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By Film Threat Staff | October 16, 2003

On October 24th, The Bread, My Sweet, starring Scott Baio, will open at the Cinema Village in New York City.
Here are a few words from the diector Melissa Martin:
The Bread, My Sweet came from my desire to recapture a world that once existed in my life but had, with the passing of my friends, Gemma and Sergio, disappeared. Like magnets who attracted friends from all walks of life—in my memory, their kitchen and dining room were always full. I find it difficult to articulate what drew all of us there—for me it was part of entering a more tactile world—the food, the music, the homemade wine—the coffee. Mostly I went to be by Gemma. She was perceptive and intelligent. She had an almost childlike enthusiasm for the most mundane aspects of life, and laughed with such gusto. She once taught my three year old son to play “Go Fish” and she taught him how to cheat! Just outright cheat—like it was part of the rules.

My husband still owns the biscotti bakery beneath their tiny empty apartment. Her kitchen chairs are still there. For a while after they were gone, mismatched members of the community still lingered there, made coffee in her pot, and talked. We’d repeat the lovely idiosyncratic things that she’d say: “I think it’s better you drink a cup coffee” or “What I’m gonna do with that crazy man?” and then Sergio bellowing “Gemma!” only to get a rise out of her. After her death, alone in the apartment, he’d shout after her. Echoing in the hall below, it was the most mournful sound. But he was outrageously funny, too. He literally growled. He called me, “Girlie.” A former baker himself, he would demand my husband’s bread each day, each day he’d refuse to take money, and each day he’d yell, “It’s S**t! Okay for you, but for me it’s s**t.” He won every argument by saying “Me no like you!” When he left a room—“Me go way, me no come back no more.” We all thought he should be a theatre critic.

When Gemma fell ill, I would assuage my sadness by inventing happily ever after endings for both of them and I’d tell them to my husband. I lit upon the basic outline for “The Bread” sitting in the chair in her kitchen.

I wrote the script. Gemma became “Bella” and Sergio, “Massimo.” I watched video tapes that I collected from friends to capture her authentic Abrusezzi dialect, and his combination of Luccezi, German and Canadian French all rolled into English. I wanted to hear their voices, not the generalized Sicilian dialect that is nearly always used to represent Italians in film. Though the story is fictionalized, and these characters are not who those people were, still they are those people who worked hard, grew a garden on their roof, made wine and sausage in the cellar, had the “feast of the seven fishes.” They had no mafia connections and they sent their child to college. They were loud. Gemma really said “You got scream or life is too small.”

And so the film is not a docu-drama, but a love letter to them… to a place, to a time. The actors we hired came to Pittsburgh to work—without trailers, in the heat for little money, and they learned to bake—because they connected with the script. I was from the theatre and had no idea how a film was made—none. I had only the desire to make something beautiful and uplifting to hold onto.

The audience in Pittsburgh has been coming to the theaters since January 2002 to see The Bread, My Sweet. Some come because they are Italian-American, some because the film was shot in Pittsburgh, most come because someone has told them to see it. And they come back again and again. The film has become something of a phenomenon. People aren’t merely recommending the film to others—they come back to watch it with their families and friends—some more than six times. They say there’s something in that world to which they feel deeply connected, something in the characters that is profoundly familiar, something in these frightening times that makes them feel good. For those us who worked on this film, this has been most gratifying.

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