New Film Celebrating Sicily Sells Out U.S. Premiere in Kansas City

Feature-length documentary by Mark Spano finds appreciative audience in Middle America.

 Theater marquee

Independent filmmaker Mark Spano, along with celebrated Kansas City Chef Jasper Mirabile Jr., are pleased to report that the U.S. premiere of Spano’s new documentary “Sicily: Land of Love & Strife” sold out the Screenland Armour Theater in North Kansas City, MO., last week.

The event was co-sponsored by the Kansas City chapters of the American Sons of Columbus and UNICO, the largest Italian-American non-profit service organization in the United States.

Mark with Family and Friends in Lobby
NC Filmmaker Mark Spano (center, back row) with family and friends in the theater’s lobby after sell-out screening in Kansas City, his hometown.

Although Spano lives in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, he chose Kansas City — the city where he was born and raised — for the U.S. premiere of the film that celebrates his family’s land of origin.

“Holding the premiere in Kansas City not only allowed me to see friends and family I had not seen in years, but it also gave me the opportunity to present my film to a very diverse Middle-America audience,” said Spano, a Sicilian by heritage who holds dual citizenship. “Their responses were both informative and heartwarming. I could not have asked for more. The theater was sold out and the crowd loved the film — I was truly humbled by their responses.”

By design, the feature-length documentary invites viewers to discover the Sicily that movies and television largely ignore. “But for crime, Sicily has gone largely unexplored,” said Spano. “Yet Sicily is more fascinating and diverse than other Italian regions and few places compare to Sicily for a story of spectacular beauty, epic human struggle, depth and diversity of culture, philosophic insights and historic sites.”

Chef Mirabile, the emcee for the sold-out event, also feels the film is a loving tribute to his land of origin. “Personally, the film evokes wonderful memories of the many trips I’ve made to my family’s homeland. I’m was honored to help showcase this remarkable region of Italy.”

Explaining his choice of emcee for the film’s U.S. premiere, Spano smiled. “I knew Jasper would be the right guy to emcee this event. Members of the Kansas City community have taken this man into their hearts. And, why shouldn’t they? He’s the best chef. He’s a tireless champion of Kansas City food, and he stands as one of the finest representatives of the success stories that Sicilian immigrants and their descendants have had all over the globe.”

From now through November, “Sicily: Land of Love & Strife” will be presented in various cities across the U.S. and Canada as part of a promotional opportunity called “Bring Sicily to Your Town.”  Two upcoming screenings include Hamilton, a suburb of Toronto, on June 20, then Buffalo, New York, on June 25th.

For more information on Mark Spano and “Sicily: Land of Love & Strife,” visit

(Click here for more information on “Bring Sicily to Your Town.”)

Mark on Stage
Mark on stage for the Q&A session as the credits roll.

Photographer/Director Allen Weiss Launches New Website, Blog

April 1, 2011 (Raleigh, NC) – After working as a director, cameraman and advertising

Allen Weiss

writer for television commercials and print campaigns for two decades, Allen Weiss of Raleigh, NC, has gone back to his roots and reintroduce still photography to his career. As a result, he has launched a new website, Allen Weiss: Works on Film & Paper, at

Weiss began his career as a professional photographer in Raleigh and New York. In New York, he studied under and worked for world-renowned portrait photographer Arnold Newman. In the early ‘90s, his career veered into directing and shooting television commercials throughout the US, Canada and Europe.

He was recently inspired to reconsider still photography when Lee Hansley of Lee Hansley Gallery in Raleigh asked him to mount an exhibition of the North Carolina artists’ portraits that Weiss originally shot in 1988. When the exhibition “Black & White/Color & Light: Photographs by Allen Weiss with Works by His Subjects,” opened in March, he made the decision to “put still photography back in the mix,” he said. (The exhibit runs through April.)

The new website includes a limited sampling of TV commercials and public service announcements, on film and video, that Weiss has shot and directed. The samples range from Southern States and the NC Symphony to the Bank of Belgium. A link to Vimeo lets visitors view more spots.

The site also showcases Weiss’ still photography, including the artists images in the Hansley Gallery show and other photographic portraits (including a rare image of Arnold Newman and Robert Doisneau mugging for the camera together), along with motorsport images he’s shown at L’art et L’automobile in New York City. He will be adding other types of still photography in the future, include architectural and interior design.

The site also features a link to Weiss’ new blog under “news & words.” Among other subjects he intends to cover, he has begun by discussing “the good, the bad, and the downright ugly” among TV commercials, he said. A recent post entitled “Can Doesn’t Equal Should” offers: “Ad folk who think their work will change the world as we know it, and directors who throw hissies on set, need a serious look inward. We’re selling shoes here, ladies and gentlemen. If you want to create art be an artist. Advertising is artistic commerce at its best.”

For more information and to see Weiss’ new website, go to

About Allen Weiss:

After 15 years as a professional photographer in Raleigh and New York, Allen Weiss turned his attention towards short films, public service announcements and television commercials, both regionally and internationally. Recently, he launched Allen Weiss: Works on Film & Paper to offer still photography of all varieties, film and video (director, cameraman), and freelance writing/branding. For more information visit


RHA Howell Hires Allen Weiss To Create New Advocacy Video

This will launch a new grassroots advocacy, awareness, and fundraising campaign.

Director/camerman/photographer Allen Weiss


March 3, 2011 (Raleigh, NC) – RHA Howell, Inc. has hired Raleigh photographer/director/cameraman Allen Weiss, of Allen Weiss: Works on Film & Paper in Raleigh, to create a video as part of a new grassroots advocacy and awareness effort.

RHA Howell is a non-profit, state-wide organization that has been serving children and adults with disabilities and their families for nearly 40 years.

Weiss’ “day in the life” video will present a realistic view about families, their loved ones, and people who participate in some of RHA Howell’s very innovative programs. He will be traveling to Wrightsville Beach, Goldsboro, LaGrange and other locations to gather footage for the video.

“We want to give viewers a true sense of the challenges these families face, and we want to celebrate the accomplishments, choices and opportunities of the children and adults that RHA Howell supports,” Weiss said. “Those accomplishments may be simple, ordinary tasks for the rest of us, but for the children and adults served by RHA Howell and their families, they’re huge.”

“The video will serve to remind any public and private entities not only about why they support RHA Howell, but also about just how badly these funds are needed for non-profits across the country,” said RHA Howell’s Grassroots Fundraising Coordinator, Debbie Valentine. “We stand committed to providing the very best support and opportunities, because closing programs would leave many with no where else to turn. But we need help from our communities and our legislators.”

The completed video will be presented for the first time at RHA Howell’s annual Epicurious Vino Challenge, the popular food and wine fundraising event to be held at Hinnant Family Vineyards in Pine Level, NC, in June. It will then be distributed to the community, potential donors, and to legislative policy makers.

Allen Weiss is an accomplished filmmaker/videographer with many public service announcements (PSAs) and short films to his credit. Among other work on film and video, he created an AIDS-related PSA that won Best in Show at the Addy Awards, a major fundraising short film for the Methodist Home for Children, a PSA for the NC Holocaust Memorial, the KidsVotingNC PSA before the 2008 election, and a promo piece for the North Carolina Symphony.

For more information on Allen Weiss, visit or visit the Allen Weiss: Works on Film & Paper Facebook page.

For more information on RHA Howell, visit

Filmmaker, Holocaust Survivors at Work on “Remember”

February 5, 2008 (RALEIGH, NC) — Each year, in cities across the nation, special services are held to remember the Holocaust, honor its survivors, and raise awareness so that this atrocity will never happen again.

In Raleigh, North Carolina, a film director and the son of a 78-year-old survivor who has carried the number the Nazis tattooed on his arm for 65 years, has conceived of a way to support the effort through a public service announcement (PSA) that focuses on those haunting numbers.

Allen Weiss, whose father Harry managed to survive the Nazi death camps in Landesberg, Dachau and Aucshwitz, is working with Trailblazers production company in Raleigh to create “Remember,” a 30-second PSA that features survivors and their progeny – children, grandchildren – including his own father and his two daughters, Emily and Natalie Weiss. Trailblazers is donating time, equipment and crew to produce the spot, which should air throughout North Carolina (Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill) if local television stations pick it up.

Coming up with the concept of “Remember” was just a matter of time, Weiss said.

“Being the child of a survivor, doing something to keep the Holocaust in the mind of the public was, to me, a given.

“The central concept of this piece is this: There is no better way to assert the fact that people are individuals and not numbers, than to assign numbers to people. That’s exactly what the Nazi machine did. So this concept is simple — have Survivors, and their progeny, appear on camera and simply, bluntly, state their number.”

After putting the idea on paper, he sought the approval of the person most responsible for it — his father.

“After he gave it his blessing, I brought it before the North Carolina Council on the Holocaust,” Weiss said. “They fully endorsed and approved the idea, but there is no money for production. So I called upon everyone I knew in the production community, and the support was overwhelming. The biggest endorsement and commitment came from Trailblazer Studios/Red Truck Films, right here in Raleigh. I have had an excellent relationship with them for many years, and their commitment was immediate and comprehensive.”

With the Council’s help, Weiss sought out other survivors. “This is at once the toughest and easiest casting job I’ve ever had,” Weiss said. “Easy because, well, they are who they are. And tough for the same reason.”

Two other survivors – Robert Spitz and Peter Leonard, both of Raleigh – agreed and showed up at Trailblazers’ studios recently to commit their faces and stories to film.

Three children of survivors also made themselves available to the production — Anya Gordon (of Irregardless restaurant), Mike Abramson (chairman of the NC Council on he Holocaust) and Maureen Werthheimer. Weithheimer’s two daughters — Kaylyn & Ariana Siporin – joined Harry Weiss’ granddaughters on film as grandchildren of survivors.

Allen Weiss and Trailblazers are editing the PSA now and hope to have it ready to present to area television stations within the month.

“In the wake of such a global catastrophe, this project is nothing more than a pebble tossed in the ocean,” Weiss said. “But the ripples that those pebbles create can be huge — as long as people keep tossing the pebbles, nobody will forget what they mean or where they came from.”

For more information on Remember, contact Allen Weiss at or call 919-272-8834.