The Italian Americans

(Rochester, NY) – The Italian Americans, a new two-part, four-hour documentary series about the Italian experience in America, premieres on WXXI-TV Tuesdays, February 17 and 24, 2015, 9:00-11:00 p.m. The series written and produced by John Maggio and narrated by Academy Award-nominated actor Stanley Tucci — explores the evolution of Italian Americans from the late 19th century to today, from “outsiders” once viewed with suspicion and mistrust to some of the most prominent leaders of business, politics and the arts today.

The Italian Americans reveals the unique and distinctive qualities of one immigrant group’s experience, and how these qualities, over time, have shaped and challenged America. Unlike other immigrant groups, many Italians did not come to America to stay. At the turn of the 20th century, most came to work, earn money to support their families and eventually return home. Nearly half of the first generation of Italian immigrants did return to Italy. For those who made America home, their struggle to maintain a distinct Italian culture was guided by remarkably powerful ideals of family that had always been at the center of their lives. In the Italian family, the needs of the collective came before the individual — a value system often at odds with American ideals of freedom and personal choice. While the power of the Italian family became a source of strength, it also bred suspicion, popularized in popular media as a dark, criminal element. This clash of culture echoed through generations of Italian Americans and, as they entered positions of political, social and cultural influence, has left its mark on the American landscape.

Through extensive archival materials and interviews with scholars and notable Italian Americans — such as U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin Scalia, U.S. Representative Nancy Pelosi, Tony Bennett, Dion DiMucci, David Chase, Gay Talese and John Turturro, who speak from personal experience — The Italian Americans tells the story of those who played vital roles in shaping the relationship between Italians and mainstream American society.

Pictured: Mario Cuomo (left), talking with couple on the street in Corona, Queens, 1987.
Credit: Courtesy of Jamie Eisenberg 



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