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Arts & Culture

Film about life of Mother Cabrini to be shot in Buffalo, hundreds of extras sought

Michael Mroziak, WBFO

The life of an Italian immigrant who later founded one of the largest charitable organizations in the world will be captured in a film that includes scenes to be shot in Buffalo beginning next month. Hundreds of people are sought to be hired as paid extras.

The film, Cabrini, will be a biopic of Francesca Saviero Cabrini, who was later known as Frances Xavier Cabrini or simply Mother Cabrini. A Catholic nun, she moved to the United States in 1887 at the urging of Pope Leo XIII to assist the Italian immigrant population, many of whom arrived in the country but lived in poverty.

“This is a timely story, in the 1890s. She was a social activist who championed the empowerment of women, the rights of immigrants at a time when women were treated as second-class citizens and immigrants even worse,” said Frank Rossi, the local casting director for the film. “Along the way, Francesca proved herself to be an entrepreneur of the 19th century, probably one of the best ever.”

Cabrini, who was naturalized as a United States citizen in 1909, died in 1917. She was canonized as a saint by Pope Pius XII in 1946, becoming the first U.S. citizen to achieve sainthood in the Roman Catholic Church.

Her movement, the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, became the largest known charitable effort in history, according to Rossi.

The film will be set in the Five Points section of New York City. Men, women and children of Italian heritage, or who may look Italian, are sought to play residents and immigrants from that time period. But Rossi adds that some additional parts featuring people who don't look Italian will also need to be filled. More information on what the producers are seeking and how to apply may be found at Buffalo Film Casting's website.

Those selected will be paid, either the New York State minimum wage or, in some cases as Rossi explained, a wage set by a Screen Actors Guild agreement.

Scenes will also be shot in New York City and in Italy, Rossi added.

Buffalo has in recent years worked to build up its film industry, from hosting shoots to announcing plans for the construction of a handful of local studios. After the industry, like many others, slowed in the COVID pandemic, those putting together Cabrini are excited about working in Buffalo.

“I live here. I lived in LA, in New York for 20 years, but I think it's wonderful. I think that this particular film, it's a large film with some great people behind an incredible director and producers,” Rossi said. “I think this film, helping to bring us back to normal, it will be a great influence on that.”

Michael Mroziak is an experienced, award-winning reporter whose career includes work in broadcast and print media. When he joined the WBFO news staff in April 2015, it was a return to both the radio station and to Horizons Plaza.
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