Written by Leslie Hanson
Juggling a six-foot long microphone cord, cables, and a camera, four Pitt students film a busy laboratory at Compunetix in Monroeville, Pa. One student balances the camera on his shoulder and films lab technicians as they show off components of teleconferencing systems they’ve developed. Another holds the cable cords and asks the technicians questions about their work, while the third hoists the microphone over the scene and the fourth supervises the action.
Then the students—Antonio Paolucci, Flavia Tiberi, Michele Giacardi, and Juri Fantigrossi—conduct an interview with Compunetix’s president and founder. Surprisingly, everyone converses in Italian. The interviewee, Giorgio Coraluppi, is one of several Italian immigrants who have established thriving companies in the Pittsburgh area. The students, who are all native Italians, are filming a segment that will only be aired on television in Italy.
They arrived in Pittsburgh unexpectedly in 2009, after a 6.3 magnitude earthquake last April destroyed L’Aquila, a city in central Italy, where the student filmmakers were studying at a university. The disaster made international headlines, and their university was reduced to stone ruins. Classes were cancelled indefinitely, and the students weren’t sure how they would continue their studies.
Then officials at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center’s hospital in Palermo, Italy, offered to help. The students were invited to study film at Pitt and at Pittsburgh Filmmakers, with financial support from the Office of the Provost and UPMC. During the fall semester they took advantage of their new location by filming Italian-Americans, like Coraluppi, as well as creating a documentary about how Pittsburgh has transformed from an industrial hub to an environmentally responsible metropolis. “We are having a wonderful experience, the American Dream, but this great opportunity came from enormous disaster and suffering,” says student Flavia Tiberi. “We’ll never forget it.”
Now back in Italy, the students are continuing to document experiences of life and others’ lives, enriched by an unexpected visit to Pittsburgh.