Alumnus screens award-winning documentary

Stephen Vitabile

The Italian Club, along with the modern languages department, presented a screening of “Prisoners Among Us” in Bartley Hall’s amphitheater on Nov. 19.

Joseph Orazi, Class of ’72, was the associate producer and screenwriter for the movie. Orazi was present at the showing and led a discussion on the movie and answered questions after the viewing.

Over 160 students attendanced. University President Rev. Peter Donohue, O.S.A., was also present at the screening and introduced Orazi for the evening’s events.

“I was flattered that my alma mater contacted me to screen the movie,” Orazi said. “I was very honored and humbled that Father Peter not only stayed for the entire film but that he introduced me with such warm words.”

There were not enough seats in the amphitheater, and students were forced to sit on the floor in the aisles between the seats, according to Carmine Berardi, president of the Italian Club.

The documentary explores the Italian-American ethnicity from several different personal perspectives. The movie focuses on the immigration of hundreds of thousands of Italians from Italy to the United States in the decades after World War II in the hopes of finding and making better lives for themselves.

The movie notes that these people are remembered today by historians; by second or third-generation Italian-Americans; and through diaries, letters and poetry.

The story is told through photographs, interviews, historical detail and archival footage and analysis. The film depicts a frightened and confused immigrant population becoming a significant, vital and robust part of American culture.

The film was named Best Documentary by both the New York International Independent Film Festival and the Montreal Italian Film Festival in 2004.

Orazi said he became involved with the film, what he called his “labor of love,” after being approached by director Michael Angelo DiLauro.

“Michael had bits and fragments of stories from his family and others, and when I first met him, he literally dumped a box of information on my table, and we began to sort through it,” Orazi said. “I knew I had to be involved with this because of my passion for my heritage and my family.”

Members of the Italian Club said they wanted to show the movie because they feel it is inspiring and it goes along with Italian classes at the University.

“We decided to have the event because it is a remarkable film about Italian-American identity and the lives of Italian Americans in World World II,” Berardi wrote in an e-mail to The Villanovan. “It also worked very well in collaborating an Italian Club event with the Italian classes at Villanova.”

The screening is considered by the coordinators of the Italian Club as one of the most successful and important events in the organization’s history.

Dr. Letizia Modena, an Italian professor, called it the most important event in the history of the Italian Club.

She added that it brought the Italian-American community of the University together.

Orazi, who graduated as an English major, has worked on many similar projects.

He has extensive experience writing for theatre, TV and film. While a student at the University, Orazi was involved with Villanova’s Theatre Company.

Plays written by Orazi have been produced in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and New York.

Orazi has been included in prestigious theatre fellowships as a Philadelphia Playwright Fellow. He has also been a member of the Theatre Advisory Panel of the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts.

Notably, Orazi was a staff writer for “Ryan’s Hope,” an ABC drama.

In his introductory talk before the viewing, the Villanova alumnus dedicated the movie to his family and all Italian-American immigrants. Orazi spoke about the campaign to raise funds for the film, explaining that the film was mostly funded by Italian-American organizations.

“Everyone could relate to the film in one way or another,” Berardi said. “Everyone said it made them think – think about their family history, stories their grandparents, parents told them.”