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Viva! Saint Agrippina
Reviewer: Ricardo Barberini
Director: Christopher Di Nunzio
Cast: Peter Baldassari, Michael Sorrentino, Jacqueline Palermo, Warren Mustacchio, Nick Mustacchio, Ralph Cucuzza, John Campo Jr,

Legend has it that in the third century, a Christian princess was beheaded because she rebuffed the sexual advances of Roman emperor Valerian.  A group of devoted Christians carried her body across Italy and the sea to Mineo in eastern Sicily.  St. Agrippina is one of the few holy figures of the early Christian church revered by the Catholic, the Russian and the Greek Orthodox churches.  Since 1914, every August in the North end of Boston a four day festival of Saint Agrippina is celebrated by the devout followers of this young saint.  This labor of love and devotion is a tradition carried out by generations of Sicilian and Italian families since 1914.  It is heartwarming to see the dedicated group of men and some women genuinely give part of their lives to Agrippina.  Considering the fact that most participants are Italian but not of Sicilian descent (figured out by their last names!) it is even more a labor of love. 

Christopher Di Nunzio is the creative force behind this true to life documentary.  At this time, when television shows are stuffed with fake reality shows such as Desperate Housewives, it is refreshing to see a real true-to-life documentary in the style of the true pioneers who actually filmed people in their natural environments. There is nothing fake in this movie.  Viva! Saint Agrippina is shot in the so called “Newsreel” tradition with hardly any staging or re-enactment of the events.  When Peter Baldassari talks about his 60 years of being a participant in the festival, he addresses Christopher who is on the other side of camera and invokes his grandfather, who made the banners, years ago.  There are some awkward moments too.  The food vendors or the woman who does handwriting analysis and is worried that if it rains she won't be making much money, not so dedicated to the saint as the organizers and the men who carry Saint Agrippina's so devotedly on their shoulders.  When Peter Baldassari talks about the miracles, he knows in his heart that it is true and his message crosses the screen to non-believers as well.

When you watch this documentary, you will go through 90 minutes of interviews, history lessons, location shots and heartfelt sentiments.  The camera work is little choppy one or two times, when panning long shots and crowd sequences. The color cinematography is natural and in a way deceptive.  In addition, Boston has gone through many radical ethnic changes in the past century, but the only faces you see in this movie are White, presumably Italian!  The director could have conveyed his message in 60 minutes instead of 90 but apparently he has chosen to err on the side of making a documentary that will be archived and used in future generations.

Christopher Di Nunzio is a talented director that has a brilliant future ahead of him.  The Italian immigrants and their descendants are not acting.  They are genuine. No makeup or dress up here. They are shown in their real form, warts and all. Di Nunzio is a super realist. This is his genius, let the people be, point the camera and shoot!  The so-called reality directors could learn a lesson or two from him.

If this movie came out of the Hollywood establishment, I would have given it 2 or 2 ½  Stars.   But I think it deserves three!