The Russo Brothers Italian American Film Forum Announces 2019 Grant Finalists

Oct 04, 2019 1301

The National Italian American Foundation (NIAF) and the Italian Sons and Daughters of America (ISDA) are thrilled to announce the 2019 grant finalists for The Russo Brothers Italian American Film Forum. Spearheaded by directors Anthony and Joe Russo, the Film Forum is an initiative to fund films depicting and exploring the Italian American experience for the benefit of future generations.

The number of applications was impressive this year, and the committee was inspired by the variety of interesting topics covered within the proposed films. As always, we encourage individuals whose submissions were not selected to consider reapplying for a grant next year. In April, seven filmmakers were selected by the committee to each receive $8,000 to fund their film projects. Out of the seven grant recipients, three filmmakers were selected to be finalists.

The selection committee believes each finalist presents a specific vision for the exploration of truly dynamic themes in their films. All three films will be screened during NIAF’s 44th Anniversary Gala Weekend at Expo Italiana on November 2, an event that is free and open to the public. The winning film will be announced during the Gala Awards Dinner that evening.

The three 2019 finalists are:

John Peter Didato, whose film Ciao, Sesame Street! goes behind the scenes of Sesame Street to profile Italian Americans who have contributed to the success of the most beloved children's show in television history.

Sandra Jean Grasso, whose film Heirloom explores the significance of gardens in the Italian American community, and how they have become part of the cultural identity of Italian Americans.

Sim Smiley, whose film Maximum John explains the importance of Judge John Sirica's handling of Watergate.

Congratulations to all! NIAF and ISDA look forward to presenting these screenings during NIAF’s 44th Anniversary Gala Weekend, a special three-day event of Italian American pride at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, D.C. For more information about the weekend, please visit

The Russo Brothers are grateful to NIAF and the ISDA for their support in this endeavor. Furthermore, they kindly thank all the applicants and finalists for their submissions and look forward to reading more in 2020! For more information on The Russo Brothers Italian American Film Forum, please visit


The National Italian American Foundation (NIAF) is a non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to preserving, promoting and protecting the Italian American heritage and culture. Based in Washington, D.C., it is the major advocate for nearly 25 million Italian Americans, the nation’s fifth largest ethnic group. To learn more about the Foundation and to become a member, please visit

For 89 years, the Italian Sons and Daughters of America (ISDA) has kept a strong sense of community alive and thriving to become one of the largest and most financially successful Italian American organizations in the country. The ISDA unites Italian Americans across states nationwide to celebrate our culture and preserve the traditions our ancestors brought with them from Italy. To learn more about the ISDA and become a member, please visit



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