The Russo Brothers Italian American Filmmaker Forum celebrates legacy and future stories at AGBO HQ


A dose of the Amalfi coast hit downtown Los Angeles at the inaugural Russo Brothers Italian American Filmmaker Forum celebration. Bouquets of wildflowers, Campari cocktails, and of course, pizza, were on hand to welcome attendees who gathered at AGBO’s headquarters to honor filmmaker and Marvel co-president Louis D’Esposito with the first annual Renaissance Award.

Hosts Anthony and Joe Russo, along with AGBO’s Chief Creative Officer Angela Russo-Otstot, greeted guests including actors Chris Pratt, Dave Bautista, Karen Gilian, Frank Grillo and singer Franki Valli, filmmakers John Favreau and Roman Coppola – and many emerging storytellers.

Flower bouquets from Rogue & Fox Florals filled the AGBO lobby

The evening’s main event was crowning film director and producer Louis D’Esposito as the inaugural winner of the newly announced Renaissance Award. A mentor, collaborator, and friend of the Russo Brothers—and the descendant of Italian American immigrants—D’Esposito is best known as the executive producer behind the Marvel Cinematic Universe films

Upon honoring D’Esposito, Joe Russo said that the new award’s purpose is to celebrate veteran filmmakers whose bodies of work are inspiring testaments to their varied experiences with Italian and American culture. “We’ve been so inspired by the work that these budding filmmakers have done and the wonderful stories they’ve created, we decided to expand the mission of the Film Forum to recognize and champion the work of established filmmakers as well,” said the AGBO co-founder. “Leaders in the industry who have helped paved the way for all of us.”

Guests Dave Bautista (left) and Chris Pratt (right) with the evening’s honoree, Louis D’Esposito

Special guest General of Italy Raffaella Valentini also spoke, congratulating D’Esposito, whose grandfather was born in Italy and came to New York in the 1920s, and is also an Italian citizen himself. 

“Being an Italian citizen means embracing a heritage and sharing emotions. It’s a declaration of love for our country, but also a pledge [...]  to uphold the ideals and principles that we stand for, and to contribute to the community,” said Valentini.

AGBO Chief Creative Officer Angela Russo-Otstot (center) and her brothers Anthony (left) and Joe (right)

Russo-Ostot explained the inspiration behind the Forum’s origins: The Russo family has belonged to the Order of Italian Sons and Daughters of America (ISDA) for generations and her father, who serves as president, came up with the idea. 

“To date,” she shared, “AGBO and ISDA have awarded over $400,000 in grants for 47 passionate filmmakers to realize their creative visions.” Russo-Otstot spoke more about how the grant program reflects AGBO’s values of supporting emerging creators and storytelling tied to Italian culture and heritage.

The Forum encourages curious and imaginative storytellers to explore themes tied to immigration and Italian American identity through film. Former grant recipients in attendance included directors Alessia Crucitelli and Andrew Levay (Leaving the Factory), Amy Campione (Yes, Chef), and Zach Baliva (Potentially Dangerous). 

Emerging storytellers who aspire to bring stories of the Italian American experience to life are encouraged to enter the 2024 RBIAFF. Applications are now open and can be found at

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