When Maria Perreca Papa began thinking of ways to celebrate her family’s 100 years in the bakery business, movies such as “Moonstruck” and “My Cousin Vinny” kept on creeping into her consciousness. So did her high school English teacher, Dan DiNicola.
What Papa came up with is the Dan DiNicola Memorial Film Festival, an outdoor event to be held in the North Jay neighborhood of Schenectady for five successive Friday nights beginning July 25. The event, free to the public, honors the memory of DiNicola, a Gazette writer and CBS 6 film critic who died four years ago.
“Dan was passionate about film, and he felt very strongly about building the character of young people, and he felt a great way to do that was through film,” said Papa, who along with her brother Tony runs Perreca’s Bakery and More Perreca’s Restaurant on North Jay Street “I’m in a unique position here with the bakery and the restaurant in that I see a lot of my fellow classmates whenever they’re in town. We talk about how Dan changed our lives. It wasn’t just the subject matter. It was the way Dan presented it. He was a legend to us.”
DiNicola, a Pittsfield, Mass., native, died on March 25, 2010. He had been diagnosed with brain cancer in November of 2008 and wrote his final column for The Gazette on Jan. 24, 2010. He started writing for The Gazette in 1975, and his long career at CBS 6 ran from 1978 to 2006.
“It’s a very nice tribute for my dad, and he would have liked anything that would bring the community together like that,” said DiNicola’s son Jeff, from his home in Walpole, Mass. “He started the first film festival at Burnt Hills, and my dad loved Schenectady, too, and wouldn’t have missed an opportunity to promote its attributes. Anything like it, that encourages people to watch movies, he would have thought was great.”
A Siena College graduate, DiNicola got his master’s from Colgate University and began teaching English at Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake in 1966. In 1969 he and another English teacher at the high school, Renee Rosch Lewis, began an elective class for students called, “Film as Art.”
DiNicola was named to the New York State Broadcasters Hall of Fame in 2010, and won three Emmys for his work with CBS 6, two for best commentary and one for best documentary.
Papa said she is kicking off the event with a screening of the 1987 film, “Moonstruck,” starring Cher and Nicholas Cage. Cher and Olympia Dukakis won Oscars for their roles in the movie, which was also nominated for Best Film. The movie will be shown in the parking lot behind Perreca’s and adjacent to Warren St. The public is invited to bring blankets and lawn chairs.
“We’ve have permission to close off Warren Street and the parking lot for that night,” said Papa. “We’re going to have a big screen to show the film, and people will be able to bring their own food, or they can buy a boxed lunch from one of our local restaurants. It’s going to be a great family outing.”
Before Papa announced the film festival, she got permission from the DiNicola family to use his name. A second son, Roy, lives in Hopkinton, Mass., and a daughter, Anne, lives in Japan.
“We got reconnected through Facebook, and I was absolutely going to get their permission before I started this,” said Papa. “I felt like he was a dear friend for decades, but he wasn’t my dad. I wasn’t family. I needed their blessing, and they helped me out choosing the films. They all gave me input.”
The films on the schedule are “Big Night” (Aug. 1), Fellini’s “81⁄2” (Aug. 8), “Roman Holiday” (Aug. 15), and “My Cousin Vinny” (Aug. 22). In case of rain the films will be shown the following Saturday night.
Perreca’s Bakery was opened in 1913 by Papa’s grandparents, Italian immigrants Salvatore and Carmella Perreca. Perreca’s will also host a block party on Saturday, Aug, 16 from 5-9 p.m.
Reach Gazette reporter Bill Buell at 395-3190 or email@example.com.