The creation of the Louisiana-Italian Film Festival is a result of the Russo Brothers / NIAF Film Forum

Jun 09, 2023 1869

BY: Charles Marsala

Italian Film Festival: August 5th at the Jefferson Performing Arts Center in Metairie, LA. Featured Films: “Who Killa da Chief?” Solving the murder mystery that led to the 1891 massacre of 11 Italians and the expansion of Columbus Day; “Italian-Americans: Transatlantic Aviators and Transformative Immigrants” Colonel Francesco de Pinedo’s 1927 Transatlantic Flight to New Orleans.

Finalists in the Russo Brothers/ NIAF Film Competitions of 2020 & 2022. Noon-2pm: Patron Party: Food, Wine, Authors Reception. 3pm- 6pm Italian-American Short Films with Producers. To participate contact here. Movie Tickets: $25.00. Patron Party: $25.00. More info here. Advance purchases receive Chef Andrea’s Cookbook: “My Home is Your Home” (While supplies last)

In 2020 and again 2022, Charles Geno Marsala, Divisional Vice-President of the Italian Sons and Daughters of America (ISDA), was one of the eight applicants to receive a grant from the Russo Brothers and NIAF Film Forum to make a documentary film on two New Orleans historic events involving the Italian community, which impacted Italian-American through the United States.

Those two films have formed the foundation for an Italian Film Festival in Louisiana to be held August 5th at the Jefferson Performing Arts Center. The first film “Who Killa da Chief?” focuses on the 1890 murder of Police Chief Hennessy, the City Council of New Orleans granting $10,000.00 to the Committee of Fifty to blame the Italians, and the 1891 Massacre of Italians. 

In 2019, Marsala was contacted by Michael Santo of the Order Sons and Daughters of Italy in America to ask Mayor Cantrell to apologize for the City’s role in the Massacre and to recognize Italian contributions.  After much research, Marsala discovered several non-Italians that had motive to kill the police chief. 

“Who Killa da Chief?” has been a phrase used to taunt Italian-American in New Orleans. Marsala’s film introduces the non-Italian people of interest and their motives for killing the Chief of Police and blaming the Italians.

To make amends to Italy and Italian-Americans following the massacre, in 1892 President Harrison expanded the upcoming celebration of the 400th anniversary of Columbus Day.

Who Killa da Chief?  received Honorable Mention in the 2020 Russo Brothers /NIAF Film Forum competition.

Francesco de Pinedo

The second film: “Italian-American: Transatlantic Aviators and Transformative Immigrants” coincides with the 100th Anniversary of the founding of the Italian Air Force.

On March 28th , 2023, the Italian Embassy in Washington D.C celebrated the Anniversary by also acknowledging that in 1927 Colonel Francesco de Pinedo landed the 1st foreign plane in America on the Mississippi River in New Orleans.

De Pinedo’s Four-Continents flight was to inspire Italians in both North and South America. After his New Orleans visit, de Pinedo visited several other Italian communities in the United States. De Pinedo’s tour of America was an integral part of Italian-Americans not only becoming aviation and space pioneers, but also becoming political leaders and business executives.   

The Italian Film Festival is being hosted by the American-Italian Federation of the Southeast, which was started in 1973 to be an umbrella organization of Italian-American Organizations in the South and represent Italian-Americans at the National and International level as a member of the Conference of Presidents of Major Italian American Organizations.

In recent years, the Federation has worked with the ISDA and COPOMIAO to launch a Young Italians Professional organization and worked with the National Italian American Foundation (NIAF) to open Italian Clubs at colleges and send college Italians on NIAF’s Voyage of Discovery. 

Marsala has produced eight episodes on the Sicilian and Italian migration to New Orleans for his TV show “Celebrating Culture.”  He and Lena Prima produced seventeen episodes of Buona Sera Louisiana, which covers Italian celebrations of holidays including Christmas, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Valentine’s Day, and more.

Three of his documentaries honoring World War II veterans have received Suncoast Emmy Nominations. Videos can be viewed on the Youtube Channel “AWE News.”

A self-guided tour apps of New Orleans’ “Little Palermo” and the ancestorial villages of the immigrants from Sicily are available feature interviews from via the app store from: “New Orleans Insider Tours.”

The first of ten Louisiana State historic markers on the contributions of Sicilians are being erected in New Orleans. 

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