Antonio Aiello currently directs all of PEN America's audio and video projects, including producing several short films each year to be shown at the PEN America Literary Gala, directing interviews with visiting international authors and delegations, and directing the production and postproduction of the PEN World Voices Festival and PEN's public programs.
Every now and then I need to stop and take in the work I'm a part of at the intersection of art and free expression. Most recently, Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer recorded a new arrangement of Leonard Cohen's "Democracy." I asked David Mack to create illustrations for the song and Olga Nunes to bring it all to li in a video. The final piece is at once heartbreaking and hopeful (knowing we have a fight ahead), an accurate reflection of where we are today. We used the video at PEN America for our most successful end-of-year giving campaign that helped break fundraising records and broaden PEN America's audience.
Aiello worked with Director Jacob Krupnick to produce an inspiring promotional video to capture the essence of PEN America's First Edition, Second Thoughts annotated rare book auction held at Christies New York to benefit PEN America. Seventy-five writers and artists have written or drawn directly in a first edition or a significant catalogue of their own work. This is an extraordinary collection: of rare first editions that have in most cases been heavily annotated throughout by the author, and of works of art that take an artist's catalogue or monograph as a starting point.
Aiello worked with director and producer Dara Kell to produce the minidoc for the 2015 PEN Freedom to Writer Award winner Khadija Ismayilova, an Azerbaijani journalist at Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), a U.S.-funded news agency banned in the country. Since 2010, she has gained international acclaim for her hard-hitting investigative reporting on official corruption. After a years-long government campaign against her, Khadija was arrested on December 5, 2014, on spurious charges of inciting a former colleague to suicide—a charge she vehemently rejects.
Aiello worked with Director and Editor Dara Kell to create a highlight video celebrating 10-year anniversary of the PEN World Voices Festival. Founded in 2005 under the direction of former PEN President Salman Rushdie, the World Voices Festival has hosted more than 1,400 writers from 78 countries, speaking 56 languages in an effort to engage international writers in dialogue about literature, art, and ideas to foster a worldwide literary community.
Aiello Worked with Director and Producer Dara Kell to produce a short video paying tribute to Salman Rushdie, former PEN America President and founder of the PEN World Voices Festival. Rushdie was receiving the 2014 PEN/Allen Foundation Literary Service Award, which honors a writer whose critically acclaimed work has drawn a wide audience and helps us to understand the human condition in original and powerful ways.
PEN American Center is the largest of the 140+ centers of PEN International, the world’s only international association of writers working to defend free expression and protect persecuted writers. PEN American Center, founded in 1922, works to advance literature, to defend free expression, and to foster international literary fellowship. Aiello worked with Elan Bogarin and Troy Herion to produce a short primer video to showcase the organizations individual human rights advocacy work. Its 3,500 distinguished members carry on the achievements in literature and advancement of human rights of such past members as James Baldwin, Arthur Miller, Susan Sontag, and John Steinbeck.