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Why have your morning coffee at a chain? When you can have a “taste of the mob” at Caffe Palermo. Housed in a building formerly owned by Al Capone, the Chicago mob boss himself. You will find posters of “Blackstone’, the Vito Brancato PBS film about the original plan to assassinate JFK in Chicago. A plan originated by Sam Giancana, retribution for the Kennedy administration’s stance on organized crime. Chicago natives Vito Brancato and producing partner J. Kenneth Ezra have a big stake in this little mob coffee shop. Why? Because it’s authentic. In these modern times of computers, internet, and plastic surgery what a breath of fresh air to walk into a Coffee Shop where former owner Al Capone kept a business. With a cute Italian momma’s homemade cannoli’s and fresh espresso it’s tucked away in the notoriously mob influenced cities of Cicero and Berwyn, Illinois. If you’re lucky, you’ll have your order prepared by the filmmaker himself, when he’s not filming.
But it goes further than that; these producers seek authenticity in their film ventures as well. “Blackstone” was a short film produced to basically put the “street rumor” into reality. Once some media outlets heard about it, they insisted showing it “as is” on PBS. J. Kenneth Ezra producer says his pride wasn’t broken when asked to release it. “Ok, we make this short film, it’s based on a lot of research and some uncorroborated first hand accounts close to the action. But we insisted that this is just a short. Plus Brancato is a perfectionist and would rather have the full length feature film to show” Nonetheless, PBS loved the realism and obvious truth in the characters, even if we will never know if Giancana really put the hit into action. However, information to confirm such findings is surfacing. In her upcoming book, JFK and Sam: The Connection between the Giancana and Kennedy Assassinations, Antoinette Giancana claims her father, the late Chicago mafia boss, ordered President John F. Kennedy’s assassination. Can you get closer than that to the story? Then how did Vito Brancato and J. Kenneth Ezra get this information. Ezra uses his hands to explain, “Being in Chicago, you are around a lot of people that know a lot of people that heard from a lot a people some things.” Other than those “people” recently released information may corroborate the story.
Brancato calls Blackstone “historical fiction” – real characters and events woven with fictional ones to give his story an eerie sense of possibility. For even more “realism” Brancato intercut archive footage of Kennedy at the Blackstone Hotel in the fall of ’62 during the film’s climactic scene. “I can remember growing up on the north side of Chicago, my grandfather and his old Italian buddies in their black pants and white dress shirts, sitting in front of the corner store trading stories from the old country,” recalls Brancato.
Why the coffee? Well, Ken has combined coffee and movies also. Ken is so committed to authentic films he played the part of groom and volunteered to work the craft-service table on the set of “After Freedom”, winner of the Pasadena Film Festival audience award. Director Vahe Babian’s beautiful real story about Armenians adjusting to life in Los Angeles. “If it’s true, real and authentic, I want to part of it. Even if I have to literally serve coffee to everyone on the set. Being part of Brancato’s film continues my journey of authenticity”
Blackstone will be Brancato’s third feature. It is a “fictional” tale of a botched assassination attempt on JFK in Chicago prior to that fateful day in Texas. Brancato hopes to parlay the potential success of Blackstone into King of the Bandits, which he labels “a legitimate epic, a cross between “The Godfather” and “Braveheart”. Bandit is the incredible true story of Sicilian freedom fighter Salvatore Giuliano who rose to national prominence and influenced Italian and American politics following World War II.
J. Kenneth Ezra has worked his way up to producing a package of 10 movies. In the remake of the independent “The Right thing” (see trailer at http://www.razorfilms.com), his partnership with director and writer Brancato gives us an authentic modern viewpoint in the Chicago mob scene. Blackstone gives us a historical viewpoint into the Chicago mob influence. And King of the Bandits an old country authenticity.
Good luck guys,
How do you say it authentically fellas? Ciao!
write by Lovell