New Documentary Examines Italian American Experience

Elisabetta D’Amanda chronicles development of Italian community in Rochester

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A. Sue Weisler

Elisabetta D"Amanda

Rochester has a large and influential Italian-American community that has greatly shaped the region’s economy, politics and culture over the last 100 years. The impact of this community on the region and how first, second and third generation Italian Americans view American society and their place in it is the subject of the documentary, As Good as Bread—a labor of love for its director and first generation immigrant Elisabetta D’Amanda.

A lecturer in the Department of Foreign Languages at Rochester Institute of Technology and a master of fine arts candidate in RIT’s School of Film and Animation, D’Amanda sought to depict the immigrant experience in America and how past generations of Italian Americans work to help newcomers and preserve their heritage and culture among their increasingly American children and grandchildren.

“I made this documentary to celebrate the Italian Americans who have helped to define Rochester while also illustrating how Italian American culture can be preserved within the broader framework of American society,” D’Amanda says.

She interviewed representatives from the local cultural organization Casa Italiana at Nazareth College and several community members from different walks of life. She also filmed her children interviewing their 80-year-old grandfather, Louis D’Amanda, whose own grandfather came from Italy in the 1880s and passed along to the family a strong sense of the Italian heritage.

“The first wave of Italian immigrants to come to Rochester in the early 1900s lived in the same neighborhoods, went to the same churches and socialized together which helped preserve the community’s culture and sense of unity,” notes D’Amanda. “However, as these immigrants and their children became more assimilated, moved to the suburbs and developed different social attachments, some components of that unity and cultural identity have been lost. By creating a forum for past generations to tell their stories and illustrate the importance of Italian American culture I hope to inspire future generations to preserve and protect this heritage.”

The film has been screened by Casa Italiana and also aired on RAI, Italy’s public television network.