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Icarus Film
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My American Family
A Film by Jerzy Sladkowski
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film stillMore than a century ago most members of the Merenda family emigrated to America from Paterno Calabro, a small village in southern Italy. Over the decades, the growing family's ties to their homeland deteriorated. In 2002, in an effort to restore the broken link, 70-year-old Gaetano Merenda and his wife decide to fly from Italy to Kansas to attend a family reunion.

MY AMERICAN FAMILY shows them being joined by their son, Antonio, a documentary filmmaker living in Sweden, who first helps his father make a videodiary of the village to show to relatives in the U.S. and then chronicles their journey to America. During the trip they hope to answer questions surrounding Francesco 'Pirune' Merenda, the black sheep of the family, and one of the first to emigrate to America, but whose activities there remain cloaked in mystery.

film still

Gaetano and his wife, with their broken English and new video camera, become happily acquainted with American relatives, young and old, while their research into family history leads to revelations-of both a historical and personal nature-that none of them expected. Antonio, in particular, finds himself reassessing the importance of family traditions and the customs of his native village.

MY AMERICAN FAMILY is a charming, heartwarming portrait, enlivened by imaginative 'Wild West' style animation of old family photos, illuminating views of Merenda family life in both Italy and America, Antonio's slyly humorous voice-over commentary, and a surprising solution, at last, to the mystery of 'Pirune,' the black sheep of the Merenda clan.

The emotional appeal and universal truths of MY AMERICAN FAMILY will be appreciated by anyone, Italian or otherwise, who's ever been part of a family.

"Highly Recommended! This delightful documentary explores the strength of that unseen bond that can only be created by sharing family ties. [The film's] warmth and vitality... are infectious."—Educational Media Reviews Online

2005 Northern Lights Documentary Festival
2004 Amsterdam International Documentary Festival
2005 Mediterranean Video Festival
2005 Edmonton International Film Festival

70 minutes / Color
Italian / English subtitles
Release: 2005
Copyright: 2004

Subject areas:
American Studies, Family History, Family Relations, History (U.S.), Immigration, Italian Studies, Italy

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