Prisoners Among Us chronicles the assimilation of Italians into American culture from early 19thcentury immigration through World War II. In particular, the film sheds light on our country’s “enemy alien” policies at the start of that conflict and the impact of these legislative acts upon unwitting families. Personal and collective experiences from this period have had a profound effect on Italian-American identity.
The outbreak of world conflict in Europe changed an already tenuous landscape and new loyalties placed strain on natural family ties. Italy’s government joined Hitler as an Axis power and Italians, eager to become Americans, were faced with a dilemma. They encountered paranoia that ran the gamut from street-side prejudice to formal declarations of war upon non-citizen Italians. This sentiment reached a crescendo when President Roosevelt signed into law in December of 1941, Proclamation No. 2527, which branded the 600,000 non-naturalized Italians as potential “enemy aliens,” stripping them of their right to privacy.
The film’s frank examination of the influence this had on Italian American assimilation provides an historical context for how these people survived adversity and continue to thrive -- strong in their sense of identity and pride as Italian Americans. Through interviews, historical detail, photographs, archival footage, music, literature, and historical analysis reveals the spirit of a proud people who ultimately emerge victorious.
Acclaimed actor, Tony Lo Bianco, spokesperson for Order of Sons of Italy in America, narrates along with commentary by Tom Brokaw and Mary Ann Esposito, host of “Ciao Italia.”
2004 Best Documentary
New York International Film Festival