The Italian Almanac

Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti

Italian Television - November 14

Leftwing Italian martyrs Sacco and Vanzetti have come to life again in a new Italian TV film. The two-part film on Premier Silvio Berlusconi's flagship Canale 5 channel stars top Italian actors Sergio Rubini and Ennio Fantastichini as the two Italian anarchists whose murder trial became a worldwide cause celebre in the 1920s. It recreates the anti-immigrant and anti-leftist climate of the time, while portraying the main characters in intimate detail.

Sacco and Vanzetti were arrested after the murder of two shoe factory employees in a payroll heist south of Boston in 1920. The arrests came at the height of America's 1919-1920 'Red Scare', the most intense period of political repression in America's history. Prosecutors claimed the two robbed the factory to fund their political activities. Witnesses said the gunmen had "looked Italian.".

The only evidence against them was that they were carrying guns when they were arrested. They both had solid alibis - Vanzetti was selling fish in nearby Plymouth and Sacco was having his photo taken with his wife in central Boston. The prosecution made a great deal of the fact that all the corroborating witnesses were Italian. Police rejected a 1925 confession by a Portuguese immigrant who implicated members of a notorious Italo-American gang. The two anarchists were sentenced to the electric chair in 1921 and executed on August 23, 1927 - despite a vocal worldwide campaign against their deaths.

The new TV film was presented without fanfare but to critical acclaim in the TV section of this summer's Venice Film Festival.