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Monday, April 6, 2015

Countdown to April 10th U.S. Release of "Black Souls" - Day 5

Africo, Calabria through the eyes of cast member and native, Stefano Priolo

(Interview published in English and Italian)

When many of us Italian-Americans imagine our families back in Italy, we have visions of beautiful, welcoming people filled with warmth and enthusiasm. Since all of my great-grandparents came from the regions of Basilicata, Calabria and Sicily, I have a special affection for the south. My paternal great grandfather came from Calabria, so I naturally consider all Calabrese warm and full of love and compassion like him and his children; my grandfather and great aunts. Well that is exactly what I found when I contacted “Anime nere” (Black Souls) cast member, Stefano Priolo for an interview about his beloved town, Africo, the town in which the film was made. He spent hours telling me about Africo, and even went to the sea to take pictures for me. It was an overcast day but as you will see in the photos, the Ionian Sea and its landscapes are beautiful in any light whether it be sun or shadows.

Although you’d never know it by watching his performance, Priolo is not a trained actor. He’s a longtime friend of Gioacchino Criaco, the author of the novel,“Anime nere” from which the film was adapted. “I was walking with some friends in the square where our Catholic church is located”, explained Priolo. “There, I saw my friend with a man I didn’t know, who ended up being the director, Francesco Munzi. He was fascinated by my face and gestures while I was talking with friends, and he asked me to audition for the part. He loved my audition, so I got a part in this film the whole world has come to appreciate.” Priolo owns a restaurant in Africo, called La Ginestra. There, he serves traditional culinary dishes, such as boiled goat meat with red onion, which was handed down by the ancient shepherds. If you’re vegetarian like me, he'll make you a pasta dish made with wild fennel, "light as a feather” according to Priolo.
Located in the commune of Reggio Calabria at the tip of southern Italy, Africo consists of two divisions; Africo Vecchio (Old Africo) and Africo Nuovo (New Africo). The film was shot in the Aspromonte area of Africo Vecchio,  a mountain massif overlooking the Strait of Messina. If you take the ferry from Reggio Calabria to Messina, you will pass through this area. When I attended the Taormina Film festival in 2013, I traveled through this area and I can attest to its natural wonder.
 
The history of Africo goes all the way back to the 9th century. The region has certainly seen its share of destruction and natural disasters, including devastating earthquakes in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, and then floods in the 1950’s. During those desperate times, the town was often the subject of novels and articles, whose authors wrote about the famine, poverty and desolation of the locale. These days, the region has modernized but now writers, such as Gioacchino Criaco are inspired for different reasons, including the 'Ndrangheta, an international crime organization based in Africo… but also for the stunning natural beauty of the Ionion Coast, which attracts tourists from all over the world. Priolo talked with me about both the beauty and the corruption, and how the people of Africo search to live and raise their children with morality, dignity and integrity.
 Jeannine: There were many Italian immigrants that came to America from Calabria, including my paternal great-grandfather. Tell me about this part of Calabria; the culture, the food and the natural beauty of the sea.
Stefano Priolo: The origin of Africo was born in the Aspromonte mountains of Calabria. Unfortunately, a big flood in 1951 caused the destruction of the countryside and resulted in several deaths among the population. Inevitably, the Italian government had to rebuild for the people of Africo. This time, however, the new development was built on the beautiful coastline of the Ionian Sea, lying next to a beautiful cliff overlooking the crystal waters. Our traditional music generally consists of the tarantella folk songs with a lyric often speaking of love. A great culinary tradition is our bread made with wheat flour that women, especially the older generations, make at home.


Jeannine: In America c'erano molti immigrati calabresi, tra cui mio bisnonno paterno.  Mi racconti la cultura della tua cittadina, Africo .. la musica tradizionale, la cucina, la gente, i negozi, le panetterie. C'e anche il mare? Raccontami la bellezza e la poesia della tua terra.
Stefano Priolo: L'origine di Africo nasce in Aspromonte la catena montuosa della Calabria orientale.purtroppo nel 1951 una grossa alluvione ha causato la distruzione del paese con diversi morti tra la popolazione che per lo più viveva di pastorizia.quindi per forza di cose il governo Italiano ha dovuto ricostruire un paese nuovo al popolo di Africo. questa volta però il paese nuovo è stato costruito nella bellissima costiera del mare Ionio, adagiato vicino ad una stupenda scogliera bagnata da un mare blu e cristallino.partirei dalla tradizione culinaria visto che sono il proprietario di un ristorante che mio ha lasciato in eredità mio padre che era un grande cuoco.uno dei piatti tipici è la carne di capra bollita con cipolla di Tropea tramandatoci dagli antichi pastori caprai dal gusto dolce e squisito.la musica in genere è la tarantella con canti popolari con toni poetici spesso d'amore.un'altra tradizione è la cultura del pane creato con farina di grano duro che le donne specie le più anziane fanno in casa.
How did the locals receive the film crews? When I spoke with director, Francesco Munzi, he described them as welcoming and helpful.
When we first started shooting in the greater part of Africo, there was an incredible curiosity. They had realized something very important for the good of all our community was happening. They were all very cordial and always available to help out. You can say the crew was made up of the entire town.
Come sono stati i locali nel ricevere la troupe cinematograficha? Quando ho parlato con Munzi, ha detto che sono stati molto accogliente e gentili.
Quando sono in cominciate le riprese la maggioranza degli Africo ti hanno avuto una curiosità incredibile.avevano capito che stava succedendo qualcosa di molto importante per il bene di tutta la nostra comunità.e tutti erano disponibili e cordiali.poi la produzione ha dato lavoro a tanti giovani . insomma è  stata una troupe grande quanto il paese.
Tell me about the Calabrese mafia from your point-of-view.
As every family needs the care of parents to help their children grow up with fundamental values ​​to reach the highest level of civilization, society also needs to be directed in an honest manner by political leaders. Unfortunately, they don't often care about the problems of families, so people are then forced to do illegal activities in order to have enough money to live a dignified life. This happens in every part of ​​the world where there is no social justice because political leaders, instead of using public funding to create jobs, put the money in their own pockets, and that's how this so-called Mafia exists. This is a real problem in Calabria. Those in command treat us as if all we need is food to stay alive and in doing so, prevent any real cultural growth so that the people can't achieve a critical consciousness to understand what actually makes up good and evil.
Parlami della presenza mafiosa a Calabria.
Come ogni famiglia ha bisogno della cura dei genitori affinché i figli possano crescere con i valori fondamentali per arrivare al più alto livello di civiltà, così è  pure una società in quanto tale ha bisogno che sia diretta in maniera onesta delle classi dirigenti che non sono altro che i politici. Purtroppo non si interessano dei problemi delle famiglie che spesso per mancanza di lavoro sono costrette a fare attività illegali per avere i soldi necessari per vivere in maniera dignitosa, e questo succede in ogni zona del mondo dove non c'e giustizia sociale perché  i dirigenti politici invece di usare i sodi pubblici per creare lavoro se li mettono in tasca, ed ecco che nascono le società del mal'affare  come la così detta Mafia. Questo è  il vero problema della Calabria. Perché  quelli che comandano ci trattano come fossimo una riserva dei poveri che ogni tanto ci danno da mangiare solamente per non morire . però così non ci sarà mai una crescita culturale affinché il popolo possa arrivare ad una coscienza critica per capire cos'è il bene ed il male.
What do you feel will be the legacy of this novel and film on Africo?
This movie has opened the minds of many, especially young people, and my hope is that we can finally stop defining people by certain clichés or rather by false values that block the growth of freedom of thought, not only Africo but in all the communities along the Ionica (Ionian Sea of Calabria) so that we can appear as a true civilization with dignity. 

Cosa senti e come sarà l'eredità di questo film su Africo?  
Questo film un po ha aperto la mente soprattutto dei giovani e la mia speranza  è che finalmente si possa uscire definitivamente da certi luoghi comuni o per meglio dire da falsi valori che anno bloccato la crescita della libertà di pensiero affinché non solo Africo ma tutti i paesi della fascia Ionica possa affacciarsi con dignità nella vera civiltà degli esseri umani e non umanoidi.


Photos of sea by Stefano Priolo

Do you think you'll pursue acting?
Yes, it's my desire to continue to act because it just makes me feel good.

Continuerai recitare?
Si, il mio desiderio è continuare a recitare perché mi fa stare bene.

"Black Souls" will open in New York on April 10th, with other cities to follow.
APRIL 10TH       NEW YORK CITY
APRIL 17TH       SAN FRANCISCO, CA
BERKELEY, CA
SAN RAFAEL, CA
WASHINGTON, DC
PHILADELPHIA, PA
APRIL 24TH       LOS ANGELES, CA
                         SEATTLE, WA                       
MAY 1ST           DALLAS, TX
                         PORTLAND, OR
MAY 8TH           CHICAGO, IL
                         MIAMI, FL
                         SAN DIEGO, CA
                         HONOLULU, HI
MAY 22ND        BOSTON, MA

Specific Theater Information is at http://bit.ly/1HMGAmr
 

 

 
Watch the trailer: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=D5gUDIIe67Y&autoplay=1

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