Distance makes the heart grow fonder, so they say. But of course, that isn’t always the case. In the film Knightsville, director Aly Migliori examines what can happen when the home you grew up in doesn’t quite feel like home anymore.
Knightsville tells the story of a young woman who has moved away from her Italian-American neighborhood, family and culture. The main character, Sara, played by Amanda Sophia Ebert, returns home for a traditional Catholic festival, only to be faced with the realization that she feels foreign in her familial home.
“In having familiar feelings placed within a particular Italian-American community, I hoped that Knightsville’s success was not the newness of this world, but rather the transcending commonality of human experiences,” said Aly.
“Knightsville, I hope, captures a universal story within a unique world.”
Amanda Sophia is a newcomer to working in film, a fact that doesn’t deter from a strong and emotionally present performance on screen. “Aly and I met on set of the first film I’d ever shot and I was drawn to her instantly,” said Amanda. “Once we started spending time together regularly, I wanted badly to work with her on another film. Now I consider her family.”
Coming from a background of stage acting, Amanda adapted her performance style to embrace a more naturalistic screen presence. She set out with a goal of becoming more comfortable in front of the camera, and was emboldened by her faith in Aly as a director. “As the process went on, though, it became really important to me to tell the story of the community of Knightsville,” said Amanda, “because the sense of pride and tradition is so strong and so special.”
Ultimately, I believe that some of Amanda’s newness to the Italian-American culture in Knightsville added a level of authenticity to her portrayal of otherness that the main character, Sara, feels upon her return to her hometown.
“I loved getting to know and see the town of Knighstville. It sounds cliche but the end is always hard for me; it’s sad to let go of a character you’ve worked so hard to build that has become such a part of you,” said Amanda. The experience of participating in this production has clearly affected her beyond just the necessary memorization of lines and blocking, leaving her with a connection to those she worked with and the story that she told.
When asked what part of the process she finds the most enjoyable, Aly told me that it was working with others that stood out in her mind. “My favorite part is collaborating, and lucky for filmmakers, collaboration happens from pre-production on through the festival circuit.”
Collaboration doesn’t just happen on the smaller scale within the cast and crew, but can also expand to enlist help from a variety of outside sources. “To have the entire community come together to facilitate the production of this film, from allowing us to stage the parade with the actual Madonna Della Civita statue to letting us have our own float in the actual parade, that was the most enlivening experience of all,” Aly told me.
I asked Aly whether she thought that being a female director had any impact on the result of the film and her acceptance within the community that she filmed. “I think being a female in film is a great opportunity,” she said. “I am aligned with a different perspective than the standard film, and in embodying that view in my work, I give my films a nontraditional narrative and voyeurism.”
Aly is also a member of the NY chapter of Film Fatales, a female directing group founded by Leah Meyerhoff, who was also a producer on Knightsville. Aly explained that the group seeks to foster an ever-growing community of women directors. It was through her connections to this group that she was able to cast Gina Piersanti and Altagracia Guzman, as well. But the group does more than just connect the pieces between like-minded women in the film industry, it has a larger purpose as well.
“It also asks the film community at large to acknowledge the successes and talents from female directors, while challenging the industry to do something about it,” said Aly.
The goals set forth from the Film Fatales group fit in quite nicely with the intentions of the Atlanta based New Mavericks organization, as well. Knightsville was screened as a part of the New Mavericks programming at the 2015 Atlanta Film Festival, and Aly and Amanda were able to attend screenings, meetings, and make connections with other female film professionals.
“My favorite experience was the New Mavericks dinner and shorts block,” Aly told me. “Having the opportunity to be onstage with brilliant, creative, and empowered women only serves further to inspire me. I look forward to a time where this is not a novelty, but I thank Atlanta Film Festival for recognizing now the need to showcase films not only directed by women, but featuring female protagonists.”
So, what’s next for these two? Aly is currently working on writing the feature-length film version of Knightsville, a project that she says will carry elements from this initial short film. “And I’m taking Amanda with me,” Aly said. “She doesn’t have a choice.”
As for Amanda, her current projects include production and acting in a play called Closer as well as working towards launching a women’s web magazine, among other film and theater projects. “I will absolutely work with Aly in the future, hopefully on Knightsville as a feature,” said Amanda.
Knightsville has screened at the Atlanta Film Festival, Nashville Film Festival, Sarasota Film Festival, Maryland Film Festival, IFF Boston, Minneapolis Saint Paul International Film Festival, and Skyway Film Festival. You can see a trailer online and learn more about the film by going to their website.