The 6th Annual Ocean City Film Festival kicks off March 3. The festival features more than 100 films, dozens of which will be from local or regional filmmakers. Many of those are from Maryland, including this one. This film has been submitted to several festivals, but OCFF is the first, American festival to accept il Messaggero and premiere it to those in the area.
Pete Ferraro is the Director of Marketing and Creative Services at WBFF Fox 45 in Baltimore. He’s worked in television for about 30 years. He’s a 10-time, Emmy Award winner. He’s the President of Easy Street Productions, LLC. He founded the company, which serves the archival stock footage needs of documentary, commercial and non profit TV. He was a Communications major who graduated from Clarion University in 1990. Clarion is outside, or just north of Pittsburgh where he was born in 1967. He came from Italian immigrants who traveled here from San Pietro, a small town in the southern part of that country, in a region called Calabria. Ferraro’s parents settled in Sharpsburg, a suburb of Steel City. Sharpsburg is a place where a lot of Italian immigrants came and now live. Many of them from San Pietro.
As such, Ferraro’s father had the idea to record audiotapes of people in San Pietro to take as messages to family members living in Sharpsburg. Back in the 60’s, poor people didn’t have telephones. Sending letters by mail was the only source of communication, so Ferraro’s father thought his audiotapes would be a more personal way to connect people. He recorded the messages on a reel-to-reel machine. He came to the United States, delivered the messages but afterwards the audiotapes sat in his basement for decades, 50 years in fact. Growing up, Ferraro had known about these tapes, but it was after Ferraro’s father passed in December 2014 that Ferraro considered doing something with those tapes and telling his father’s story.
Funding came from the Russo Brothers Italian American Film Forum, which is partnered with the Italian Sons and Daughters of America and the National Italian American Foundation. Ferraro pitched his father’s story and out of 200 entries or so, his was chosen for a grant from the Russo brothers. Ferraro got the good news on April 1, 2021. He bought a book on how to produce a documentary, which he read in about four or five days. One hurdle was translating the audiotapes, which were all in Italian. Ferraro does speak the language but his mother helped him to translate the messages, as well as help track down the relatives of the people on those tapes.
Tracking down the relatives became important because Ferraro essentially wanted to do what his father did 50 years prior. Instead of playing the tapes for sons and daughters, as his father did, Ferraro would play the tapes for the grandsons and granddaughters. If one has seen the Oscar-nominated documentary Summer of Soul (2021), there is a parallel where the reactions of people are caught on camera as they hear these tapes for the first time.
Restoring the audiotapes wasn’t an easy task. The tapes were half-a-century in age. Ferraro had previously worked with Andrew Eppig, the senior sound designer and production engineer at Cleancuts & Cerebral Lounge in Baltimore. Eppig was able to provide a digital restoration of the tapes that Ferraro could play for the family members and then utilize for his film. Ferraro wanted to emphasize that everyone has a story and so many get lost to the annals of time. This project not only honors his father’s legacy but the legacy of so many Italian immigrants, as Ferraro says America is a country of immigrants, so recognizing that is recognizing what it means to be American.
Saturday, March 5 at 2:30 p.m. at Seacrets.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 3 mins.
For more information, go to https://ocmdfilmfestival.com/.
To learn more, go to the il Messaggero website, https://www.facebook.com/IlMessaggeroDocumentary