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

Sabrina Vellucci


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).


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

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.13136/2281-4582/2021.i17.991


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