New Film Proves Successful Fundraiser While Changing Public Perception of Mysterious Sicily

Jul 11, 2018 177

When The Italian Cultural Center of Buffalo, New York (ICCB), the Federation of Italian-American Societies of Western New York (FASWNY), and the Per Niente Club of Buffalo sponsored a special screening of the new feature-length documentary “Sicily: Land of Love and Strife” as a fundraiser, they didn’t know what to expect in return.

Would a film devoted solely to Sicily be compelling to Buffalo’s Italian-American community? Would the general public accept the contention that there’s more to the mysterious three-sided island than its much-publicized relationship to organized crime? When advance tickets sold out and the tally hit $11,000, the Buffalo sponsors knew they’d made the right decision.

So did Sicilia Canta, the Cinema Insieme film club, the Italian Contemporary Film Festival (ICFF), and Festitalia, all in Hamilton, Ontario, whose special screening also sold out and brought in $10,000.

In Kansas City, Missouri, where writer/producer/director Mark Spano held the U.S. premiere, the small theatre there also sold out. A native of Kansas City whose parents were first-generation Sicilian immigrants, Spano was thrilled.

“Holding the premiere in my hometown not only allowed me to see friends and family I hadn’t seen in years, but it also gave me the opportunity to present my film to a very diverse Middle-American audience,” he said. “Their responses were both informative and heartwarming. I could not have asked for more. The theater was sold out, and the crowd loved the film. I was truly humbled by their responses.”

Spano’s film celebrates the island nation’s natural beauty, its passionate people and epic human struggles, the depth and diversity of its culture, the philosophic insights that originated in Sicily, and its wealth of historic sites – all facets of Sicily that have been obscured by the mysterious country’s association with organized crime. He hopes the documentary he worked on for three years will change public perception of his family’s homeland.

Frank Cherrito, former president of UNICO’s Kansas City chapter (2009-2011), remembers when the enthusiastic filmmaker first told him about the documentary he wanted to make.

"Mark came to us with an idea,” Cherrito recalled. “Although it wasn't really clear to us, the vision he had for this wonderful film was crystal clear to him. And it proved to be an incredible fundraiser for our organization. Many people came out to support the film primarily, I think, because it highlights the Italian-American culture in a positive way."

Sam Cino and Joe Baiardo of Sicilia Canta and Charles Criminisi of Cinema Insieme sent the filmmaker the following statement: “The film was beautifully created with breathtaking images and a captivating soundtrack. Diverse perspectives on the history, culture and norms of Sicilian life were presented by international scholars and authorities who introduced facts that were unknown to many about this beautiful three-sided island. Feedback from many of the 300 viewers was very favorable. Funds from the screening will be used to promote future community initiatives and events of particular interest to the local Sicilian community.”

To date, two more special screenings of “Sicily: Land of Love and Strife” are scheduled:

The New York City premiere will be held in the Bernie Wohl Center on Columbus Avenue on Wednesday, September 12.
The Triangle Sons and Daughters of Italy, Lodge 2817, in Cary, North Carolina, will present the film as a fundraiser on Sunday, November 11.
Also, Westdale Theater, a soon-to-open art house in Hamilton, and North Park Theatre in Buffalo are planning theatrical runs. No dates have been announced yet.

For more information on “Sicily: Land of Love and Strife” and filmmaker Mark Spano, visit https://markspano.wordpress.com/.

Communities interested in hosting special screenings should contact Spano at bullockvalentine@gmail.com.

You may be interested