A Scattering of Seeds: The Creation of Canada
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SONS AND DAUGHTERS: The Italians of Schreiber
Director Diary
David Mortin and Patricia Fogliato

When we started thinking about A Scattering of Seeds episode on the Italians, we wanted to find a different kind of story. We had already made two films about Italian-Canadians; one about the immigrants themselves (Patricia's parents in The Good Life) and one about the second-generation children of immigrants (Enigmatico). Both these films centred on urban Canadian experiences, taking place for the most part in the Little Italys of Toronto or Montreal. When we heard about the sizeable Italian population in the town of Schreiber on the north shore of Lake Superior, we saw the opportunity to document a completely different Italian-Canadian experience, as told through the grandchildren and great-grandchildren of the original immigrant to the area. Furthermore, just how was that sun-drenched Southern Italian blood managing to survive in the icy bush north of Superior?

During the research, we found it quite hard to keep track of all the people that we were meeting, not to mention all the interconnecting relationships between them. The problem stemmed from an old Calabrian custom, in which all the first-born children are named after their grandparents, resulting in many cousins having the exact same name. In order to differentiate between cousins, people are given nick- names, generally derived from their workplace. The nick-names tend to stick, however, long after people change their jobs. So it was a bit confusing to discover that Texaco Joe and Texaco Coe, who used to own the Texaco station, now run the Shell station - and not Jimmy Shell, who used to own the Shell, but now owns Mill Rd. Auto Repair. Or that Spadoni Pete is not a Spadoni at all, but a Speziale, not to be confused with Western Tire Pete, also a Speziale, who owns a Pro Hardware, or with Sneaky Pete, who is a Comisso, but is married to Western Tire Pete's sister, Pina, who is also Spadoni Pete's neice.

Eventually we did get to know them all, and we were made to feel as though we had been accepted into their family. This made the experience a very pleasurable one, as the Figliomenis and the Speziales have the kind of family closeness that many people envy.


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