Agrippina of Mineo, otherwise known as St. Agrippina, was venerated as a Virginity martyr within the Catholic and Orthodox Churches and, according to legend, she was a blonde princess born of a noble Roman family who was martyred either during the reign of Valerian or Diocletian either by beheading or by being scourged.
After having her body taken to Mineo, Sicily by three Christian women, Agrippina's tomb became a popular destination site and she was invoked as a patron saint against evil spirits, leprosy, bacterial infections, thunderstorms and bacterial diseases. While her feast day is no longer celebrated within the Catholic Church, it remains celebrated by the Orthodox Church. There are two Catholic churches that bear the name of Agrippina, and this documentary is about one of them, Boston's St. Agrippina di Mineo.
Since 1914, the Saint Agrippina Benefit Society has been hosting an annual 3-day feast and celebration and Christopher Di Nunzio's passionate and informative documentary Viva! St. Agrippina nicely captures the extensive year-long preparations that go into creating the spiritually meaningful feast for the organizers and participants.
Di Nunzio infuses this modestly budgeted doc with the heart and soul of the feast's participants, capturing wonderfully the various rituals and activities of the feast including a mass, a parade, music and a touching tribute to a society member who died during the Vietnam War.
Rather than distract with unnecessary cinematic gimmicks, Di Nunzio trusts the power and beauty of his subject matter and the people involved in the feast do not disappoint. Their heartfelt devotion to this event is obvious, from the eldest member to the youngest child.
In addition to event footage, Di Nunzio incorporates a wide and interesting variety of interviews from various organizers and those familiar with the rich history of the feast.
Viva! St. Agrippina features solid camera work from the trio of Di Nunzio, Jason Miller and Nolan Yee. Andrea Ferrari's original music complements the doc perfectly, and Melanie Kotoch's editing keeps the film nicely paced and allows the emotions to really shine through during the film's entire 91 minute run time.
Viva! St. Agrippina opened in June 2010 here in the United States and is currently on the film festival circuit. Fans of history and/or religiously centered docs would do well to watch for this film on the fest circuit or when it finally lands on home video!