My Italian Secret: The Forgotten Heroes, narrated by Isabella Rossellini, raises your awareness about an under-reported fact: many Italians, such as bicyclist Gino Bartali, risked their lives to save Jews in Italy during the Holocaust. Gino Bartali bravely hid Jews to protect them from being taken by the Nazis, and helped to transport fake documentation papers as well. Other heroes include Dr. Giovanni Borromeo, the director of a hospital who created a fake terminal disease called "Morbo di Kappa" to prevent the Nazis from entering a section of the hospital where he was hiding Jews from them. Similarly brave members of the church disguised Jewish females as nuns, and Jewish males as Catholics. In a particularly moving moment, a Jewish survivor tears up as he recalls how a nun let him quietly mouth Jewish prayers while he was being disguised as a Catholic at the church. It's amazing how Bartali never wanted to be labeled as a hero, and his explanation about why he feels that way makes him all the more heroic and, of course, humble. Director Oren Jacoby uses a lively approach to presenting you with information by incorporating archival footage, present-day interviews and dramatic reenactments all of which are easy to follow. You'll find yourself crying tears of both sorrow and joy as you hear the stories of heroism. Jacoby wisely avoids two trappings that make My Italian Secret more than your average documentary: firstly, he eschews bombarding the audiences with non-stop talking heads which would have made everything too dry, and, secondly, he does not resort to emotionally devastate/shock audiences with graphic photos from the concentration camps thereby making the film more accessible to children. He also keeps the running time at 92 minutes which is a testament to his discipline as a filmmaker, and to the skills of his editor, Deborah Peretz. My Italian Secret, opening at Cinema Village via The Film Sales Company, manages to be an important, emotionally engrossing documentary about the true heroes of Italy during WWII. It will make you wonder who might become the true heroes of America if something like the Holocaust were to happen on American soil.
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