At first glance, The Mystery of San Nicandro is a compelling narrative about a messianic southern Italian character that had a mystical vision in the 1920s that resulted in the only mass conversion to Judaism in modern history. But it is much more than that.
Today, something is stirring in Southern Italy that will reverberate throughout the world. This film is the first to document the strange revival of Judaism in the most Catholic country of the world and how North American influence is stoking these flames. This mysterious thread running through the vibrant Italian tapestry will highlight the deep meaning of history, culture, belonging, and identity in the seemingly rootless western world.
Issues of culture and religion are constant themes in multicultural societies in North America and Europe. Many of us as immigrants identify ourselves through our ancestors’ culture and religion. And religious identity has especially come to the forefront in the world as Muslims, Jews and Christians still struggle to live together in harmony.
But what happens when we have lived our lives worshipping one faith and discover the religion of our ancestors is another? What happens to our sense of identity? For some individuals, their lives are forever changed.
The stories in our film are intensely human and powerful – stories of Christians – Italians and North Americans - converting to Judaism in Italy. These are individuals who have discovered, often at a relative’s deathbed that their family roots are Jewish.
Our film begins with the historical story of a mass religious conversion in San Nicandro and threads through its roots in Fascist Italy, to emigration to Israel, through to today’s new religious conversions in San Nicandro– attracting North Americans who are hungry for information about their religious roots.
Through this fascinating contemporary phenomenon, our film will allow the audience to discover the inexorable force of the past and how it shapes our identity and our sense of belonging. And how the echo of our DNA reaches across centuries to claim us.
2012 Feature-length documentary - 68 mins & 52 mins
Producer: Vanessa Dylyn
Director/Writer: Roger Pyke
Canadian Film or Video Production Tax Credit
Ontario Film and Television Tax Credit