People from Melbourne, Australia will likely recognize the words: “Grand sale, grand sale, grand sale. Where? In Brunswick and Footscray.” These lines have been uttered in ads countless times since the early 1980s. And the man who used this slogan is Franco Cozzo, a penniless Italian immigrant who went on to become a millionaire furniture mogul in the country. The 83-year-old’s story of success will soon be told through a documentary named Palazzo di Cozzo. It is being made by writer-director Madeleine Martiniello.
Telling Cozzo’s story
“It’s partly a biography of Franco Cozzo, but I’m also really interested in looking at the broader cultural ideas around furniture and migrant home life… There are going to be portraits in the film of people who have bought Franco Cozzo furniture over the years, showing the evolution of the clientele and the styles of people’s houses. So there will be these beautiful cinematic scenes that present the furniture in its full glory, in context,” Martiniello said to The Sydney Morning Herald.
Martiniello says that even though she hasn’t seen Cozzo’s ads on television, she was intrigued on discovering that the furniture businessman had a cult following on YouTube, with his ads in multiple languages attracting numerous viewers. After she spoke about her upcoming project to people in her age group, Martiniello saw that they were all very interested in it. The 30-year-old director wants her documentary to focus on how a public personality like Cozzo is able to bring people of diverse backgrounds together.
She notes that Cozzo’s customers have evolved with the numerous migrant waves. Initially, it was the post-war European migrants who made up much of his customer base. But now, it is people from Southeast Asia and African communities who make a beeline for Cozzo’s furniture. The documentary will spend some time exploring the lives of Greek immigrants, their history of immigration, and their relationship with Cozzo’s furniture.
After his arrival in Australia in 1956 as a 21-year-old, Cozzo started working as a door to door salesman even though he did not know how to speak English. Soon, he entered into a partnership with a furniture business. Over time, he ended up opening three furniture stores at Brunswick, North Melbourne, and Footscray. His ad slogan “megalo, megalo, megalo!” made him a well-known figure among the people. The slogan translates as, “grand sale, grand sale, grand sale!”
For the documentary, Cozzo is returning to his hometown in Ramacca, Sicily. Martiniello points out that this might well be Cozzo’s last trip to Europe and his hometown given his advanced age. As such, she believes that it would be a meaningful and heartwarming journey that will emotionally move the viewers. The 90-minute documentary will contain old photos of Cozzo’s upbringing and his popular advertisements. Once the production is completed, the documentary will be released on ABC sometime in 2021.
Screen Australia documentaries
Palazzo di Cozzo is one of the eleven documentaries announced by Screen Australia last December. The organization had set aside US$1.9 million in funding to support the production of the documentaries. Some of the others:
- Audrey & Me: Explores the story of a Warlpiri woman in Alice Springs and her adoptive mother Audrey who was also an Aboriginal matriarch.
- Jenny & Linda: Is a documentary about fashion designers Linda Jackson and Jenny Kee who revolutionized Australian fashion.
- Unbreakable: The Jelena Dokic Story, which narrates the story of tennis player Jelena Dokic who overcame the extreme brutality of her father to become a top star.