NORTH SMITHFIELD – Told through a combination of both interviews, and the letters, photographs and footage left behind by others who lived through it, the story of North Smithfield’s contribution to World War II came to life Thursday night at a screening event for a special segment of Director Christian de Rezendes’ upcoming docu-series on the village of Slatersville.
The in-progress screening was held in conjunction with North Smithfield Days, a series of community events that in 2021, are sponsored in celebration of the 150th anniversary of the town’s incorporation. Hundreds attended the event in the North Smithfield High School auditorium, including many relatives of those who served in the conflict.
Far from a dry history lesson, the film segment took viewers on a trip back in time, showing life in Slatersville just before the war, and then into the years following U.S. involvement. Extensive material researched and compiled over the past decade not only tells the story of soldiers, but the lives of those left behind in a, “village without men,” and a factory that ramped up operations to produce items needed to support those overseas.
For those who live or have lived town, there are many sites to recognize in de Rezendes’ film series dubbed Slatersville: America’s First Mill Village, scheduled for an official release on Rhode Island PBS next year. And in the segment on The War, many names may also be familiar, as the director recognizes those who contributed to the effort, including soldiers who lost their lives.
The detailed and character-driven 45-minute account ends with a poem by an unknown author that includes the first names of several of the young men who served, tying together the story of the shared sacrifice of a small village community.
“They’ll all be back, just wait and see,” the segment ends.
Town Administrator Paul Zwolenski was among the many local officials in attendance on Thursday, July 8.
“It was an exceptional event,” Zwolenski said after. “Christian’s presentation was engaging, educational, emotional and entertaining.”
It was the eighth in-progress screening on the series, used to promote the upcoming release of the full product. April Lombardi, one of the organizers of North Smithfield Days, provided an introduction, noting that attendance has grown steadily at each of the film events.
Those who missed the screening will get another early chance to hear details perhaps best told through the segment itself. de Rezendes has scheduled a second, virtual screening of The War, sponsored by the Museum of Work and Culture, for Tuesday, July 13 at 7 p.m.
Virtual guests can register for the event at https://bit.ly/3v59mwV.