Film screening and conversation: The Island of Roses, Tragedy in Paradise, by Rebecca Samonà. 2008/Italy, 56 min., documentary, in Italian with English subtitles Written and directed by Rebecca Samonà. Produced by L’Altravista and Rebecca Samonà.
Post-screening conversation with Erminia and Gloria Licitri.
Pregnant with her second child, Rebecca Samonà goes to the island of Rhodes to research family stories, accompanied by her mother Erminia Licitri and Stella Levi, a family friend who survived the deportation. Through the two women’s memories Rebecca reconstructs the life and annihilation of the Jews of Rhodes from the beginning of the Italian colonization in 1912, to the deportation to Auschwitz in July 1944.
Combining era footage with a delicate personal commentary, “The Island of Roses” offers a glimpse into a centuries-old culture which a handful of survivors infused it into a younger generation that is today scattered around the world. The narrative unfolds along the author’s grandparents’ love story, Victoria, from an old local Jewish family and Ernesto, a Sicilian army officer stationed on the island. In spite of the initial parental opposition, the couple gets married but their lives are soon after turned apart by the racial persecution and the war.
Rebecca Samonà is a journalist at Rai, the Italian public service broadcaster and she lives between Washington DC and Rome. She has worked both as an investigative journalist and in the daily news at Rai3, authored several Rai documentaries and was an interviewer for the Shoah Foundation. She wrote and directed “L’Isola delle Rose, La tragedia di un Paradiso” which was broadcast on the History Channel and screened in many locations across the US and Canada, Argentina, South Africa, Belgium, Canada, Poland, Greece, Israel. The film was supported by the Italian State Fund for the Victims of Nazism.