Migrating Environmental Paradigms in Italian American Cinema: “Protecting New Orleans/Saving Venice” by Marylou and Jerome Bongiorno


  • Sabrina Vellucci Roma Tre University




documentary film, climate change, eco-trauma cinema, Katrina


In their ongoing exploration of issues related to race and social justice, independent filmmakers Marylou and Jerome Bongiorno have often focused on US cities and/or particular inner-city areas. The documentary Protecting New Orleans/Saving Venice (2006) stands out among their works for its emphasis on the geo-cultural links between America and Europe—for connecting the city of New Orleans and the rest of the Mississippi Delta to the world beyond the geographic and political borders of the US. This article examines the short film’s investigation into the causes and consequences of hurricane Katrina in light of Anil Narine’s notion of “eco-trauma cinema” (2014) and focuses on the transnational dimension of the environmental issues at stake. By connecting local struggles in two separate continents, Protecting New Orleans/Saving Venice promotes affective alliances that reach from the local to the global and envisages shifting conceptions of US national consciousness and belonging. With its companion short video NOLA (2006), it raises awareness about the human-induced causes of ‘natural’ events and presents an effective picture of similar risk scenarios involving far and different places (eerily prescient of the 2019 Venice flooding). By highlighting the imbrication of local places, ecologies, and cultural practices in global networks, these films contribute to laying the basis for “cosmopolitan forms of awareness and community, both ecologically and culturally” (Heise 2007, 210) and to fostering ideals of “world-traversing and world-transcending citizenship” (Lipsitz 2011, 216).

Author Biography

Sabrina Vellucci, Roma Tre University

Sabrina Vellucci is Associate Professor of Anglo-American Literature at Roma Tre University. Her research interests mainly focus on women’s writing, cinema, and intermediality. She has published several articles on Italian American literature and has co-edited the volume Re-Mapping Italian America: Places, Cultures, Identities (2018). She is co-director of the Italian Diaspora Studies Summer Seminar (John D. Calandra Italian American Institute) and vice-president of the Italian Association for North American Studies (AISNA).


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