Monteverde: “Cabrini, patron saint of emigrants, tells us that it is not normal for anyone to sleep on the street”

Loretta Young should have returned to the cinema with this role in 1976 directed by Martin Scorsese, but the project did not materialize.

Oliver Thansan
Oliver Thansan
11 May 2024 Saturday 23:17
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Monteverde: “Cabrini, patron saint of emigrants, tells us that it is not normal for anyone to sleep on the street”

Loretta Young should have returned to the cinema with this role in 1976 directed by Martin Scorsese, but the project did not materialize. Half a century later, the first American saint, the patron saint of emigrants, the founder of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, has a biopic of her at a time when religious-themed cinema is on the rise. The Mexican Alejandro Monteverde, director of the successful and discussed Sound of Freedom, returns to theaters with An Italian Woman in which, along with stars such as David Morse, Giancarlo Giannini and John Lithgow, even the tenor Rolando Villazón participates. A film starring Cristiana dell'Anna that traces the surprising life of Frances Xavier Cabrini (1850-1917), a Lombard nun in fragile health who not only dribbled time and again to death but to all powers, from the Vatican to the primate of New York and its racist mayor, who disdains the waves of Italians who lived in the worst conditions imaginable at the end of the 19th century, when Cabrini arrives and manages to found an emporium with orphanages, hospitals and universities throughout the country.

Monteverde admits that he did not know who Cabrini was and was impressed. “He had a very strong impact in the US, especially among Italian immigrants, and I found it strange that no one knows who he is. Martin Scorsese already developed a script at the time, but it was not achieved. Now there are three states in the US that, instead of celebrating Christopher Columbus Day, celebrate Cabrini Day. It's the life of a warrior. And I like to make films that leave you in a state of reflection when it ends. And the audience thinks about how to continue fighting their own struggles and also about living for others, doing for others. We live in an egotistical world, on the verge of narcissism, focused only on what I want to do. We are used to seeing people living on the streets as if it were normal. This film invites you to create dialogue: how normal is it? In the US, people living on the streets are growing, children, cities of tents, in the center of Los Angeles there are already blocks. That's not normal".

Luckily, he says, there are things that have changed compared to Cabrini's time. “I have been an immigrant in the United States for more than 20 years and if you ask me if I have ever felt racism, I have to say no, but maybe unconsciously I have distanced myself from those who were racist,” although he admits that There is a problem with the current mass immigration: “It is too large and needs a dialogue between Republicans and Democrats. It's like a war, they have to unite. Without a dialogue between the two, it cannot be solved.” The film shows the filthy misery suffered by Cabrini's compatriots in the Five Points area. “It was very strong racism, they were seen as an inferior class, I think also due to ignorance, in those times they did not travel as much. First, racism was against the Irish, and as they arrived, then the Italians, the Asians, and then the Hispanics, which is where we are now.”

Monteverde puts the lack of protection and abuse of children at the center of the film after having already done so in Sound of Freedom, about global pedophile networks. “Both films are united by the protection of minors. “Children who grow up on the street, like the ones Cabrini sees, many end up in prostitution,” he says, and admits that he was “not familiar with the issue of child abuse” until one day he saw a report. “In several projects I have followed the call to explore the question,” he says. Is there a religious background in his choice? “Faith is something very personal. Sometimes your form of expression cannot be avoided, but I always try not to let my faith get in the way of what I explore: objectivity invites us to create a space for dialogue on topics that are difficult to talk about.”