Pelham Gardens filmmaker Anton Evangelista wanted to create a film tribute to remember his late father – and to introduce him to future family members.
He accomplished it well with the film, “Umberto E,” which follows the life Umberto Evangelista, who saw the film before he died in 2011.
The film takes a viewer through his rough-and-tumble upbringing in Bari, Italy with a distant father who put him in an orphanage, to his arrival in the United States and the Arthur Avenue neighborhood with his young family in the mid-1960s.
The film also recalls Umberto’s experience in World War II, wooing his wife Luisa, and working jobs to support his family.
“When he first saw the movie I think he was very proud of me and I think he finally felt that in a way he was allowed to speak and be heard.”
“I always say that he is an unsung hero. He was at three different screenings – signing autographs and taking pictures.”
The heart of the film really captures how Umberto never lost his way, never became bitter, or lost his faith in God and his belief in the Catholic church.
The Bronx is also a character in the documentary.
“The Bronx is unique and was such a large part of our life and our journey and that is clear in the movie,” said Evangelista. “The obvious is Arthur Avenue which was such a big part of my parents’ lives and my life.
The film explores racism and classism that the family experienced after immigrating, his son said. Some first or second generation Italian-Americans in the community called the new arrivals “off the boat” or “guineas.”
Young Anton and his siblings experienced invisible boundaries that divided communities of different ethnic and racial groups.
Umberto, who had been an officer in the Italian army and was a well-educated man took the only jobs he could find in America: loading and unloading trucks for a few weeks before getting a job he had for about 20 years operating nylon cutting machinery to support his family.
Umberto also wrote an autobiography from which the film draws much of its source material, along with home movies from the 1970s and 80s, photographs tracing back to Umberto’s birth in 1921, and interviews with Umberto subtitled in English.
Holy Rosary Church will host a free screening of the 45-minute film on Saturday, September 1 at 7:30 p.m. Sales of DVDs that evening will benefit Holy Rosary.
The film received positive reviews from Dr. Joseph Scelsa, founder and president of the Italian-American Museum, among others.
Evangelista’s film credits as a director and producer include “Intervention,” a feature-length documentary about the Italian-American experience in the Bronx in 1968 and “Just Laugh!,” a documentary about the healing power of laughter, including interviews with celebrities Regis Philbin, Pat Cooper, and Doris Roberts, among others.
For more information or to purchase a DVD of the film, go to comprehensivefilms.com.
Evangelista is also starting a new service called BIO-FILMS, offering personalized tribute films for a special person or a loved one.
Patrick Rocchio can be reach via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (718) 742-3393