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.
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