Thursday, March 3, 2016

“Montedoro” in the words of Pia Mann

“Montedoro,” is the fascinating, true story of an Italian-American woman named Pia Mann, or Porziella Boffilo as she was originally named, whose journey to find her birth mother led her to Craco, a deserted town in the heart of southern Italy. What preceded that fateful journey was a life of pain, trials and emotional challenges.

Pia’s earliest memories go back to her life as a toddler in Italy. She has blurry images of people, places and emotions like love and fear. She has fleeting recollections of meeting her adoptive parents in New York and then growing up in America, struggling between the loyalty and gratitude that her head was telling her to feel for her adoptive family, and the longing in her heart to know about her roots and where she came from. 

An olive grove in Basilicata photographed by Antonello Faretta
“Montedoro” is an expression of love by two people powered by different forces. On one hand, the film demonstrates the love and connection Pia Mann has for her origins, her birth mother and the sacred inner peace she finds once she arrives. On the other hand, “Montedoro” is a visual and poetic declaration of love by its director, Anontello Faretta, who was born in the region, Basilicata. He grew up photographing the natural splendor for which it is known. He's seen firsthand how its resources have been exploited by outsiders having no connection to the land, specifically the petroleum that in the last few years has been extracted. Speaking on behalf of both accounts, Antonello Faretta describes “Montedoro” as “a very personal, intimate film.” 

Over the last year, I have gotten to know the filmmakers behind this capolavoro, or in English, masterpiece. Fueled by their passion for this project, they work tirelessly to see that it gets the distribution it deserves. The film has been shown all over the world. From Atlanta, Georgia to Bangladesh and numerous places in between, audiences are getting to know the spectacular land of Basilicata and its very special inhabitants. Perhaps what will be the most poignant screening was just announced today. On March 9, the filmmakers of “Montedoro” will present their film in Matera, Italy, which is located near Craco. So in a way, this film is going home. Pia Mann, Adriana Bruno and Antonello Faretta will present “Montedoro” in the treasured land in which they worked so hard to create it. In recognition of this meaningful event, I spoke with Pia Mann in-depth about her life experiences that led up to the creation of “Montedoro” and the inner changes she has undergone in the process of making the film.
Pia with her adoptive father
Let’s start at the very beginning. What are your memories of living in Italy?
I knew I was loved, it's a feeling from dreams, small déjà. It had to be.. I always recall a dark-haired woman.. and I would sing to children and mine when I had them. Ni na no.. My brother said momma used to sing it to me. I loved water, hearing it. I loved jugs. Then I was told that I would sit near my home in Craco, watching the women get their water in jugs with two handles. My current home has a brook behind it. I listen to the water and it gives me a sense of peace and safety. I did not recall momma, and slowly I forgot Gianni my brother. But I always dreamt of this little boy with green eyes carrying me. In my teens, I was told that my mother back in Italy was a prostitute, and that she had left me on the streets. I was told I should be grateful to my adoptive family since they saved me. But all of this came out of my adoptive mother’s mouth. My daddy was my savior. 

Tell me about the yearning to find your birth mother, and the moment you picked up the phone and make that call.
My favorite quote that I wrote is, “I sleep to dream of a life that would be real,” and it’s ironic because my dreams were indeed real. The experience I had since meeting Antonello was frightening, awakening, sorrowful and life changing. 
It was January 23. After finding all the information in the bank shortly after my adoptive mother died, and finally having the name of my momma in Italy, Dominica Boffilo. I went on my computer and it took me just 10 minutes before I found her phone number.
I dialed the number. There was no answer. Maybe she is dead. Why was I doing this?
I remembered my adoptive grandmother before she died said I had a brother and other siblings. I looked them up and called three names ending in Boffilo.
Nothing. I was going to give up but I said I'm this close. I dialed again and a man answered. I said, “hello my name is Porziella and I'm looking for my mom Dominica.”
He said, “that's my mom.” So I began to say, “then you’re my brother.” I felt nothing really. He said, “our mom is in Milan with your other brother.” 
Oh my!!! Now I was shaking.
I called. A man answered.. “Hello, I'm Porziella. Do you know me?”
I heard crying. “Gianni,” he said, “its me it’s me, little one.  Wait let me put your momma on the phone.”  
She said, “Bella?? Porziella my daughter.”
I recalled saying for the first time in my life, “MOMMA Momma”...
I cried, dropped the phone, felt my heart would leave my chest.
I was alone in the house. Alone but it's the way it should have been.
Then the next day we shared photos.. we faxed.
Pia (right) with friend from Pisticci
Tell me about the little girl in the photo from the orphanage. Have you thought about trying to find her? I found all these pictures when my adoptive mom died. We lived in that orphanage in Pisticci. We looked like we were holding hands. We look scared and empty in the eyes. I recall the orphanage most of all. I tried to find out who she was, but my efforts were fruitless. I asked about her but no one seems to know. 

What was it like to finally meet your birth mother?
I think the first time I met my mom, it was the stairway to heaven actually. We walked up three flights of stairs and with each step, my heart kept pounding. She was at my brother Tommino's home. When she opened the door, I saw this woman who had my face and we just hugged and cried. All I wanted to do was put my ear to her heart and listen to her heart beating as I did when I was in her womb. When I did, I felt an inner peace.

You told me that your life has changed since making this film. Tell me about your journey and the emotional transformation you’ve undergone.
Actually it started changing the day my adoptive mom died. I was finally free. I had no more obligations. She always said I owed her my life because I was discarded, not wanted .
I told my brother Gianni after I met him, we are strangers, yes but not of the heart. I recall this little boy. His eyes. My dreams, being carried on his back, playing with his ears.
But I was worried. I had a dream one night that my adoptive mom came back from the dead and said, “Sorry these are all actors. They are not your family.” I cried. Why, why do you want to destroy me!!!
Emotionally, I was disappearing.. Now I was told to be happy. You are loved. Be proud of who you are. But how? Who was I? I lost a life I should have had. Was I now meant to show all of them love? I don't know what that is. To me, love is respect, caring, putting yourself last.. accepting. I don't know. I had many masks. I cried for months. How would I survive now without pain? I depended on it. My masks are gone now. I learned to open my heart.. not all the way but I'm getting there.
The film, “Montedoro” helped me. It made me see Porziella for the first time. I had to rip the bandage off my wounds. I had to be raw and feel pain again, and grow from weakness. I had to forgive, accept and realize that I am Pia. I am my past. I am strong. I am kind. The film stripped me of all my defenses. I looked at my scars. I looked at my body for the first time. I was real. My momma made me. I'm pretty.
Antonello showed me the path. He guided me. He knew my ghosts. He pulled out my pain. “Montedoro” is my rebirth. Walking through Craco. Feeling the wind. The souls who are gone. Looking around, I could hear me laughing as a child, playing in this beautiful Craco. Happy, innocent, feeling love..
I left that mountain. I cried the last day of shooting. I stayed behind. I felt my spirit. I saw myself dancing away. I said goodbye to Porziella. 

What are your thoughts, hopes and fears for the Matera and New York screenings?
My hopes for my screenings are that people will open up their minds and hearts and maybe see themselves in this film. It's spiritual. I hope I can help at least one person to understand that we can choose to be good, kind, and not be a product of our past. I have no fears. They can know of my molestations. They can look at my breasts and maybe snicker.. Ooh bad Pia. I need the truth to be told because the secrets destroyed me. The truth, finding my family and releasing all the lies saved me. I survived.
Pia with her birth mother in Craco
What are your feelings about Craco and Basilicata as a whole? Do you feel peace when you are there? Do you feel like you are home? If so, how does that sense of “home” differ from “home” in the United States?
My masks are gone. Home is wherever I am. My heart is with Italy. My spirit is with my home here in the USA. With that said, I truly am at home in Italy. I am more myself. I can expose more of my Italian feeling. I cook, I nap..:-) I fit in really well.
I then need my home here with my husband and children. I have been privileged now to go back and forth. I spend six weeks in Italy every three months. I tried to get to know my mom but I knew her only for three years before she passed away, but that's another story.
I am humbled by all the praise my movie has gotten. Would I have healed if not for Montedoro or meeting Antonello and Adrianna? Maybe, but it's wonderful.
January 23, 2007.. what a lucky number . Hello my name is Porziella
March 2016.. Hello my name is Pia.

There are really no words that can follow such powerful and intimate recollections. “Montedoro” is making its way through the world. If it is shown in your neck of the woods, I strongly recommend you see it. For more information and to watch the trailer.. visit Montedoro online.

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