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UNBROKEN ENDORSED BY THE SONS OF ITALY®

WASHINGTON, D.C. January 14, 2015 – Italian Americans are lauding Angelina Jolie’s latest film, Unbroken for its depiction of a heroic Italian American army officer and his close-knit family, according to the Order Sons of Italy in America® (OSIA), the nation’s biggest and oldest organization for people of Italian heritage, which has endorsed the film.

“The movie is a welcome relief from the usual characterization of Italian Americans long promoted by Hollywood,” says OSIA Executive Director Philip Piccigallo. “The script is based on Louis Zamperini’s true story and portrays Italian Americans with dignity and decency,” he says.

Jolie’s film begins with the discrimination Zamperini and his family of Italian immigrants experienced in Torrance, CA in the early years of the 20th century. As a boy, he was called “wop” and “dago” and attacked by gangs of bullies. Headed for trouble, he steals, cuts school, smokes, and drinks. His hard-working parents are at their wits ends, but never give up on him.

His older brother encourages him to believe in himself with the motto, “If you can take it, you can make it,” which gets him through school and into the 1936 Olympics where he distinguishes himself as a distance runner. Several years later, as a young Army bombardier in WWII, his love of family, country, and God helps him survive a torturous 47 days on a raft in the shark-infested waters of the Pacific, followed by two years of torture in Japanese POW camps.

“These are the values that the vast majority of Italian Americans live by,” says Joseph Boncore, president of the Commission for Social Justice®, OSIA’s anti-defamation arm. “They are at the core of our heritage, but thanks to the relentless stereotyping of us by the U.S. entertainment industry, millions of our fellow Americans think of us as either criminals or buffoons,” he says.

Boncore’s charge of Hollywood stereotyping is supported by facts found in the Italic Institute of America (IIA) report, "Film Study 2015: A Century of Little Progress" (1914 - 2014)." which examines more than 1,500 films Hollywood has made over the past century that feature Italian American characters. The study found that 69% portrayed them as gangsters (35%); or boors, buffoons, or bigots (34%). Fully 87% of the mob movies presented fictitious Italian American gangsters.

The IIA report noted a surge in Italian American movie stereotypes after the success of The Godfather in 1972. Between 1914 and 1972, only 98 movies had presented Italian Americans as criminals. That number swelled to 430 or about 10 films a year from 1972 to 2014. These statistics reveal “an entrenched, institutionalized bias in Hollywood against Americans of Italian descent,” the IIA study concluded.
           
“Given this unfortunate trend in U.S. entertainment that the IIA report reveals so dramatically, we are more than pleased with Unbroken,” says Boncore. “We wholeheartedly endorse it. The last film about a real and heroic Italian American was Serpico in 1973. I hope we don’t have to wait 40 more years for the next one,” Boncore said.

Unbroken has been nominated for three Oscars, four Critics’ Choice Movie Awards (including Best Picture and Best Director), and was chosen by the American Film Institute (AFI) as one of the Top Ten Films of the Year.

 OSIA works at the community, national and international levels to promote the heritage and culture of an estimated 18 to 26 million Italian Americans, the nation’s fifth largest ethnic group, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.  The CSJ promotes positive images of Italian Americans and fights stereotyping.  To learn more about the OSIA and CSJ, see www.osia.org.