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Articles by: Andrea Di camillo

  • Facts & Stories

    No fat kids allowed!

    In the advent of convenient fast food chains, over-eating in general, and a “couch potato” lifestyle, more and more people nowadays are developing “muffin tops” and “man boobs,” while self-describing themselves as big-boned to avoid calling themselves fat. Particularly in the United States, the statistics are even bleaker: the obesity rate in children has actually tripled over the past two decades. As researchers and physicians have perpetually stressed, it is necessary to limit the calorie intake in our diets together with exercise to promote a healthier lifestyle. It’s been long overdue for a dietary change, in order to protect our future generations from clogged arteries, heart attacks, diabetes, and other weight-related problems in their adult life.

     Casamicciola mayor Vincenzo D’Ambrosio has enacted that needed change in the form of a strict law this week. He proposed and passed, with overwhelming zeal from the town council, to provide not only lower calorie selections at various pubs, restaurants, cafés, and other eating establishments, but to also give a detailed description of how many calories are in the food alongside the menu choices. An estimated 51% of young people (characterized as younger than eighteen) in the mayor’s region of Campania are either overweight or obese, indicating that they lead Italy as being the most overweight. Based upon this statistic, D’Ambrosio commented that “it absolutely raised the necessity of adopting some sort of law to help fight this. It’s of utmost importance to educate our citizens in adopting the necessary preventive actions of staying healthy and being physically fit.”

    D’Ambrosio was not the only one who pioneered health-conscious laws. New York City was the first to pass a similar law several months ago that required fifteen fast food chains like McDonald’s, Olive Garden, and T.G.I.Friday’s to post the amount of calories on their menus. Health department spokesperson Jessica Scaperotti explained the rationale behind the law: “We just want people to have the information available to them to make healthful decisions.” The New York State Restaurant Association who represented the fast food places naturally fought back, indicating that restricting their menus or requiring them to put additional facts on them was not only bad for business, but was also unconstitutional. The federal court agreed and later ruled in favor of the fast food restaurants, though the decision is still being fought in court. Italy took note of New York’s example and followed suit—on July 2, Ascea (also in Campania) passed a law that required the nutritional facts on menus. Its mayor, Mario Rizzo, is a physician who clearly knows of the troubling statistics concerning overweight children and defined his new law as a “precautionary measure” to fight obesity.  

    D’Ambrosio’s ultimate hopes with this new ordinance are to shed the infamous status of being the fattest Italian region, while also promoting a healthier Mediterranean lifestyle that consists of being more active; consuming locally grown produce such as extra virgin olive oil (containing essential healthy fatty acids), fresh fish, fruits, and vegetables; and smaller portions of food. The rest of the region is cooperating with these efforts, as it is also trying to promote Mediterranean lifestyles.

  • Art & Culture

    Fellini's Images, Finally Released


    Who would’ve known the late world-renowned Italian director Federico Fellini was actually a journalist and caricaturist before delving into his passion for cinema?

     

    Perhaps it shouldn’t surprise us. After all, the great Fellini was predominantly well-known for his mastery of images in his films—just the visual images alone comprise most of the magical experience offered by a Fellini film. Fellini believed in the importance of the visual to such a degree that his actors were never handed complete scripts, indicating that he was much less reliant on other cinematic elements such as dialogue, plot structure, and narrative. 

     

    Fellini’s fascination with visual aesthetics began early for him. As a young man he worked as a caricaturist in his Funny Face Shop in Rome and relied upon what he saw in the prominent features of people’s faces to create an exaggerated and successful portrait. In addition to working at the Funny Face Shop, he sold witty cartoons and comic strips to various newspapers, such as the satirical Il 420 that was based in Florence. Fellini brought this highly imaginative spirit with his sketching to his eventually highly decorated cinematic career as a director. His knack for drawing and imagination is coveted by most filmmakers, who have to force themselves to sketch out their visions on paper to aid in the production of the film, but for Fellini, doodling was a delightful pastime and came naturally to him, and he used to always start his films in this manner. 

     

     
    One of Federico Fellini's sketches
     
     

    Screenwriter Liliana Betti, one of Fellini’s closest friends, his personal assistant, and assistant director for two decades for some of his renowned films in his masterpieces such as Giulietta degli spiriti (Juliet of the Spirits) was lucky enough to have been so close to Fellini that she received some of his personal sketches. Her brother, Giuseppe Betti, has recently loaned her private collection of over one hundred of Fellini’s rarely seen original black and white and color sketches to a museum exhibit in Ardo called “Fellini e la sua musa: Disegni inediti della collezione Liliana Betti” (“Fellini’s Muse: Unpublished Sketches from the collection of Liliana Betti”) that will be shown from July 13 until October 19 in the Palazzo Bargnani Dandolo, but will be moved to Milan in the Filodrammatici Theatre shortly after. Fellini entitled these images as “Fantasy Between One Take and Another” and “Masks of the Grotesque.” As indicated by the titles, most of these drawings are dream-like, fantastical, and surreal visions that shed light into Fellini’s subconscious and imagination, which his films are most noted for. His sketches also include portraits of Betti herself, a few realistic drawings, and erotic ones of men with gigantic and out-of-proportion genitalia, where he exhibits his tastes for graphic and grotesque humor. 

     

    Liliana Betti with Federico Fellini
     

    Not only does this exhibit showcase Fellini’s intimate self and personal life concerning his dear friendship with Liliana Betti, but it also explores the cinematic phases concerning the production of films that Fellini underwent, as one of the world’s most important film directors. As Giuseppe Betti notes, the exhibit he brought forth is innovative in two ways: it is meant “to remember an extraordinary woman [Liliana Betti] and promote artistic impulses, while providing an important cultural understanding in Italian cities and even worldwide.”

  • Life & People

    The Italian Evel Knievel


    Evel Knievel’s spirit lives on in Antonio Peretti. Just like the late Evel Knievel, who was originally born as Robert Craig Knievel, Italy’s own Antonio Peretti has adopted a pseudonym as Tom Perry, also known as “l’uomo a piedi nudi (“barefooted man”) or “l’alpinista scalzo” (“barefooted mountain climber”). Perry has even been known to dabble in motorcycle stunts earlier in his career too! As his namesakes and taglines suggest, he is determined to scale the toughest and most dangerous mountains and volcanoes the world has to offer him, all without his shoes on.

     

    He has recently decided to tackle Stromboli, an active volcano on the Aeolian islands off the coast of Sicily, and descend its over 3,031 foot peak while barefoot. The peak he’s set to descend is known to Italians as the “Sciara del Fuoco” (“Fiery Slope”), since it’s the path where lava flows and then slowly hardens over time. Frighteningly enough, no man has ever set foot (even with shoes on) on this dangerous peak, since its slope reaches a steep and harrowing incline of 50 degrees in some spots.

     

    Wanting to scale Stromboli did not come out of the blue for Perry: he has previously scaled mountains and volcanoes barefoot around the globe at Mount Fuji in Japan, Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa, the Himalayas, and others in Bolivia, Ecuador, Egypt, and Mexico. His most daring climb of all was last year when he scaled Mount Etna in Sicily—while it was erupting! Perry got his original calling to climb mountains without his shoes on several years ago in the summer of 2002, when he took off his hiking shoes spur of the moment and bolted down a mountain in Vicenza near his hometown. For Perry, it’s more than just running willy-nilly up and down mountains and dangerous volcanoes, it’s a type of spiritual renewal for him—when he climbs, he says on his website, “I am spiritually reborn, I become a receptor where the Earth transfers all its energies to me.” He continues, “It’s an unimaginable and truly pure sensation; I become another person.” 

     

    All of his crazy escapades are not just for his own entertainment or spiritual enrichment: he has raised money for environmental causes and collaborated with many organizations for the promotion of peace and for the betterment of mankind, as exemplified by his recent meeting with the Dalai Lama. Since his popularity has soared with each climb he successfully completes, he has been the subject of many documentaries and publications, thereby increasing his fame to raise even more money for the causes he strongly believes in.

     

    And so the noble Tom Perry continues to stride for a greater good in this world… barefoot, of course.

  • Art & Culture

    Progetto Scuole: Journalism & the Diffusion of the Italian Language



    Italians are always delighted to see any interest in their language among Americans and others around the globe. It makes them proud to be Italian, to be part of a culture that many people of different ethnicities wish to emulate, especially their way of life, their expressive language, and the study of their vast and expansive history.

     

    I was able to see this excitement on the faces of the Italian panel at the Italian American Committee on Education (IACE) Awards Ceremony, honoring exemplary students of Italian and their independent projects relating to a contest concerning the Italian piazza, sponsored by ProgettoScuole. The members of the panel included IACE Chairman Dr. Angelo Gimondo, IACE President Berardo Paradiso, IACE Executive Director Tina Rella, Director of Education Office of the Consulate Generale of Italy in NY,  Prof. Alfio Russo, editor and journalist Anna Letizia Airos Soria, IACE Italian language teacher Ilaria Costa, as well as Consul General Hon. Francesco Maria Talò. Each panel member wholeheartedly thanked and congratulated the selected students for their diligent work, while offering encouraging words to continue their study of Italian and stressing the necessity of studying another language and culture in today’s globalized world, especially here in the United States. Prof. Anthony J. Tamburri, Dean of the Calandra Insitute at the College University of New York (CUNY) and President of the American Association of Teachers of Italian, spoke briefly on the importance of the continuation and support of the AP Program in Italian towards the end of the presentation.

     

    IACE with ProgettoScuole  sponsored a contest called “La piazza italiana,” where students were free to present their own feelings, experiences, and research about the famous Italian piazza, as long as their work was submitted in Italian.

     

    Many students wrote beautiful poems, essays, and even made their own films about different piazza that they submitted to the contest, which were highly personal and touched the hearts of the Italian panel and audience members, including the winning students themselves, their parents and teachers. While all students’ works submitted to the contest were all praiseworthy, only seventeen students were selected as winners: Felicia Filiatreault and Cristina Knowles with their teacher Claudio Scarpelli of Sayles School in Connecticut, Iyvon Edebiri and Gina Medranda Duran with teachers Mario Costa and Elisabeth Mansfield of Fiorello La Guardia High School in New York, Paola Sirica and Daniela Cracolici with their teacher Maria Posa of San Francis of Assisi in Astoria, Michelle Guo and JonathanMaschio with their teacher Rina Miraglia of Ho-Ho-Kus Public School in New Jersey, Emily La Guardia with her teacher Maria Figura of Port Chester Middle School in New York, Robert Brandy and Danielle Murphy with their teacher Lucrezia Lindia of Eastchester High School in New York, Cristina George and Elise Petracca with their teacher Gabriella Scaldaferri of Manhasset Public School in New York, Carl Veith with his teacher Kristina Caramele of P.S. 71 in the Bronx, Daven Shah with his teacher Maria Abate of Palisades Park High School in New Jersey, Michael Kosowski with his teacher Michelle Scibetta of Italian Academy in Staten Island, and Chiara Gerek with her teacher Adriana Vitale of Garden City High School in New York.

     

    These top students were rewarded with a certificate and a two-week stay in beautiful Lignano Sabbiadoro in Florence to participate in IACE’s Summer Program with Prof. Alfred Valentini who will accompany these students on their unique “linguistic journey.” After the panel’s comments and the awards presentation, the students were treated to a complimentary lunch of various panini, appetizers, fresh fruit, and tempting desserts.

     

    IACE is an important institution here in New York, whose primary goal is to promote the study of Italian in the tri-state area. ProgettoScuole is an online project that uses journalism as an educational tool, where students of the Italian language and culture along with their teachers can easily publish their articles online and create their own scholastic newspaper. It is under the journalistic supervision of Anna Letizia Airos Soria and the editorial management of Ilaria Costa and was started two years ago from an exchange between the Italian Consulate in New York, IACE, the newspaper AmericaOggi, and the Internet company DigiItalians.. It seeks not only to instill the love of the Italian language in students here in the United States, but also to stimulate involvement in journalism and its essential techniques at an early age. Both groups work together in conjunction with the Consul General of Italy stationed in New York. 

     

    So, can we say Italian is the most popular language among American middle and high school students? Probably not—it has been surpassed for about fifty years by an overwhelming number of students taking Spanish, Chinese, French, and even German. But as evidenced by the afternoon’s presentation, we can say that the interest in learning Italian is still alive and well among American students, with an increasing number of students each year who are struck by both the language and beautiful culture and those who undertake independent projects to learn more about it.

     

    For more information about ProgettoScuole, please visit www.progettoscuole.org.

  • Art & Culture

    The “Doc”s To Cure Your Music Pains (NYC, June 30)



    Looking for something a little different than the pop played ad nauseum on the radio stations? Are you even paining because of it?

     

    Have no fear, the “Doc” is in…well, doctors. Marco Cappelli and Jim Pugliese are the masterminds behind their hit band Italian Doc Remix (IDR). Their unique sound is a smooth combination of different styles of music. Despite Italian Cappelli and Italian American Pugliese (whose parents who were born in Avellino), their music is not tied solely to a distinctly Italian or Italian American culture but is highly experimental and artistic. IDR is self-described as linking second and third generation immigrants to a strong base in tradition through music, which is what makes them so relevant to the New York music scene because New York is (of course) such a great melting pot of different cultures, backgrounds, and immigrants.Cappelli, who plays the guitar for the band, is the only member who originally knew of traditional Italian songs.

     

    The other band members are composed of New York musicians, including Pugliese who plays the drums and percussions; Doug Wieselman who plays the clarinet, bass clarinet, and tenor sax; Jose Davila who plays the trombone and tuba; and Ken Filiano who plays the double bass. The musicians themselves come from many different musical backgrounds: Wieselman is composing for Nickelodeon’s “The Backyardigans,” Pugliese studied with a music teacher in Ghana for spiritual healing through music, others are Grammy nominees and have been featured in popular Italian music festivals, and most have dabbled in jazz careers. Their uniqueness and individuality make it almost impossible to categorize them into only one specific genre, but their diverse musical tastes and influences come together nicely to make some great music.

     

    You can catch all that IDR has to offer at the Italian Cultural Institute, located on 686 Park Avenue between 68th and 69th streets, this Monday, June 30th. Their concert is scheduled to start at 7:00 pm to showcase their talents on their first CD, with special guest DJ Logic (born as Jason Kibler). Tickets are going fast, so be sure to RSVP at (212) 879-4242 ext. 361. Suggested ticket prices are $10 for general admission and $5 for Italian Cultural Institute members.

  • Facts & Stories

    From Gomorrah to the Courtroom


    Roberto Saviano's bestseller Gomorrah, translated in forty-two different languages, is not just an excellent book. It’s real life.

     

    An appeals court in Naples upheld sixteen life imprisonments of members of the supposedly most powerful Mafia crime ring in the Naples area, the Camorra clan, in a high-stakes trial on Thursday. Better known as “Spartacus” by the Italian media, it was potentially one of the biggest and most widely publicized trials the Italian court system has seen in years. The situation was so tense that four crucial witnesses to the clan’s pending indictment (including the boss of a waste management firm as well as two informants) were brutally murdered months leading up to the verdict. When the verdict was finally announced, the courtroom was packed with cameramen, news teams from all over Italy, journalists, and an anxious Saviano who wanted to witness it firsthand. Funny enough, the first disappointing verdict was dragged out from 1998 to 2005 and was met with little or no enthusiasm in the media or Italian public, which eventually released the defendants due to extenuating circumstances and other technicalities.

     

    Gomorrah was the main reason for sparking the interest in the current court case, attaining almost instant popularity—with a million copies sold in Italy alone, where a palpable interest in reading has dwindled in recent years. Saviano first started to receive anonymous death threats after the book’s publication in 2006: his risky and daring endeavour in his infamous book was to expose the Camorra clan’s illicit top secret activities, including drug trafficking, toxic waste disposal, business affairs in construction and in the clothing industry, and their “connections” stretching into Northern and Central Italy and even into the remote areas of Eastern Europe from their main headquarters in Naples. Saviano was consequently placed under a close 24-hour surveillance by police upon receiving these numerous death threats, instigated much further by the pending trial.

     

    The final sentence is all but a unique result. Saviano declared that “[the ultimate verdict convicting the Mafiosi] is a victory for anti-mafia prosecutors and also countless reporters who worked behind the scenes.” The famous writer added that victories like these are “only the beginning.” Two of the four top bosses, Francesco 'Sandokan' Schiavone and Francesco Bidognetti – better known as 'Cicciott' e 'Mezzanotte' ('Fatty' and 'Midnight') – were convicted, but Michele Zigaria and Antonio Iovine are still at large.

     

     

     

  • Art & Culture

    On the "Open Road(s)". An Engaging Discussion with the Directors


     

    Stefano Albertini introduced the evening’s presentation of the “Open Roads: New Italian Cinema” film festival at the Casa Italiana Zerilli-Marimò on June 5th.  The official “Open Roads” showings will take place at Lincoln Center in the Walter Reade Theater June 6-12, andwill feature many films of new Italian cinema, with popular films such as Ferzan Ozpetek’s Saturno Contro, Gianni Zanasi’s Non Pensarci, and Andrea Porporati’s Il Dolce e L’Amaro with the highly anticipated performance of Luigi Lo Cascio.  Other films with their brief synopses that will appear in the festival are available on the Open Roads website.  The audience and panel boasted most of the directors from the upcoming film festival including some actors, screenwriters, and producers.  The organizer of the entire “Open Roads” presentation, Richard Peña, was present as well.

     

    The first part of the evening at the Casa Italiana was devoted to showing very brief clips to encourage the audience to view the films in full at the festival.  Each audience member was handed a flier to find the corresponding day and time that the film was showing.  At least one film is sure to please somebody at “Open Roads,” since the films span across so many different genres: from dramas, comedies, mob films, documentaries, and even one that seems to be a murder mystery entwined in the raptures of love.   

     

    After the clips finished, the directors were brought up on stage to begin a panel discussion with Antonio Monda.  Monda started off the discussion with a request for some commentary on the recent victory of Paolo Sorrentino and Matteo Garrone at the Cannes film festival two weeks ago—each director agreeing that it is indeed a great victory, but Italian cinema still has some way to go before it attains the exalted reputation it once enjoyed.  He then posed brilliant and thought-provoking open-ended questions, such as ethics in Italian cinema, if they still exist and if they should still remain an integral part for the director during the production of his/her film.  He also brought up one of the biggest issues facing foreign movies trying to break into the American scene: budgets.  Not only must foreign film directors be cognizant of how much money they are awarded, but they must also keep in mind the tenuous relationship a film has with the public—for the public drives the demand and subsequent purchases for movies distributed here in America.

     

    All clips from their corresponding full length movies shown at this presentation are da vedere (they are “must-sees”)!  As Albertini and Monda left the audience with just a taste of what each film offers, I too will leave the reader with just a brief introduction to the exciting adventure that awaits at the “Open Roads.”  In order to truly experience the wonder this film festival has to offer, go and check it out! 

     

     

  • Art & Culture

    Le Conversazioni


     At the Casa Italiana Zerilli-Marimò, the director Stefano Albertini presented a documentary called “Le Conversazioni” (“Conversations”) by directors Antonio Monda and Davide Azzolini.  After Albertini’s brief introduction, Monda took the stage and explained that the night’s presentation would be last year’s film edition of 2007, focusing on the dialectic that exists between cinema and literature.  The upcoming 2008 edition will take place in Capri June 27 to July 6 dealing with the intriguing topic of memory.

     The breathtakingly beautiful footage of Capri that appears merits at least one view of this documentary.  As the title of the documentary suggests, a series of discussions is presented with Monda as the sole interviewer. In the 2007 edition shown at the Casa Italiana, famous writers, screenwriters, film producers, among others, are engaged in a dialogue, divided between Monda’s questions in Italian—after all, it does take place in Capri—and the interviewees’ responses in English. Appearing are such notables as Ethan Coen, Annie Proulx, Michael Cunningham, Martin Amis, Ian McEwan, Colum McCann, Claire Messud, and Chuck Palahniuk. Interviews were conducted on a one-to-one basis, but the editing of the documentary provided a smooth transition from one interviewee to the next to mirror a panel discussion.

     

    While “Le Conversazioni” is considered a documentary, it is not one that typically puts the audience to sleep; rather, the delightful and colorful personalities of each interviewee clearly showed. The first segment presented some interesting facts and tidbits about each person’s personal life before becoming a writer or getting involved in the film industry. Messud and Mc Cann in particular had a great sense of humor and wit that often elicited chuckles from the audience.  Messud’s political jest against George Bush was both witty and clever (and true)—that if he read novels, the world would be a very different place, and was met with raucous laughter, cheers, and applause from the audience. All interviewees emphasized the importance the written word has in our society today, whether for intellectual enrichment or pleasure reading.

     

    The unfortunate truth, as first sparked by a question from Monda, is that perhaps film, the dimension of moving images, is slowly replacing the written word, or literature, in today’s society.  It is of course no mystery that an interest in reading has dwindled rapidly nowadays with the advent of both television and cinema. Through a panel discussion of all interviewees, a conclusion was reached: while people do prefer exciting films as opposed to picking up and reading a well-written novel (since we, as human beings, are predominantly influenced by visual images), literature will never be lost since there will always be stories that must be told and that pluck the strings of each and everyone’s heart.  Besides, there is no better way to have a more intimate relationship with a piece of art than with a book: to sit in a quiet area and skim, read, re-read, and ruminate over certain lines and passages, which can never be achieved in a theater setting. The cinema offers an experience that is in large part “exterior,” that presents the characters’ worlds, as opposed to the interiority that a book offers into various protagonists’ thought processes and emotions through the use of words and clever narrative devices. While all of this may seem like a bleak reality for literature, the final remarks and the epilogue provide the viewer with a brighter outlook—that film and literature can actually co-exist, each shedding light on different aspects present in the other, specifically evident in cinematic adaptations of novels and short stories (i.e. No Country for Old Men and Brokeback Mountain).