Proxy brides and promised lands

Louisa Mignone   Sydney

Latte e Miele still 1Proxy marriages uniting single lonely men in Australia with women from war-torn areas of Europe were a common practice in Australia from the 1920s to the 1960s. They were a practical solution to a clear problem: in 1954, for example, for every 100 Italian-born women, there were 203 Italian-born men living settled in Australia. The government therefore opened our shores to women from Italy with the result that boatloads of proxy brides arrived in Australia with the promise of a better life. Women left their families and travelled to the other side of the world to marry men that they had never met – a prospect which seems both frightening and brave.

As long-time friends, full-time actors and now first-time filmmakers, Andrea Demetriades and I, together with the producers Leonie Rothwell and Annmaree Bell, became deeply intrigued by these women and their stories. So, supported by the 2013 MetroScreen First Breaks program, we decided to make a film to which we have given the title Latte e Miele to explore their experiences. It follows the journey of two sisters, Sofia and Liliana, who arrive in a rural town of New South Wales in 1953. They have travelled from their hometown of Naples in search of a new life in a country that is labelled ‘the new America’. Here they are welcomed by their husbands Federico and Umberto whom they have married by proxy but have never met. With only photographs of the two men to guide them into this union and the promise of a better life in the lucky country of milk and honey, the women leave their war-ravaged home in this leap of faith. What transpires is a night of chaos, courage, love and display of the sisterhood which brings women power and achievement.

Shooting of the film is about to begin, with screening envisaged for December this year. Our aim is to enter the film into A-list domestic and international film festivals such as Berlin, Cannes and Sundance so as to be able to present the stories of these courageous women to the widest possible audiences. Further details of our project, which also contain information on how to support the making of the film, can be found here.

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2 thoughts on “Proxy brides and promised lands

  1. Louisa says:

    Grazie mille Brigid! I really appreciate your comment and we do indeed have a translator and dialogue coach organised for our time on set too. So hopefully we will not disappoint! Thanks for taking the time to read our story and for the support!

  2. Brigid Maher says:

    This sounds like a great project, Louisa.
    Can I make a friendly suggestion? That you make sure you get a professional translator to translate / check any Italian dialogue in the film? You’d be surprised how many films include foreign-language dialogue that’s incorrect or unnatural. It’s really off-putting for viewers who know the language in question, and ends up making the film less believable. The audience for your film is certain to include many Italians and speakers of Italian, so you really wouldn’t want to fall into that trap!
    Good luck and buon lavoro!

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