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Sacco and Vanzetti (2006)

Not Rated | | Documentary | 24 August 2017 (Germany)
The story of two Italian immigrant radicals who were executed in 1927 offers insights into present-day issues of civil liberties and the rights of immigrants.

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Prof. Tommy Turner (archive footage)
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David Kaiser ...
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Sacco (voice)
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Mary Anne Trasciatti ...
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The story of two Italian immigrant radicals who were executed in 1927 offers insights into present-day issues of civil liberties and the rights of immigrants.

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Not Rated
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24 August 2017 (Germany)  »

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$2,778 (USA) (28 January 2007)

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$31,894 (USA) (20 May 2007)
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compelling history lesson
20 December 2007 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

Long before Amy Fisher and Joey Buttafucco became household names and courtroom celebrities, long before Robert Blake and O.J. Simpson took to the stand in their own defense, there were Ferdinando Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti, two Italian immigrants whose highly-publicized murder trial electrified the nation and became one of the hot media sensations of the 1920's.

Shortly after coming to America, both Sacco and Vanzetti became involved with a group of socialist anarchists dedicated to eradicating (sometimes through the use of violence) the stark inequities of status and class they perceived in the society around them (an idea that did not go down well in a capitalist nation watching in horror the success of the then quite recent Bolshevik Revolution). On April 15, 1920, the pair was arrested for the murder of two men, a paymaster and a security guard, who were shot in cold-blood while transporting the payroll from a shoe factory in Braintree, Massachusetts. Even though there was no real evidence tying them to the killings, Sacco and Vanzetti were eventually placed on trial, convicted on charges of 1st degree murder, and put to death in the electric chair on August 23, 1927. In the years since, the case of Sacco and Vanzetti has gone down in history as one of the major miscarriages of justice in all of American jurist prudence, while their very names have become synonymous with a legal system that too often abandons its quality of disinterested objectivity in favor of bigotry, corruption and fear.

As directed by Peter Miller, the documentary "Sacco and Vanzetti" attempts to come to terms with the fate of the two men and to view the case in its broader social context. Through the use of archival photos and footage, interviews with experts and historians (and even a niece of Sacco himself), clips from the 1971 movie dramatization of the story, "Sacco and Vanzetti," and voice-over recitations of excerpts from the two key figures' very own journals and letters, Miller explores how the legal system was able to veer so far off the rails in a country that prides itself on the blindness of its justice and the fair treatment it ostensibly affords to all its people. He finds his answer mainly in the love/hate relationship that America has always had with its immigrant populations. For he makes it clear that this was little more than a sham show trial, one consisting mainly of circumstantial evidence and fraudulent testimony, presided over by a judge with small tolerance for immigrants or anyone not of the Anglo-Saxon persuasion. The men were found guilty more of the sin of being "unpatriotic" than of the commission of any actual crime. It is this aspect, more than any other, that touched such a raw nerve in so many people not only in the United States but around the world. Towards the end, we are shown how the case eventually moved beyond its own limited context, entering the realm of American mythology and inspiring socially conscious artists, poets, novelists and songwriters to produce some of their most poignant and notable work.

Although the movie is a bit murky on some of the facts of the case and doesn't offer us a clear enough picture of the men as individuals (the pre-crime period in their lives is particularly sketchy), "Sacco and Vanzetti" provides us with an interesting history lesson as well as an intriguing glimpse into the time in which the events took place. In addition, with its tale of racial discrimination and societal prejudice, the movie has a great deal of relevance for the world today as we see immigration once again coming to the forefront as a hot-button political issue, a parallel the filmmakers are quick to point out at the conclusion of the film. That alone makes this a movie well worth checking out.


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