My sister Vanessa was born in a small Italian village high up in the Apennine Mountains between Rome and Naples. Her birth was complicated. Mother was weak and my sister had decided she was not leaving the spa. Not the first time she’s put her foot down.
My brother arrived just over a year later and shortly thereafter, my family immigrated to Canada and settled in Toronto. Two more children, including me would follow .
Vanessa thrived in school, earning top marks and winning several public speaking competitions. I can still remember the buzz in the auditorium and cheers from the audience after her Grade 8 oratorical on Winston Churchill. Didn’t know who he was but I loved seeing her on stage.
After completing a Master’s Degree from the University of Toronto, Vanessa taught French and English for several years and studied acting at night before shifting gears and getting into the film business . Eventually Vanessa began her own production company and began producing documentaries that attracted large audiences and won awards. And I had the pleasure to work for her as a researcher on several projects.
She told me she’s blessed to be allowed to witness worlds that are unknown to most people – travelling to the former Soviet republic of Georgia to make a film on superbugs Vanessa is able to gain people’s trust and she’s motivated by subjects that help people live better lives such as Fixing My Brain or important stories that people should know about: The Woman Who Joined the Taliban, a very controversial film as well as the recent film for TVO: Undercover Jihadi about the undercover informant who brought down the terrorist group The Toronto 18.
She is thrilled to work with the world’s well-known artists: she was over the moon when Sting agreed to be the main science experiment in the Musical Brain, and have his brain scanned while different styles of music were played for him. And working with the 85-year-old legendary Hollywood star Leslie Caron, (An American in Paris) on a film about her amazing life and work, following her to London, where she intended to re-start her career. And being asked by a well-known British company to join their team for a documentary Into the Inferno directed by Werner Herzog.
She tells me that her current film The Divided Brain is the most difficult film she’ll ever make. Who knows?
Vanessa is a great story-teller; we laugh ‘til we cry. She saves editorial cartoons and shares them at family gatherings. She cracks us up. Even her taste in music is strange – she loves old Neapolitan folk songs, military marches, all opera – even Wagner. Go figure…..
There’s no stopping her. A curious creature, she has the tenacity of a bull and demonstrates her will and determination with style, fairness and grace. And she makes me the best coffee in the world. No fool here.
-written by Marilyn Fabrizio, Vanessa’s sister.
What ‘hood are you in?
I live in Etobicoke. I was born in Italy and my family arrived in Toronto when I was a year old. I have lived most of my life in the west end of Toronto.
What do you do?
I am a producer of documentary films and have run my own company for about ten years. I also had a reckless past life as a theatre producer and as a high school teacher.
What are you currently working on?
I am working now on several projects: one is called In Search of the Giant Bee. This is the story that almost broke the internet last month. It’s about the Giant Bee that was believed extinct, that was re-discovered in Indonesia by a group of people, the lead scientist being a Canadian. An extraordinary story that I had been following for months.
Where can we find your work?
My work has been broadcast in Canada and internationally. You can find my past films for download on my website: www.matteroffactmedia.com