by Stephen Dafoe
Canadian pop and rock singer Alfie Zappacosta rose to fame as the face of Zappacosta, but after peeking with his song Overload appearing on the Dirty Dancing soundtrack in 1987, his relationship with his career came to a breaking point.
That story and Zappacosta’s subsequent decision to stay out of the limelight, redefining himself as a musician and father are part of the journey audiences will take when Long Road Home premiers at Northwestfest (formerly Global Visions) in Edmonton in May.
The documentary is co-written and produced by 22-year-old Morinville resident Braden Rooke and came about when he was a NAIT student taking the Digital Media and IT program. Rooke said his instructor came to him with the idea for the film when he was in his final semester in December of 2014.
“It ended up going further than school because I graduated in April and we are just finishing it now,” Rooke said of the project.
The film chronicles the Canadian singer’s life via segments of a two-night concert booking Zappacosta did at Festival Place in February 2015.
“My class filmed it with ten cameras and 16 students. I produced it and edited it as well,” Rooke said. “We filmed documentary portions as well as interviews with him. We go through Alfie’s four-decade long career in the music industry, starting right from the beginning when he moved to Canada from Italy when he was six months old.”
The film covers Zappacosta’s early life in Toronto, the early days of his career with Surrender, and his life as the lead man in Zappacosta.
“This is where he started getting into that rock and roll lifestyle of the ‘80s — the drinking, the drugs, all that fun stuff, living the rock star lifestyle while still trying to maintain a family,” Rooke said, adding Zappacosta’s career took a turn after the Dirty Dancing soundtrack. “That kind of pushes him over the edge to say — ‘Now I can get out of this.’ He never really wanted to be a rock star. His dad was the minstrel type, and that’s what Alfie wanted to be. So when Dirty Dancing hit, he started getting jobs in theatre and moved to Edmonton to reinvent himself. Now he’s singing the songs that he wants to sing.”
Long future road
Long Road Home marks Rooke’s first feature-length documentary. He previously made a short drama film in his third semester at NAIT and is currently working on a documentary about Spider-Mabel with his current employer Leven Creative.
“It’s what I’ve decided to get into after the fact now,” Rooke says of his long future road. “I was in MCTV, and it was there that I got the passion. Not so much for filmmaking there. I got that idea when I was at NAIT. I was originally thinking radio television.”
Morinville Community High School teacher Greg Boutestein had kind words about Rooke’s time with MCTV.
“He did some very good work at MCTV, and always took the initiative,” Boutestein said. “I remember very distinctively he did a documentary piece on the St. Jean Baptiste Festival. He had a story teller’s vision early on, and took on projects that were more than your one-and-a-half minute news reports.”
The experience with Long Road Home has pushed Rooke further on the path to focusing on film editing and producing. He is hoping to produce his own documentary one day.