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"Sacco and Vanzetti" is the title of an 80-minute documentary film that was shown in theatres in 2006 and released on DVD in 2007. Directed by Peter Miller, this film covers the trial of Italian-born anarchists Nicola Sacco (1891-1927) and Bartolomeo Vanzetti (1888-1927).

Both were accused of murdering two men during an armed robbery of a shoe factory in South Braintree, Massachusetts, USA, in 1920. The victims were security guard Alessandro Berardelli and paymaster Frederick Parmenter.

The trial, which included several appeals, lasted from 1920 to 1927. At the end, the defendants were sentenced to death and executed in August 1927.

At the time, many people thought Sacco and Vanzetti were innocent and saw the verdict as a wrongful conviction, a miscarriage of justice. Regardless of their guilt or innocence, the trial was marred by numerous violations of due process. Therefore many people felt that the verdict was not based on a fair trial.

Over the years, the case of Sacco and Vanzetti has been the subject of numerous studies: books, articles, poems, and songs have been written, and films have been produced. The case refuses to die.

In Peter Miller's film the evidence is thoroughly discussed. Excerpts from prison letters written by Sacco and Vanzetti are read by two actors, with Tony Shalhoup speaking as Sacco and John Turturro speaking as Vanzetti.

Many people from many walks of life were interviewed for this film. Some of them have a personal connection with the case, while others have a political or an academic interest in it. Here are the names in the order of appearance:

** Nuncio Pernicone, historian
** Fernando Sacco, Sacco's niece
** Michael Topp, historian
** Anton Coppola, opera composer

** Lincoln Robbins, retired school teacher
** Joe Galvani, Vanzetti's neighbour
** Giuliano Montaldo, film director
** Diana Linden, art historian

** Howard Zinn, historian
** David Kaiser, historian
** David Felix, historian
** Edward Giobbi, artist

** Mary Anne Trasciatti, historian
** James Starrs, firearms expert
** David Canter, son of a protest leader
** Studs Terkel, writer

** Ralph DiGia, peace activist
** Alejandro Anreus, art historian
** Jeanette Parmenter Murphy, daughter of paymaster Frederick Parmenter
** Arlo Guthrie, folk singer, son of Woody Guthrie (1912-1967)

No witness in this film says Sacco and Vanzetti were guilty and justice was done. I do not think the director excluded any such statement. I think it is hard or impossible to find any serious observer who holds this view today. Regardless of the question of guilt or innocence, the general view today is that they did not get a fair trial.

The witnesses in this film do not say Sacco and Vanzetti were innocent. They discuss the evidence that we have and the way it was used during the trial. They allow you to draw your own conclusion about the matter.

If indeed Sacco and Vanzetti were innocent, why did the state of Massachusetts accuse them and sentence them to death in a long-lasting court drama? Why did they pick them? The answer is: they were Italian, they were anarchists, and this was the United States around 1920 - the time known as the Red Scare.

In 1977, Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis declared 23 August 1977, the 50th anniversary of their execution, as Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti Memorial Day. Avoiding the issue of guilt or innocence, his proclamation, issued in English and Italian, stated that Sacco and Vanzetti had been unfairly tried and convicted and that "any disgrace should be forever removed from their names."

Peter Miller has done a good job with this film. He presents the case and makes sure that is placed in its historical context. He has located and interviewed numerous witnesses who has something relevant to say about it.

Therefore it is highly recommended.

PS # 1. For information about the case, see for instance Justice crucified: The story of Sacco and Vanzetti by Roberta Strauss Feuerlicht (1977); Representing Sacco and Vanzetti edited by Jerome H. Delamater and Mary Anne Trasciatti (2005); and In Search of Sacco and Vanzetti by Susan Tejada (2012).

PS # 2. For political and ideological background, see for instance Red Scare, a Study of National Hysteria 1919-1920 by Robert K. Murray (1964) and Sacco and Vanzetti: The Anarchist Background by Paul Avrich (1990, 1996).
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on 18 February 2010
a true story that gives great inspiration - music is fantastic. if you looking for gut sentiment This is the film to watch.
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on 24 December 2014
It is a great documentary by Peter Miller about the pitfalls and the failings of the American (adversarial) legal system in the 1920s. The film dealt with the wrongful convictions and executions which had been meted out to Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti, two Italian men who sought their fortune in the name of American capitalism. Sacco and Vanzetti were also staunch advocates for the rights of workers, in particular, those from immigrant backgrounds.
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