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March 14th, 2019, Vancouver — Commercial Drive Productions is pleased to announce the hometown premiere of Bella Ciao! on April 10th at Vancity Theatre. The film, which had its world premiere at the Whistler Film Festival in December, stars Carmen Aguirre (Endgame), Tony Nardi (La Sarrasine) and a who’s who of Vancouver actors. The film is directed by Carolyn Combs, the Executive Director of Women in Film & Television Vancouver (WIFTV).

Bella Ciao! is a compassionate and heartfelt ensemble drama that comes to life in Vancouver’s eclectic Commercial Drive neighborhood. It is a film about home, displacement, community, isolation, and solidarity. Unfolding over the course of just one day, the film hinges on Constanza (Carmen Aguirre), a Chilean refugee and activist whose relationship with her daughter is tested by serious health concerns they would rather not have to confront. This mother-daughter storyline, is just one thread amidst an Altmanesque carnival of characters from myriad walks of life: artists, hustlers, restauranteurs, and the coffee house consiglieri who converge on the Drive on a daily basis. 

“The story is rooted in the cast, and the cast is rooted in this place. Vancouver is a character that plays itself. Making the film was truly a collaborative endeavor where a brilliant cast and crew came together to create a film about where we live with the support of the community. We are all thrilled to have our red carpet premiere in Vancouver and to be able to share this story,” says Director Carolyn Combs. 

Bella Ciao! is having a special event screening and red carpet premiere with live music, food and select cast and crew on April 10th at Vancity Theatre. The film will continue with screenings throughout the month with further cities to be announced.

Cast and creatives available for interviews upon request.

Vancouver Red Carpet Premiere April 10th, Tickets $20

Doors: 6:00pm Music: 6:15pm Screening: 7:30pm

Vancity Theatre 1181 Seymour St, Vancouver, BC V6B 3M7
More Screenings to be Announced:


Carmen Aguirre, Tony Nardi, Alexandra Lainfiesta, Taran Kootenhayoo, Marie Clements, Frank Ferrucci , Leonardo Tenisci, April Telek, John Emmet Tracy, Billy Marchenski, Alison Denham, Amanda Burke.

About the Bella Ciao! Production Team: Commercial Drive Productions, Aja Entertainment and RNR Media came together to realize this film, and are grateful for the financial support received from Telefilm Canada and the Province of British Columbia through the BC Arts Council. It was produced with the cooperation of the Union of BC Performers.

Follow the Film on Social Media: @BellCiaoMovie

For Media Inquiries:
Nicola Pender
604.617.4807 / nicola@penderpr.com

Sabrina Furminger Vancouver Courier

East Vancouver’s diverse Commercial Drive fuels feature film Bella Ciao! Carolyn Combs’s Vancouver-set feature premieres at Whistler Film Festival

Carolyn Combs didn’t set out to make a culturally diverse film. Her original goal was to set a character-driven drama in her Commercial Drive neighbourhood.

But if you’re setting your full-length film in a neighbourhood as complicated, vibrant and storied as the Drive, and the neighbourhood is informing the plot and the characters, you’re going to get diversity.

“When we started making the film, I wasn’t trying to be diverse,” Combs says. “I wasn’t trying to be inclusive. I was telling a story about this neighbourhood and the world around me, and I think if we’re truly to tell stories about the world around us, they’re going to be diverse.”

Bella Ciao!, which premieres this week at the Whistler Film Festival, takes place at the intersection of East Vancouver’s First Nations, Latin American and Italian communities: a confluence of cultures that is peak Commercial Drive.

“Everyone has a unique story, and when you walk down the Drive or pop into one of the coffee shops, you’re often not really aware of all of the histories around you,” Combs says.

Bella Ciao!’s main characters — played by author, theatre artist and actress Carmen Aguirre, First Nations filmmaker Marie Clements (The Road Forward), Tony Nardi (La Sarrasine), Taran Kootenhayoo and Alexandra Lainfiesta — individually struggle with identity issues, emotional and physical wounds and mortality. But they find strength and solidarity where their histories and traumas overlap.

“They’re all seeking dignity,” says Combs. “They become open to each other. I want people to know that solidarity is possible, that working with each other is possible.”

It’s something she’s seen play out on the Drive. The neighbourhood has been Combs’ home since she arrived in Vancouver in the mid 2000s. In 2009, she began interviewing people in her housing co-op about their memories of the ’hood in order to develop a script about the Drive and its people.

This is how Combs learned about the Chilean refugees who settled in East Vancouver in 1973, and how she met Aguirre. As a child, Aguirre had lived in the same housing co-op that Combs now called home; both of Aguirre’s parents had been involved in the Chilean resistance movement against Augusto Pinochet.

Aguirre — an actress (Endgame) and author whose books include Something Fierce: Memoirs of a Revolutionary Daughter and 2016’s Mexican Hooker #1: And My Other Roles Since the Revolution — was heavily involved in developing Constanza, the ailing Chilean refugee she plays in Bella Ciao!

“She came on very early and she shaped the character — what was authentic, what wasn’t — and it was incredibly educational,” Combs says.

It was Aguirre who connected Combs with internationally renowned Chilean director Patricio Guzmán, and how footage from Guzmán’s masterwork The Battle of Chile ended up in Bella Ciao!

“I had watched The Battle of Chile in 1980 in a film class at Concordia, and I was blown away and never actually dreamed that I would ever be able to use his footage in a film that I would make,” Combs says.

Combs’ time on the Drive has changed her, as has her experience making Bella Ciao!


October 6, 2018: YVR Screen Scene: A Digital Magazine celebrating the Vancouver Film & TV Industry

The 2018 edition of the Whistler Film Festival is shaping up to be a can’t-miss destination event for lovers of Canadian film. The self-described (and rightly so) “Canada’s coolest film festival” recently released the titles of nine feature films that will screen between November 28 and December 2 at venues around Whistler Village

 Carmen Aguirre in  Bella Ciao!

Carmen Aguirre in Bella Ciao!

BELLA CIAO! (World Premiere;directed by Carolyn Combs)Carmen Aguirre and Tony Nardi star in a remarkable story about all manner of relationships. Set at the intersection of the Latin American, First Nations, and Italian communities, Bella Ciao! captures the struggle towards solidarity in East Vancouver’s urban mix.

Whistler Film Festival announcement: Bella Ciao! at WFF 18

BELLA CIAO!​ * 2018, Canada (BC), World Premiere:

“Carmen Aguirre and Tony Nardi star in a remarkable story directed  by Carolyn Combs​ of friends, lovers, seekers and thieves. Set at the intersection of the Latin American, First Nations and Italian communities in Vancouver, Bella Ciao! captures the struggle towards solidarity within Canada’s immigrant urban mix. A tribute to the mosaic of diversity and the different generations of distinct cultures that help define Vancouver and by extension, all of Canada today.”

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