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Shortly after the bulk of the Italian POW’s
arrived, Italy officially switched sides in the war, and over ninety percent
of the POWs agreed to collaborate with the Allied war effort. Suddenly,
men who had been so badly defeated in the conflict, who spoke little or
no English, and whose exposure to the United States had come only through
movies and books, now found themselves living out the contradictory roles
of prisoner and ally to the US—at the same time.
Though still restricted and kept under guard, collaborating POWs worked
in 26 states under the direction of American soldiers and were permitted
both to receive visitors and to visit the homes of U.S. citizens on weekends.
Local Italian-American communities extended hearty welcomes to the POWs
and meaningful, lasting relationships flourished. Romances between Italian
POWs and American women were common, and many ended in long lasting marriages.
In its moving final act, "Prisoners of Paradise" follows four
such couples, all of whom married after the war, and investigates the
unique challenges of the years since. As the former POWs have become citizens
and raised families, all the while loving America and missing Italy. Through
these touching and sometime humorous stories, "Prisoners of Paradise"
illuminates the profound cultural affinity between Italians and Americans,
and offers a provocative meditation on the meaning of national identity
in times of peace and war.
director / producer Camilla Calamandrei