Across Cultures

See everything, hear everything

Watch 60 films, 170 excerpts and over 80 archival artefacts selected by NFB specialists as part of this unique project.

Barbed Wire and Mandolins

Barbed Wire and Mandolins
1997, director: Nicola Zavaglia

Film (48:00)

Find similar content
> European Canadians | Italian Canadians | World War II | Internment camps | Ontario | Labour exploitation | Working conditions | Families

  Description     The film  
On June 10, 1940, Italy entered the Second World War.

Overnight, the Canadian government came to see the country's 112,000 Italian-Canadians as dire threats to national security. The RCMP rounded up thousands of people it considered fascist sympathizers. Seven hundred were held for up to three years in internment camps, most of them at Petawawa, Ontario. None were ever charged with a criminal offence.

In Barbed Wire and Mandolins we meet Italian-Canadians whose lives were disrupted and uprooted by the internments: men who were whisked away and would not return for years; family members whose husbands and fathers became strangers during the time they were interned.

For the most part, the men were not treated harshly at the Petawawa camp. As the months rolled by they organized an orchestra, painted, planted gardens. But that hardly made up for the businesses they lost, the families they left behind, and the shame of a community that was branded a danger to Canada.

Remarkably, the former internees are not bitter as they look back on the way their own country treated them.