Screening of 'The Village: Life in New Haven’s Little Italy’

Nov 20, 2018 1423

BY: Julie Winkel

From his apartment overlooking New Haven’s Wooster Square and St. Michael Church, freelance writer and film maker Steve Hamm began noticing how many funeral processions went past in August 2017. St. Michael’s is where the old Italian-American families worship, and Hamm realized that with each funeral a lifetime of memories and stories about the old times in Wooster Square was lost.

The result of Hamm’s revelation, the documentary film, “The Village: Life in New Haven’s Little Italy,” tells the story of the neighborhood using interviews, photos from family albums, and historic films and photographs. A free screening of Hamm’s homage to the neighborhood will be held at the New Haven Museum on Sunday, December 2, 2018, at 2:00 p.m. 

Around the same time as Hamm’s epiphany, his friend Frank Carrano began posting memories of his childhood in the neighborhood on the Wooster Square Cultural Exchange page on Facebook. Hamm felt they had to capture the stories of life in Wooster Square before more people died. He knew no documentary films had been made, and, after talking to Carrano, decided to make one. 

After establishing the film’s themes—food, work, family, religion, and politics—Hamm pulled together a range of people to comment on them, including Carrano, his sister, Theresa Argento, Congresswoman Rosa DeLaura, and restaurateur Claire Criscuolo, among others. 

Hamm collected photos from the families of the people he interviewed, collectors, the New Haven Museum, and the libraries at the University of Connecticut. He particularly credits Rich Biondi, who has written two books about the Wooster Square Italian-American community, for his help. 

“The Village: Life in New Haven’s Little Italy” explores the power of ethnic identity and reaffirms the importance of immigration to American society. Today, few descendants of the immigrants still live in Wooster Square, but vestiges of their community remain—in the church, the ethnic societies and their festas, and the pizza joints and pastry shops. Most vividly, the village lives on in the fond memories of the people who grew up there. 

About Steve Hamm

Hamm is a freelance writer and documentary film maker living on New Haven's Wooster Square. He was a journalist for many years, working for the likes of BusinessWeek magazine and the San Jose Mercury News. Later he worked for IBM and Yale University School of Medicine as a writer and editor. He is the author or co-author of four books, most recently “Smart Machines,” about the revolution in artificial intelligence. He has made a number of short films, some of which have been published on the Web sites of the New Haven Register and the New Haven Independent. Most of his films are community-building projects; he does the work on a pro bono basis. 

About the New Haven Museum

The New Haven Museum has been collecting, preserving and interpreting the history and heritage of Greater New Haven since its inception as the New Haven Colony Historical Society in 1862. Located in downtown New Haven at 114 Whitney Avenue, the Museum brings more than 375 years of New Haven history to life through its collections, exhibitions, programs and outreach. As a designated Blue Star Museum, the New Haven Museum offers the nation’s active-duty military personnel and their families, including National Guard and Reserve, free admission from Memorial Day through Labor Day. For more information visit www.newhavenmuseum.org or Facebook.com/NewHavenMuseum or call 203-562-4183.

SOURCE: New Haven Museum

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