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Production begins on Alejandro Monteverde's 'The Untitled Cabrini Film'

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Mon, Aug 9th 2021 12:35 pm

Christiana Dell’Anna, John Lithgow, David Morse & Rolando Villazón star in powerful true story of unknown American legend, Frances Xavier Cabrini

√ Jonathan Sanger & Leo Severino are producing for Francesca Films

The Buffalo Niagara Film Office recently announced principal photography is underway on TIFF’s “People’s Choice Award”-winning director Alejandro Monteverde’s “The Untitled Cabrini Film” in Buffalo. Production will conclude in Rome, Italy, in the early fall.

“The Untitled Cabrini Film” is based on a story by Monteverde (“Sound of Freedom,” “Bella”) and Rod Barr, with a screenplay by Barr (“Little Boy,” “Sound of Freedom”). The project is the brainchild of Eustace Wolfington, whose passion for Cabrini’s story began over 60 years ago.

“The minute I learned of Cabrini’s life story, I realized this was a story that deserved to be brought to the big screen,” he says. “As a pioneer of human rights long before today, her story will be an inspiration to today’s pioneers of human rights, which makes her story and unprecedented accomplishments as relevant today as ever.”

The film stars Christiana Dell’Anna (“Gomorrah,” “Mr. Happiness”), Montserrat Espadalé (“Crescendo,” “Little Boy”), Romana Maggiora Vergano (“Gli Anni Belli,” “Imaturi”), David Morse (“The Green Mile,” “The Hurt Locker”), Patch Darragh (“Succession,” “Boardwalk Empire”), John Lithgow (“The Crown,” “Bombshell”), Jeremy Bobb (“The Outside,” “Russian Doll”), Virginia Bocelli (“Unici,” “Andrea Bocello: Believe in Christmas”), Andrew Polk (“The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” “Billions”), Giampiero Judica (“All The Money In The World,” “Boardwalk Empire”) and Rolando Villazón (“Mozart in Prague: Rolando Villazón on Don Giovanni”).

Joining Monteverde behind the camera are Academy Award and BAFTA Award-winning producer Jonathan Sanger (“Marshall,” “The Elephant Man”) and producer Leo Severino (“Bella,” “Sound of Freedom”), production designer Carlos Lagunas Hernar (“Colombiana,” “Belzebuth”), director of photography Gorka Gomez Andreu (“House of Others,” “Seagull”), costume designer Alisha Silverstein (“Stargirl,” “Adam Ruins Everything”), music supervisor Mary Ramos (“Marshall,” “The Hateful Eight”), composer Gene Back (“Cowboys,” “Holler”), second unit director Pepe Portillo (“Little Boy,” “This Is the Year”), editor Brian Scofield (“Suicide Squad,” “The Tree of Life”), sound mixer Paul Pouthier (“Uncle Frank,” “Between Two Ferns”), special effects coordinator Fred Kraemer (“John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum,” “The Forgotten”), stunt coordinator Scott Burik (“In the Heights,” “The Trial of the Chicago 7”),visual effects supervisor Brian Battles (“Star Trek Beyond,” “The Irishman”) and UPM/line producer Lukas Behnken (“American Skin,” “Sound of Freedom”).

The film tells the story of Francesca Cabrini, one of the greatest entrepreneurs of the 19th Century. She began with nothing and created the largest multinational charitable empire the world had ever known. Her accomplishments equaled the likes of Vanderbilt and Rockefeller. Remarkably, Cabrini accomplished all of this and just happened to be a woman, an Italian immigrant, and a nun without a penny to her name.

“The Untitled Cabrini Film” charts the meteoric rise of an astonishing and audacious woman who – through her relentless perseverance and business skill – overcame the sexism and virulent anti-Italian bigotry of 19th century America, to build schools, orphanages and hospitals that transformed the lives of immigrants worldwide.

The film is a gripping, inspirational story about one of the great unknown figures of American history, and a powerful exploration of two of today’s biggest issues: immigration and the empowerment of women. Cabrini speaks to our time – a time that more than ever needs the wisdom and example of this unstoppable woman who triumphed magnificently against all odds.

“As an immigrant myself, I am honored to be able to shine a light on the astonishing story of a true warrior of social justice who transformed the lives of immigrants worldwide,” Monteverde says. “Cabrini was a pioneer of women’s empowerment, making her story as relevant today as in the 1890s. This picture – like Cabrini herself – is surprising, courageous, gritty … and deeply inspirational.”

Sanger adds: “In a time when the achievements of women in every sphere of life have inspired a new generation, it is fascinating to contemplate the work of Francesca Cabrini, an Italian immigrant who came to New York in 1889. She would fit perfectly as a leader in today’s world.”

Construction began in April on the massive sets that recreate Five Points, a 19th century neighborhood in Lower Manhattan that was especially cold, unwelcoming and impoverished; an area where immigrants got their first impression of the land that promised to offer new hope and fulfilled promises. That construction includes a dilapidated orphanage, an Italian hospital, a brothel, a main street, slum dwellings, and many other edifices that look as if they came right from the pages of Jacob Riis’ “How The Other Half Lives.”

Filming is planned to take place on many Buffalo and neighboring locations to double for other iconic New York City sites circa 1890, including the West Park neighborhood north of Manhattan and what is now the posh Upper East Side, before completing principal photography in Rome in the early fall.

“The Untitled Cabrini Film” is a Francesca Films production.

St. Paul's Episcopal Cathedral's Office Building will be Backdrop

St. Paul's Episcopal Cathedral's office building, located at 4 Cathedral Park, will be the backdrop for Buffalo's most recent movie, “The Untitled Cabrini Film.”

"Our current office building, now known as the Flickinger Ministry Center, was built in 1901, for the American Express Company,” said the Very Rev. Derrick Fetz, dean of the cathedral. The Neoclassical architectural style of our building fits well within the time period for the ‘Cabrini’ movie. The set designers and builders, who have been on location for the past week-and-a-half, have styled the windows and doorways to look like multiple storefronts. The neighboring buildings on either side of our office have been transformed, too. There's a buzz of Hollywood magic in the air. We're blessed that our historical buildings can be used to tell the amazing story of Mother Cabrini and her ministry."

Mother Cabrini, an Italian catholic nun, founded numerous orphanages, educated Italian immigrants and helped the marginalized population at great odds. The Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which Mother Cabrini established, became the largest charitable effort in the United States.

The cathedral is also being used as a "holding and rest center" for numerous paid extras until they await their call times – this connects to one of the cathedral's core values of hospitality.

St. Paul's strives to be not only the cathedral for The Episcopal Diocese of Western New York but for all who work and live in Buffalo and the region. It noted “The cathedral offers a safe, secure and nonjudgmental setting for nonprofit groups, civic and social organizations and others looking for a venue where important issues confronting the region and nation can be discussed, analyzed and acted upon.”

The building at the corner of Church and Pearl in downtown Buffalo was designed by Richard Upjohn and was considered Buffalo’s first national architectural landmark in 1851. It is classified as a National Historic Landmark. St. Paul's is now the permanent site for "Homeless Jesus," a sculpture installed in 2015 that attracts area residents as well as visitors from across the nation. Go to www.SPCBuffalo.org for service times or a link to the livestream service.

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