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Cinema, History & Politics, Italian American Issues

L’uomo più buono del mondo

La leggenda di Carlo Tresca

May 22, 2023
6:30 pm

In collaboration with
The John D. Calandra Italian American Institute

L’uomo più buono del mondo
La leggenda di Carlo Tresca

(Documentary, 2023, Italy, 38 min.)
In ITALIAN with ENGLISH subtitles

Angelo Figorilli
Francesco Paolucci

Maurizio Maggiani

Animation by Nespy5euro
Music by Giancarlo Tiboni

Followed by a Q&A with director Angelo Figorilli
in conversation with
Stephen J. Cerulli, Fordham University
Alexander Stille, author
Dorothy Gallagher, author

Moderated by Claudio Gatti, journalist


United States, early 20th century. Carlo Tresca is an Italian immigrant who starts organizing major labor  strikes, publishes newspaper articles in which he denounces bosses and mafiosi brutally exploiting  workers, wins and loses dozens of trials to defend the  freedom of  both his ideas and the workers who immigrated to  America from all over the world. For almost forty years the FBI considered him among the most dangerous subversives.

Tresca comes from Sulmona, Abruzzo (Italy), he’s  a trade unionist, a journalist, socialist, revolutionary, anarchist, anti-fascist and anti-Stalinist, an inconvenient figure to everyone. Maybe he wanted to go back to Italy to participate in the liberation of his country, but a gunshot to his back kills him one winter evening in New York. It’s January 11, 1943. His funeral in New York is celebrated by a procession of eighty cars loaded with flowers and it’s attended by thousands of people. Laborers, textile workers,  intellectuals, artists, writers, all mourn the man who was called “the kindest  man in the world”. Then, for years, silence descends upon him.

Eighty years after his death, this documentary  (color – 38 minutes) offers a heartfelt portrait of an internationalist and Italian rebel, of a  Don Quixote of the last century. It does so through the words of  writer Maurizio Maggiani, who converses remotely with those who, in Tresca’s  hometown, have struggled to piece together and then illuminate the memory of a man  “who fought against all despotism”, “who ran to where it was necessary”,  “who was able to talk to everyone, friends, enemies, poor people, intellectuals”,  and “who did not shrink from anything”,  “a hero who, like all heroes, met a tragic end”.

An impassioned conversation marked by the re-enactment  – through  the imaginative animation of Erick Cuevas Ulloa and the music of Giancarlo Tiboni – of episodes that marked Tresca’s  life: his  political upbringing  among the railway workers in his native Abruzzo, his escape  to New York, the historic strike of Paterson’s textile workers which  turns eventually  into a memorable show at the  Madison Square Garden, and finally his assassination on Fifth Avenue.

Rather than questioning the  mystery of Tresca’s death – which was not a real mystery after all  – the documentary intends to be an invitation to deal, especially today, with the example of the life of a man for whom love for freedom and for the struggle against all exploitation was the reason for his existence.

Stephen J. Cerulli is the Bennet Distinguished Fellow at Fordham University, where he is a Ph.D. candidate in Modern History. He holds two appointments at The City University of New York as a Lecturer in Social Sciences at Hostos Community College and as a researcher at the John D. Calandra Italian American Institute, Queens College. He most recently edited and wrote a critical introduction for the second edition of Giovanni Schiavo’s The Italians in America Before the Revolution.

Alexander Stille is an American author and journalist. He has written numerous articles about Italy in publications including the New York Times, La Repubblica, the New Yorker, the New York Review of Books, the New York Times Magazine, the Atlantic Monthly, the New Republic, Correspondent, U.S. News & World Report, the Boston Globe, and the Toronto Globe and Mail. The author of six books, Stille’s most recent is The Sullivanians: Sex, Psychotherapy, and the Wild Life of an American Commune, which will be released in June 2023. He is currently the San Paolo Professor of International Journalism at Columbia.

Dorothy Gallagher is an American writer known for her two biographies All the Right Enemies, her biography on Italian-American anarchist Carlo Tresca and a 1988 New York Times Notable Book of the Year, and Lillian Hellman: An Imperious Life a critical biography of writer and playwright Lilian Hellman. She is also known for her memoirs Hannah’s DaughtersHow I Came into My InheritanceStrangers in the House, and Stories I Forgot to Tell You, which memorializes her marriage to Ben Sonnenberg.

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