Two members of Italian Sons and Daughters of America, Hollywood directors Anthony and Joe Russo, were among the honorees at this year’s 41st Annual National Italian American Foundation Gala in Washington, D.C. The brothers, who are Cleveland natives, are responsible for such blockbuster hits as “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” and “Captain America: Civil War,” the latter claiming the highest-grossing film slot for 2016 thus far.
Anthony and Joe have also been tasked with directing the next two installments of Marvel’s “Avengers” films, becoming the only directors to helm four films for the record-shattering studio.
The brothers, who are 17 months apart, spoke about the support and encouragement they received from their family, namely their parents, when struggling to make their first independent film. Anthony said his parents selflessly “bet their lives” on all four of their children, doing everything and anything they could to educate and help each of them work towards fulfilling their goals.
“For all the powerful things you can take away from the Italian American experience, this could potentially be the most profound — in your times of greatest need, your family is there for you.” – Anthony Russo
The brothers accepted their award on behalf of their family, concluding that they stood on the Gala stage on the shoulders of their great-grandmother, who worked in “a nondescript factory in Manhattan as a seamstress,” their grandfather, whose hands were “calloused from years of labor in the Steel Mills of Cleveland,” and their wives and children, whose lives have been consistently unsettled by their “gypsy” lifestyle of moving from film set to film set.
“Our sense of being Italian American is very much grounded in our experience and love of our family. And that is most specifically what we try to pay forward. What we try to honor.” – Joe and Anthony Russo
Along with their, father Basil M. Russo, the brothers went on to announce the family’s new program: “The Russo Brothers Italian American Film Forum.” Partnering with the Italian Sons and Daughters of America and the National Italian American Foundation, the program will offer grants, guidance, training and internships to aspiring filmmakers across the country, affording them opportunities to create films that depict and explore the Italian American experience for the understanding of future generations. The goal of this initiative is to “empower Italian American artists to continue the quest to tell our story to the world around us.”