NORTH SMITHFIELD – A documentary series about the history of the country’s first mill village is now in post production, and director Christian de Rezendes is ready to give audiences a serious peek at what he’s been working on for the past eight years.
Next month, de Rezendes will launch a series of “in progress screenings” of Slatersville: America’s First Mill Village. The director will visit libraries, universities and colleges throughout New England to show previews from the series, filmed through interviews with more than 100 people with first-hand knowledge of the village’s development and growth.
The series will kick off on Friday, Oct. 25 at 7 p.m. with a screening in the heart of the village itself, at Slatersville Congregational Church. That preview titled “No Man’s Land” will explore how religion and Sunday school paved the way through Slatersville’s rocky beginnings.
The tours will continue throughout the year, with the second one currently scheduled to take place at Rhode Island College on Wednesday, Nov. 6. There, de Rezendes will address “Portuguese Alley,” and how in the neighboring village of Forestdale, the Portuguese community started its own Holy Ghost Society.
Locations for the screening tour have been selected based on connections to the film, including one at the Museum of Work and Culture in Woonsocket in March of 2020 that will address how French Canadian immigration in the neighboring city influenced Slatersville.
It’s an update that de Rezendes looks forward to delivering to all who have participated. Seventeen of the director’s subjects have passed away since the project began. de Rezendes initially envisioned the project as a single documentary film, but says that as he dug into the village history, he learned there was much to explore.
“The story is over 200 years long, and I’ve had to work my way backwards,” he told NRI NOW.
He now believes the tale of how the country’s first village came to be would be best told in a series with six to nine episodes lasting 30 to 60 minutes.
“The vision for the entire piece still holds true,” he said. “It’s very unique. When you see all of the story elements together its amazing. This was a real challenge that just sort of grew and grew.”
The screenings, which begin this month, will be open to the public, and de Rezendes will be present to answer questions, along with a local historian.
The purpose, he notes, is not only to provide an update for his supporters, but also to raise interest and curiosity about the final product, due out in 2021. His goal is a world premiere with international distribution that year, to coincide with the town of North Smithfield’s 150th anniversary.
The director is hopeful the events will build anticipation for the project. In July, a special 22-minute preview of the series premiered at St. Peter’s Church in Belper, England, home of the original Slater family. The film, he says, was well-received and a following in England has been established.
“The preview got a wonderful reaction,” said de Rezendes.
“Basically, it’s a good way to reconnect with the public,” he noted.
The director has had interns and other volunteers working with him on post-production.
Dates are still being added to the screening tour, but the current schedule is posted below.
The free events are sponsored by SENE and the North Smithfield Heritage Association and are open to the public, but seating is limited. To learn more, follow the project on Facebook here.
10.25.19: Slatersville Congregational Church – Slatersville, RI
11.06.19: Rhode Island College – Providence, RI
02.20.20: Heritage Hall – North Smithfield Heritage Association Slatersville, RI
03.22.20: Museum of Work & Culture – Woonsocket, RI
04.19.20: Slater Memorial Museum – Norwich, CT
05.14.20: Heritage Hall – North Smithfield Heritage Association Slatersville, RI
06.19.20: Clouds Hill Victorian House Museum – Warwick, RI
09.17.20: Heritage Hall – North Smithfield Heritage Association Slatersville, RI