More than a decade ago, local theatre and dance teacher and arts writer Lucia Mauro became intrigued with an equestrian statue on the Janiculum Hill in Rome: A woman wielding a pistol in one hand and cradling a baby in the other.
Mauro’s subsequent screenplay, “Mother of War,” reminiscent of Errol Flynn swashbucklers, brings to life Anita Garibaldi, the heroic woman memorialized in the statue.
A local company will produce the story next spring in Sardina of Brazilian-born Garibaldi, who fought with her husband and fellow revolutionary, Guiseppe Garibaldi, to unify Italy in the mid-1800s.
Mauro calls the passion-driven historical action-romance “Dr. Zhivago” meets “G.I. Jane.”
Stephen Baldwin stars as the adventurous mercenary Garibaldi, Italy’s hero of unification. Not known for roles in period pieces, Baldwin said he signed to play the lead on the basis of an excellent screenplay and a fascinating character.
Brazilian actress Leticia Sabatella co-stars as Anita Garibaldi, who defied convention and fought at sea and on land against foreign occupation with Garibaldi.
The $3 million independent film, funded by local private investors, is being produced by Atlas Media Group, LLC, led by long-time new media consultant Joe Orlandino, Mauro’s husband who shares her passion for the story and the film.
Atlas Media is co-producing with Los Angeles-based producer and entertainment attorney Robert Abramoff.
For the director of “Mother of War,” the producers bypassed Hollywood and reached out to a local theatrical director. It will be the first feature film directed by established award-winning Steppenwolf ensemble member, director/actor Rick Snyder. most recently directed the acclaimed “God of Carnage at Goodman theatre.
A special cast addition is Melrose Park native, singer-actress Carol Lawrence (the original Maria in “West Side Story”), who was here earlier this year giving a reading on the North Shore.
“We gave her the script, which she loved, and we were delighted when she agreed to play the part of Garibaldi’s mother,” Orlandino says.
Principal photography, scheduled for next April 15 to May 21 in Garbaldi’s Sardinia, will be handled by Italian DP Giulio Pietromarchi.
Orlandino is currently in talks with distribution companies. He is also waiting for approval of Italy’s regional film incentives.
Mauro spent years researching her subject
Mauro, a fixture on Chicago’s arts and culture scene, teaches dance history at Loyola University, is also WBEZ’s dance critic and has written about arts and culture for 17 publications for many years.
“There isn’t a lot written or known about Anita Garibaldi,” says Orlandino, “so over the years Lucia had to go tiny libraries throughout Italy to find whatever materials were available.
“She also researched the unification revolution from the time it started in 1848. Garibaldi could not have done it except for Anita. He was a flawed man, a womanizer, a man who traveled around the world and got into trouble.”
A dedicated mother, Anita Garibaldi ultimately sacrificed her life to secure a better future for her children. She died at age 28 in the arms of her husband, urging him never to end the fight for unification.
After 20 years in battle, Guiseppe Garibaldi achieved their goal.
In short, the story’s got all the ingredients for an epic movie.
Joe Orlandino can be reached at 773/325-9690; Email, firstname.lastname@example.org.