Film Forum

The Russo Brothers Italian American Film Forum Grant

The Russo Brothers Italian American Film Forum Grant provides an incredible opportunity for inspired and creative artists to craft films that explore the Italian American experience. In conjunction with the Italian Sons and Daughters of America and the National Italian American Foundation, the former of which the brothers are lifelong members, Joe and Anthony invite you to explore the present, past, and future of this unique and important cultural expression and identity.


Watch films from previous grant recipients below.



A select number of applicants will be awarded a $8,000 grant that serves as a production budget for the story they’d like to develop and create for the screen. Documentary, narrative, fiction, and nonfiction are all acceptable formats. There are few rules to the content of your film, only that it illuminates some aspect of the Italian American experience.

These grants are open to people of all nationalities and backgrounds, as the Italian American culture has touched so many of us in profound and resonant ways. Grants will be awarded based solely on the promise of a film’s premise, how it relates to the Italian American experience, and the creative potential of the filmmakers.

The timeline below highlights all of the key dates to be aware of throughout the program’s entirety. If you’re selected for our grant, your acceptance means an obligation to deliver a film within the bounds of what you outline in the following application pages and by the due date listed below. Failure to complete a film by the final due date or delivery of a film unrelated or outside its immediate description written within the application will result in a full revocation of funds and complete disqualification.

NIAF and ISDA will display the films on their respective websites and reserve the right to screen the films at NIAF and ISDA events and/or not for profit events.

We couldn’t be more excited to offer a platform for voices worldwide to tell original Italian American stories.



On April 1, 2020 The Russo Brothers Italian American Film Forum Committee, along with its sponsors, the National Italian American Foundation and Italian Sons and Daughters of America (ISDA), announced the postponement of the naming of the 2020 grant award recipients due to the health concerns relating to the coronavirus.


The committee has decided to proceed with the awarding of the grants this year. In order to do so, it has been decided that the guidelines relating to the timetable governing the use of the grants will be modified this year in order to allow the grant recipients to proceed with the filmmaking process at a time, and in a manner, which is safe for themselves and those they will be working with.


Each of this year’s grant recipients may choose to receive their grant award at any point in time from August 1, 2020 to April 1, 2021.


In order to be considered in the competition for the 2020 Best Film Award, the film will need to be completed and submitted within five months of the time the grant is issued to the filmmaker, so each grant recipient should not request their grant until such time as they are safely able to begin the filmmaking process.


The three film finalists will be announced on September 30, 2021, and will be screened at the 2021 NIAF Gala Weekend, with the winning film announced at the Gala Dinner.


Each grant recipient’s overriding consideration should be to use their best judgement in following all the necessary safeguards to provide for a filmmaking environment that ensures the safety and health of their cast and crew.


The committee received nearly 200 applications this year, which made the selection process very difficult.


Several exceptional grant requests could not be included for awards due to the limited number of grants available.


The committee wholeheartedly thanks all the grant applicants for their willingness to commit so much of their time, effort and creativity to help preserve the Italian American heritage.


The recipients of the 2020 grant awards are:


Amy Campione, whose yet untitled narrative film, creates the story of an award-winning chef who struggles to define her identity.


Laura Caparrotti, whose film, Tutti in Scena!, documents the history of Italian American theater.


Tony De Nonno, whose film, A Century of Laughter, Heart and Song, explores the birth and life of Italian American comedy.


Francis DiClemente, whose film, World Series of Bocce, highlights this celebration of Italian American culture.


Valarie D’Elia, whose film, Saving Southern Italy, tells the story of Italian Americans going back to their roots to buy and renovate a home in Italy.


Alessia Gatti, whose film, The Grucci, focuses on the artistry, innovation and values of America’s world renowned family of fireworks.


Charles Marsala, whose film, Who killa da Chief?, provides a plausible explanation as to who killed the police chief whose death resulted in the unjust lynching of 11 Italian immigrants in New Orleans in 1891.


Charles Messina, whose film, The Wanderer, presents the story of Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductee Dion DiMucci’s struggle to overcome addiction.


For questions, please contact NIAF Director of Programs, Gabriella Mileti at

2018 Grant Recipients

Best Film Award Co-winner

Il Signor Jackson, by Anton Evangelista

Il Signor Jackson chronicles the life and contributions of a remarkable African American with an Italian spirit.


Return to Lucania, by Jeannine Guilyard

Return to Lucania tells the story of the early 20th century Italian immigrants, the conditions they fled, and what the land they left has become today.

Honorable Mention

In The Mood In Our Own Way, by Luca Martera

In the Mood in Our Own Way explores the history and influence that Italians and Italian Americans have had on music in the U.S. for the past 200 years.

2018 Grant Film Submission

Cannoli, Traditions Around the Table, by Andrea Cordaro

Cannoli, Traditions Around the Table focuses on food as a connector between ourselves and our ancestors, specifically through the history, spiritual significance, and evolution of the cannoli.

2018 Grant Film Submission

Speaking Sicilianu, by Nina Ignaczak

Speaking Sicilianu relays the predicament of Sicilians and Sicilian Americans who find themselves in a changing world, struggling to reconcile their rich ethnic history with their current reality of assimilation.

2018 Grant Film Submission

Raising the Bar, by Laura Magone

Raising the Bar tells the quintessential Italian-American success story of two brothers born to immigrant parents who could not read or write, but who still managed to teach the life lessons that would help their sons excel and eventually make extraordinary contributions to our country.

2017 Grant Recipients


The Italian American Baseball Family

Roberto Angotti, a Film Studies Major at Claremont McKenna, whose documentary film The Italian American Baseball Family will relate how Italian Americans assimilated into popular culture through America’s favorite pastime.

Runner Up

Ringraziamenti: The Saint Joseph’s Day Table Tradition

Kirsten Keppel, a videographer of the Abruzzo and Molise Heritage Society in Washington D.C., whose documentary film will explore “The St. Joseph’s Day Table” and its significance in Italian and Italian American culture.

Runner Up

Saints of Little Italy

Margaret Sclafani, an Anthropology Major at Bryn Mawr College/Haverford College, whose documentary film will examine the relevance of street and religious festivals in Italian American communities through the formation and subsequent demolishment of New York City’s Our Lady of Loreto Church.

Additional Grant Recipient

I Sopravvissuti: The Survivors, Italian Americans in the Mississippi Delta

Matteo Zengaro, a History and Psychology Major at Delta State University, whose documentary film will hone in on the rich history of Italian Americans in the Mississippi Delta, an area often overlooked when exploring the history of our culture.

Additional Grant Recipient

Italo Americani (2017)

Dylan Maccarone, a Documentary Film Major at Hampshire College, whose documentary film will take him to Italy, delving into the conditions that caused a mass migration of Italians to America in the early 1900’s, while questioning whether conditions today could prompt a reverse migration.