Two Saint Mary's professors are bringing European culture to the local community two nights a month in a series that pairs authentic Italian and French appetizers with contemporary films from two of Europe's most artistic countries.
Modern language professors Maria Grazia De Angelis and Catherine Marachi formally introduce the films, which are screened at the restored art deco Rheem Theatre in Moraga.
"I watch each movie three times and write a paper on it," said De Angelis, who teaches Italian at Saint Mary's. She informs the audience about the film's setting, director and actors and gives them "a few lines to watch for in the movie, which I say in Italian because the crowd often asks me to speak Italian."
The series features "Italian Night" every first Tuesday of the month and "French Night" on the following Tuesday. The evenings kick off at 6 p.m. with appetizers and wine selected specifically to match the theme and setting of the night's movie. At 7 p.m. the professors give a brief introduction and the film starts.
"I think the community on this side of the [Caldecott] tunnel really is starving for culture," De Angelis said. "People thank me like I'm saving lives by doing this because they are so appreciative to have more culture locally, and they're eager to learn."
Attendance backs up De Angelis' beliefs. When Italian Night started in September 2005, it drew approximately 40 people, but now it sells out every month with 200 culture lovers in attendance. The event only features films released since 1990, so many of the films are new to the audience and in some cases even to the professors.
"There are so many great French movies," said Marachi, who teaches French at Saint Mary's. "I'm hoping more and more people come to watch."
French Night started in September 2006, featuring food from Left Bank in Pleasant Hill, and its attendance has also steadily grown. Ristorante Amoroma, located next to the theater in the Rheem Valley Shopping Center, supplies the Italian appetizers. Professor De Angelis was asked to lead the series because she often goes to Amoroma with students.
"I do this to make noise and make sure the Italian culture is out there," De Angelis said. "I want to let people know what Italian culture is, and to make it known in the community. I want to keep the Italian culture alive."
The Feb. 6 Italian Night features "Pane e tulipani" (Bread and Tulips), a light comedy about a housewife who travels to Venice to find herself. The following Tuesday another comedy, "Apres Vous," will be shown for French Night. Tickets are $12 with appetizers and wine, or $8 just for the movie. Saint Mary's students can watch the films for $5.
Feb. 6: Italian Night, "Pane e tulipani"
Feb. 13: French Night, "Apres Vous"
Mar. 6: Italian Night, "Pinocchio"
Mar. 13: French Night, "La Fille sur le pont"
Office of College Communications