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A documentary film on the North End

Some of you may have heard or read that the North End Historical Society is making a documentary about the North End. This is true, The documentary has been in production for about two years. The project was the brainstorm of Dan Casey, the producer of a Charlestown documentary called “The Green Square Mile.”

NE1Dan had a script ready for a documentary on the North End (and his director, Maureen McNamara of Kendall Productions, had done some preliminary filming) when he had to give up the project to attend to family matters. He asked the North End Historical Society to carry the project forward with Maureen’s guidance, and we agreed. We were lucky to have Stephen Passacantilli already involved in the project as the narrator. Stephen has been a main force keeping the documentary going, particularly with funding. Maureen McNamara has also been there for us continuously, working at times without pay, her dedication and love for the project driving her forward.

Some of you may have seen one of our trailers, which is still available on You Tube and Vimeo (see link below). It is still a rough cut, but it gives some idea of both the quality of Maureen’s work and what we want to do with the documentary. We want it to combine a history of the early Italian North End — the reasons for Italian emigration from Italy, the early Italian settlement in the North End, and events such as the Molasses tank explosion — along with a celebration of those things in the North End that made it such a unique place to grow up: food, family, feasts, sports, corner life, small-but-wonderful apartments, and all the rest

Boston’s North End: America’s Italian Neighborhood from maureen mcnamara on Vimeo.

We have already interviewed Steve Puleo, author of “Dark Tide” and “The Boston Italians,” and more recently, William De Marco, author of “Ethnics and Enclaves.” Both provide us with expertise on historical matters. In addition we interviewed “ordinary” North Enders (some of whom are on the trailer) as experts on what it was like to grow up in the neighborhood. The historical experts are harder to find; the ordinary experts much easier. And this is our main dilemma in making the documentary. There are many North Ender who have their stories to tell, and there are many North Enders we want to pay tribute to for the work they did to make the North End the great place that it was. (And let’s remember that the North End is still a great place, in its own way, and there are still people, like Stephen Passacantilli, working hard to make it so). In other words, our dilemma is this: In a 50-minute film we just can’t tell every story — or more importantly — pay tribute to all those who gave so much to the North End. So we have to choose, and hope that we express it in a way that honors and does justice to everyone. We want it to be both a documentation of and a tribute to the North End as we all knew it.

When will the documentary be finished? Our hope is to complete the filming by the end of the summer. Then it will take time to edit, add the right photos and music, get copyrights and permissions where needed, and things like that. With luck, we can have it ready by early 2014.

One thing that will help speed it along is funding. We received an initial grant of $10,000 from the Baxter Foundation, and then another $10,000 from Paul Scapicchio. We have also received donations of $1,000, $500, $100, $50 and $10. Those who donate will be mentioned in the credits. If you can help we would appreciate it.

You see one of the trailers on You Tube: http://youtu.be/C4w8FgqnHPA

And a shorter one at the homepage of the North End Historical Society: http://alexgoldfeld.com/NEHS.html

You can also find information on Maureen McNamara (along with another trailer) at her website: http://kendallproductions.com/

About James Pasto

James S. Pasto is a senior lecturer at Boston University, co-founder of the North End Historical Society and editor of the society's journal. To share stories about North End's past, e-mail pasto@bostoniano.info. To find out more about the North End Historical Society, visit alexgoldfeld.com/NEHS.html.