In this episode, we interview filmmaker John Maggio, who has spent a decade making documentaries hailed for their social impact and exceptional craft. His work includes several films for “FRONTLINE” and “American Experience.” Maggio’s films have been honored with the National Emmy Award, Writers Guild Award, an Independent Spirit Award, and NAACP Image Award nomination, as well as multiple News and Documentary Emmy Award nominations. His work has premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and has been shown at festivals around the world.
Maggio is co-creator and Senior Producer of “Finding Your Roots With Henry Louis Gates Jr.” He wrote and directed the landmark four-hour series “The Italian Americans” in 2015. He’s currently at work on “Into the Amazon,” a two-hour exploration of Theodore Roosevelt’s fateful 1914 trip down the River of Doubt in Brazil.
In our Story Segment, we feature a touching story from two of our listeners, father-daughter duo Samuel and Lisa Amato, about their mother/grandmother and a childhood experience that impacted the rest of her life, which highlights the challenges our ancestors faced when they arrived in the United States.
This quote is from “The Italian Americans”: “I was like third generation. I was totally American. But Italian…it’s in your bones; the poetry, the art, the history, the music…It made its way into my music later on.” – Dion DiMucci (of Dion and the Belmonts).
- “I really wanted to give an honest portrait [of Italian Americans].” – John Maggio producer of The Italian Americans
- “You can’t believe what [Italians] went through to establish themselves in this country.” – John Maggio on Italian Americans
- “It took us a long time to coalesce around a singular identity.” – John Maggio on Italian Americans
- “When you come up with a theme as strong as family, you can build around it.” – Anthony Fasano on Italian Americans
- “We are like a strong cheese, we get stronger with time.” – John Maggio on Italian Americans
- “We have such a strong culture.” – John Maggio on Italian Americans
- “Now I understand so much more about who I am.” – John Maggio on the production of The Italian Americans
- “Italians are incredibly hard working people. ” – John Maggio on Italian Americans
- “The desire to tell your story is so powerful.” – John Maggio on Italian Americans
- “The world would be so much better if everyone were Italian.” – John Maggio
Some of the key points Maggio touched on included:
- There isn’t a lot of information out there about the history of Italian Americans.
- He decided to start with a theme of family and build the PBS series “The Italian Americans” around that theme.
- Italian Americans can raise their children in a very protective manner, which can both support and hold back the children; it can be especially challenging for women.
- Even as late as the 1980’s Italian Americans dealt with criticism and prejudice.
- Italians immigrants didn’t have as much written history as other cultures.
- The documentary really opened Maggio’s eyes to the immigrant experience.
- Italian Americans just want to tell their story, which is powerful.
Anthony Fasano and Dolores Alfieri
Co-Hosts, The Italian American Podcast