Saint Mary’s Feast is well-known to many across the state, but thanks to a local woman, the annual event may just attract an even wider audience.
Aly Migliori grew up in an Italian-American family that made it a tradition to attend the Cranston feast every year. She said even though she always enjoyed going on the rides, playing the carnival games and eating all of the delicious food, the event had a “purity” that she will always keep with her.
“It is the only holiday that I can consciously reflect on that was not associated with presents and things like that, yet it brings entire families together, and I just feel that there is something really pure about that,” she said.
Although most of Migliori’s family still resides in the Knightsville section of Cranston, she has since moved to New York City, where she is working as an up-and-coming filmmaker. Just as she does every year, Migliori has come back to Rhode Island to attend the feast. This year, however, she will not just be attending the event – she will be making a film about it.
The independent short film, called “Knightsville,” was written by Migliori and is, she said, intended to capture the celebration of the Saint Mary’s Feast and the rich culture of the Italian-American families that live in Rhode Island.
In a brief synopsis about the film, it is described as “a unique story about coming into one’s own identity and understanding how to let people see our innermost selves. This film follows a young woman who comes home to celebrate St. Mary’s Day with her Italian-American family. However, she is unsure how to reconcile her new life with the old, and faces the windfalls of keeping her new life separate from home. In overcoming this conflict, she grows as an individual and develops a greater appreciation for culture and family.”
The young woman portrayed in the film, named Sara, is being played by Amanda Ebert. Ebert also resides in New York City but has joined Migliori in her trip home this year to shoot the short film this weekend while the feast is taking place.
Migliori has formed a cast and crew team of close to 25 core people who will be working with her on this project, including several locals and others brought in from New York. She said that a lot of work will get accomplished during the four-day shoot, but that work for this project began many, many months ago.
Migliori said that she spent at least four months on pre-production planning to secure permits, get signatures and make arrangements to ensure filming goes off without a hitch. She said that the members of the Saint Mary’s Feast Society have been “wonderful” to work with, as has everybody from the community.
“The head guys from the [Saint Mary’s Feast] Society are bringing the Madonna out for us on Saturday so that we can stage the entire parade a day in advance. The police have been so helpful, the city knows and has been great, the entire community is behind us,” Migliori said. “This film is really coming together because of this community, and I think it’s a wonderful indication of the people that I am trying to capture in the film … it shows how great and supportive and excited they all are about this.”
The feast was to begin Wednesday and will continue until Sunday, but the actual filming for “Knightsville” will occur intermittently throughout the festivities beginning on Thursday. Migliori has put out a call for extras for several of the scenes she will be shooting, and is still in need of people for Saturday’s shoot. She asked that extras report to 50 Vermont St. by 8 a.m. on Saturday morning.
Richard “Rick” Petrella Sr., president of the Saint Mary’s Feast Society, said the group is thrilled Migliori is making a film about the event. Each year, he said, close to 10,000 people come to the gathering to celebrate their heritage and enjoy the festivities.
“The great thing is that even those families who move away, they all always come back for the Feast,” he said. “Every day we see thousands of people. This is our 109th year, and every year it just grows.
“They come for the food, the carnival, the games, the parade – it’s a combination of things, but it’s also about the blessed mother,” he continued. “You know a miracle is a pretty unbelievable thing, but people come to be a part of this miracle.”
The goal, Migliori said, is to get her film wrapped up so that she can add it to her portfolio of recent successes since she graduated from Brown University last year. Migliori recently completed a film for which she worked as associate producer, the South by Southwest narrative feature selection “I Believe in Unicorns,” which has already played at dozens of festivals in 2014 and recently won Grand Jury Prize at the Atlanta Film Festival and best song at the Nashville Film Festival.
In terms of “Knightsville,” Migliori said she is “extremely excited” about the project, as it is derived from her own roots and is being done so personally. She said she hopes to have a local screening once the film is complete.
St. Mary’s Feast begins at 5 p.m. through Friday and runs all day Saturday and Sunday. Mass at Saint Mary’s Church will be held at 10 a.m. Sunday, with the parade to follow immediately after at about 11 a.m.