A 500-year Italian “Festa” to celebrate the Virgin Mary featured at the Hamilton AGH Film Festival


It’s been over 500 years since Racalmuto got his statue of the Virgin Mary, as legend has it, and the Sicilian town hasn’t stopped celebrating ever since.

Racalmuto’s annual festival honoring the statue and the history behind it – which involves an earl, a cave and the discovery of the hidden relic – has continued to this day, and is reflected in an event in Hamilton featured this week in Hamilton Film Festival Art Gallery.

Festa, by local director Terrance Odette, will screen at the Playhouse Theater to a full house on Friday at 6:30 p.m. It will also screen Saturday at 11:30 a.m., part of a diverse roster of Canadian and international films showing live and in line as part of the film festival from October 15 to 24.

Odette says that Festa, a documentary, talks about the dedication of local Racalmuto descendants and their efforts to continue the festival tradition of their home country, which includes the parade of a statue of the Virgin Mary in the streets, as well as plenty of music, food and dancing.

“All women, men, everyone takes their place,” said Odette on Tuesday. “The children are dressed in traditional Racalmuto outfits and some of them are even teenagers. For the procession, they take everything very seriously. There is a certain kitsch, but also a reverence for their dedication to their community.

The festival dates back to 1503 and the story of an Italian count who hunted in North Africa and took shelter from a thunderstorm in a cave. His crew found a statue of the Virgin Mary there and brought it back to Italy. Passing through Racalmuto, either his cart got stuck or his oxen refused to continue – it is rumored – and the statue has remained there, being celebrated every year since.

People gather around the statue of Mary at the center of the Festa Maria SS Del Monte in Hamilton in a scene from Terrance Odette’s film “Festa”. (Terrance Odette / Festa)

Joe Curto, the president of the Festa Maria SS in Hamilton. Del Monte, or St. Mary of the Mountain Festival in English, says many local Racalmutes attend Friday’s sold-out show. He says a lot of what happens at the festival can be confusing for a foreigner, as it largely mimics how the event unfolds in Racalmuto, but the community is keen to share their culture with anyone who wants to know more. .

He adds that he hopes the film will help explain to Hamiltonians why the area around Murray Street and James Street North is called Corso Racalmuto – it was once home to more descendants of the Sicilian town than Racalmuto himself.

“People will see the historical significance of (Italian club Fratellanza Racalmutese) and why it is there,” he said, noting that townspeople started coming to Hamilton to find work after World War I. global.

In addition to Festa, the film festival is also showcasing several local works in its series of short films screened Thursday at 6:30 p.m. at the Westdale Theater and online all week, curator Ryan Ferguson said.

Ferguson says other standout screenings at the festival include:

  • “Portrayal”, a documentary on art and mystery. The screening is accompanied by a talk by Tobi Bruce, Director of Exhibitions and Collections at AGH and Senior Curator, exploring the film’s thematic link with AGH’s exhibit “Tom Thomson? The Art of Authentication “
  • A screening of the 100th anniversary of the 1921 film “The Phantom Carriage” with a live score performed by The VOC Silent Film Harmonic
  • The Gig is Up, a documentary on precarious work, followed by a live conversation with Atkinson Foundation member Armine Yalnizyan on the future of workers

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