they spent hours of the day doing the necessary labor in order to live. The men fish in the Sea during the day and women (and children, to an extent) prepare the meals and engage in manual activities within the home. In this society, the women and children are not exempt from any work - they are relied on to assist in daily tasks. Gender roles play a large part in the film and in the culture too. The men in the village are the ones with the power: they are shown - and are even expected to do so should it be deemed necessary - punishing their wives and children in public. Like when the main character, Grazia, is told to go home for the day when her husband, Pietro, finds her swimming naked in the Sea not far from where he and his friends were fishing or, during one of Grazia's mental breakdowns, when Pietro commands his own mother to leave their presence.
Some cultural differences are not acted at all; they merely are real life skills. For example, a young boy - no older than eight years of age - quickly scooped a live chicken up from its pen and ridiculed the police officer from the North who before was hesitant to touch the animal. Adding to the neo-realistic nature of the film, this goes to show that these actors have been surrounded by this environment for their entire lives. This perception is expanded when the same young boy takes the fishes he had caught that day and "gambles" with a vendor - paying her the fish in order to get a chance to win a toy. He eventually won a train set from this and was more than ecstatic. In American society, people are less apt to be so grateful should they have the same opportunity, as the expectation for material items in our community is not the same.
In all, Respiro should have painted a bigger picture to the cultural differences embedded in other societies around the world. For the most part, those viewing the film were American students who presumably have not been part of a culture like that in the film. The hope is that everyone who attended learned something new about the world that they did not know before. Poverty is not strictly synonymous with developing countries; mental disability is not exclusive to fully developed societies; and in rural areas, the reach of the family can extend to the entire community. Lessons like this can shape one's understanding of their own life by looking through a different perspective on lifestyle, the reach of culture, and standards of living.
Sunday, April 10, 2016
On Wednesday, March 9, the IAA hosted their annual Cannoli Making Event. This event is held once a year and students are able to sign-up and fill their own cannoli. The cannoli originated in Palermo, Sicily and is usually filled with sweet ricotta. However, there are many variations to the cannoli especially here in the United States. Students could purchase three cannoli for 3 dollars or six cannoli for 5 dollars. Here are some of the photos from the event!
The Cannoli filling recipe: The filling is very easy to make at home and you can save the left over filling and use it as a dip. We also had the recipes available on the table for students to follow and they could take the recipes home to make in the future.
Tuesday, March 8, 2016
Every semester the language departments collaborate with the Machtley Interfaith Center (IFC) for an event called the Global Film Series. The faculty of the Department of Modern Languages and language clubs are sponsors of the Global Film Series. The purpose of these films are to stimulate our understanding of other spiritual sides while also understanding other cultures. These films are shown in Italian, French, Spanish or Chinese with English subtitles. After the film, there is an open discussion about the different cultural and spiritual aspects present.
On Wednesday, February 17 2016, the Italian American Association (IAA) showed the film, I Nostri Ragazzi directed by Ivano De Matteo. I Nostri Ragazzi is an Italian take on the Dutch best selling novel, The Dinner by Herman Koch. This film is about two brothers Massimo and Paolo and their families who struggle with their children who get involved in the brutal beating of a homeless woman. The two children, Benny (Massimo’s daughter) and Michele (Paolo’s son) are 16 years old and are seen constantly on their phones, texting or on some sort of social media platform. They are so engulfed in social media that they lose their sense of reality and do not realize how serious of a crime they committed by beating the homeless woman to death. The fact that they are so immersed in social media strains communication between the parents. After the incident, communication was strained further to the point where their parents questioned how much they knew about their own children. Throughout the film, we see the tension between the parents and the children grow after the incident. The ending is very ambiguous and it is up to the viewer’s own interpretation, which led to an interesting discussion on Wednesday.
The IAA tried something different, which was to have a small discussion before the start of the film. Questions were asked to get the students to think about communication in their own lives and afterwards they would apply it to the film. This idea of communication, family and social media was something that the students should have been thinking about throughout the film. After the film, the students were able to have an open discussion and answer some of the questions that the IAA had created. Everyone in the group was appalled by the fact that the children were not taking the incident seriously, which led us to ask, “What would you do if your children were in this situation?” The answers were very surprising!
Monday, February 29, 2016
On Wednesday February 10th, the Italian American Association hosted their annual Venetian Mask Making Event. The event was held as the club’s first meeting back of the semester. The Italian American Association meets bi-weekly to discuss Italian culture and help others become more aware of Italian customs and culture. The meetings are held on Wednesdays at 3pm in FSC Meeting Room 1.
The meeting focused on Venetian mask making to teach the Bryant community about Carnevale. Carnevale, is a celebration that takes place every year in Venice, Italy. This year Carnevale ran from January 30 – February 9. It ends on Mardi Gras or Fat Tuesday as it is more popularly known. During this time, Venice is flooded with visitors to experience the packed streets, costumes and beautiful masks. Venice becomes a showcase for acrobats, musicians and actors. The celebration is the last one before Lent begins on Ash Wednesday. Carnevale is meant to be a time where people have the “last party” before the time of Lent. Millions of visitors go to experience this riveting time in Venice. A majority of the people gather in the Piazza San Marco, Venice’s most well-known piazza. The celebration ends with a parade through the town with everyone dressed in their costumes and beautifully decorated masks.
IAA’s event began with a brief overview of the history of Carnevale as well as videos of this year’s celebration to show guests examples of the costumes and masks. The participants were then able to decorate their own masks with feathers, beads, glitter and other fun decorations.
Posted by Unknown at 7:15 AM
Wednesday, November 18, 2015
A little over two weeks ago the IAA had a very interesting and cultural event. We sought out the expertise of one of my professors from Sicily to help us tackle this perception of the Mafia in the United States. As all of you know it is something that is romanticized in the US and all we usually see is guns, blood, and drugs. Not to say these things are not associated with the Mafia however, it is much much more than that. We called upon the help of my Mafia course professor Peppe to sit down and give us the low-down on what the Mafia really is!
Peppe essentially dove right into the association that the Mafia has with Italian politicians. He gave us a picture of how the Mafia launders the money illegally from the politicians and in return the Mafia gives the politicians votes. How do they do this? They have their ways. They will make sure you vote for a certain party or one of your family members will go missing. This only begins to scrape the surface of the Mafia. This can be described as the Mafia boss' level, or where the Mafia stems down from. From here it delves down into the thugs that we are accustomed to seeing. These are the brainless soldiers of the Mafia bosses that do all of the dirty work: the selling of drugs, the prostitution, and the tax collecting. Most of the time when the law makes a huge bust on the Mafia only the soldiers of the bosses are lost. This is not a problem, they are not the brain of the organization, they are mere pawns in the game.
Peppe continued to tell us about how politics could exist without the Mafia but how the Mafia could not exist without politics. This would just be another form of gangsterism. The three main Mafia organizations discussed during the meeting were: La Cosa Nostra, L'ndrangheta, and La Camorra. Cosa Nostra is the Mafia that comes from Sicily which directly translates to "our thing". This organized criminal based group was very active in the media during the 70's and 80's but has pulled back some since. L'ndrangheta comes from Calabria, the region next to Sicily at the bottom of the boot. This is the strongest of all the organizations in Italy, making up a solid fraction of Italy's entire GDP. The sheer size and methods that they use are unmatched by other organizations. Finally, the most bloody and romanticized group is the Camorra. La Camorra comes from Naples and has no formal boss. It is simply a bunch of rival gangs fighting each other for profits and drugs. This is the bloodiest of the three and is always in the news.
It was really cool for him to take the time to show us that what our perception of the Mafia is today, is wrong. He made is abundantly clear that it is more organized crime rather than gangsterism that we see in the movies. It is a very well-structured organization that has its soldiers at the bottom doing the dirty work, the financiers at the economic level, and finally the brains of the organization controlling the political sphere. It was an awesome speech and I think everyone took something away from it!
Posted by Unknown at 1:57 PM
Thursday, November 5, 2015
What would you say if I were to tell you that I lived in a region beside an active volcano? How hungry would you get if I were to tell you that everything that I ate abroad was fresh from the garden behind my house? Would you be afraid to adapt to a society where English is nearly non-existent? These are merely three of the hundreds of realizations that I had while studying abroad in Taormina, Sicily.
My name is John Gage and I am a current International Business student in my senior year at Bryant University. I was lucky enough to find out about the opportunity to go to Sicily through the study abroad department last year. Not only did I study abroad in Italy, I even had an internship that bettered my language skills at the same time. Now there are so many different directions that I could go in to describe my experience in Sicily, but I wanted to instead think back to the questions I had before going there and how they got answered.
The one thing that was imprinted in my mind from the moment that I learned about study abroad was the fact that I had the opportunity to not only live in Europe, but better my Italian. The question that I'd like to address in this first blog was my question of whether or not I would really improve my language to the point of complete fluency. Now, no one will ever be completely fluent but you understand what I want to say. Sure I wanted to travel, party and have the time of my life, but what I REALLY wanted was immersion. The thought of fitting in to a completely different environment and culture was my first real challenge as an adult. I had been to Italy in the past and conversed with the locals but not at great lengths. From the second that I arrived in Sicily, I knew that I got what I wanted.... and then some!
To give you an idea of what I was up against, I had just gotten off an international flight and had the task of finding a house that I've never been to. I succeeded in correctly explaining where I needed to go and things seemed to be going smoothly. The family that I stayed with spoke literally no English, when I say no English I mean none. I woke up every morning knowing that English was not an option. Slowly but surely I started to be more social and by week 3 I felt like the king of the world. I had countless interactions with my family and the citizens of the city that I lived in. This was an amazing foundation for my fluency. The real test was yet to come.
As the weeks passed by, I began my internship. My job was to translate several things from English to Italian or vice versa. As the Festival got closer I did more and more public events. I had to give tours, publicize the event, and give information to tourists. You never really know what someone will want to ask you, this was where I got really, really good. You cannot plan an answer to a question that you do not know, this is not something in a text book. Not only did I learn a lot from this, but I also started to pick up on one of the many dialects, Sicilian. As my knowledge of the language grew, the happier I was with my choice to study in Sicily.
The icing on the cake came when I had weeks of vacation to travel wherever I wanted. I had the opportunity to essentially backpack up the boot of Italy and test my knowledge. I was exposed to so many dialects and I am proud to say that I held my own in all areas except one... Naples. I could communicate but my understanding was slightly lower here. Aside from that I had no issues. I even had a taxi driver ask me where I came from in Sicily! He had no idea that I was American, and laughed so hard when I explained that I was from the States. He made me speak English to prove it!
The only real improvements that you can make to your understanding of the language can come from complete immersion and dependence on the language. There is no time to be shy or timid. You have to find a way to communicate and be a functioning member of the community. In the beginning it is a daunting task, but as the weeks go by it gets easier and easier. Now, I dream about returning to Sicily one day soon showing off my language ability. I would have never gotten this unique experience anywhere else. My success and happiness came from the fact that I jumped out of my comfort zone and created an entirely new comfort zone in my own way. It was an incredibly formative experience for me and I strongly recommend it for those serious about their language.
I hope to continue to write more about my experiences but I would love to know what you guys would like to know about it. I could hit on several different aspects but this was the most important for me. Shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to see me post something specific! Thanks and Saluti!!!
Posted by Unknown at 6:03 PM
Thursday, October 22, 2015
On Wednesday, October 21, 2015 the Italian American Association, IAA, co-sponsored an event with the Interfaith Center, IFC, as part of IFC’s Global Film Series. A large group was in attendance for Benvenuti al Sud by Luca Miniero which is a remake of the French film Down in the South by Dany Boon. After the screening, IAA’s e-board along with John Nesbitt, Director of IFC, and Professor Misuraca, facilitated a panel discussion on the film’s theme: regionalism.
Miniero’s film illustrates the story of Alberto whose job transfers him from a city in Lombardia to a small town in Campania, Italy. Miniero highlights the assumptions some Italians from different regions make about one another. Having lived in various Italian cities, Miniero has been able to experience firsthand the many misconceptions some Italians have about others who are not from their very own city or town. Miniero shows that different cultural and regional customs do not merit discrimination.
Some stereotypes are that southerners lack a work ethic and that northerners do nothing but work. In Benvenuti al Sud, the director underscores how when you truly get to know someone, stereotypes and misconceptions fade away. The film highlights many regional differences some of which are: which region is home to Gorgonzola and zabaione, which region(s) take an hour or a four-hour lunch break, which regions use more commonly “Lei” formal or “Voi” in its place. By the end of the film, the main character begins to realize that the stereotypes he previously believed are false. His new Neapolitan friends work just as hard as his colleagues from Milan, and that they truly enjoy life.
Benvenuti al Sud is a representation of Italian cinema in that the plot is told through the family. Alberto’s wife, Silvia, does not move with him to Castellabate because they have a small child, Kiko. The importance of food, as an event and not a chore, is exemplified when Alberto and his new found friends gather around the table for dinner. He becomes a student of their local customs and traditions such as pronunciation of words, hand gestures and cuisine.
Watch Benvenuti al Sud to see how Alberto changes from a closed-minded rigid milanese to a care-free napoletano. You will also see that the American “Hollywood” ending does not find itself in this film!