With a new documentary film this fall, CSUN alumnus, former state assembly candidate, author and film director Patrea Patrick ’05 (Cinema and Television Arts – Film) hopes to shine a light on the life of a different type of hero: the late and legendary Pittsburgh wrestler, Bruno Sammartino. The film premieres Nov. 29 at the Laemmle Monica Film Center, and special screenings run through Dec. 6 (a wider release is scheduled for spring 2020).
Sammartino, who was known as “The Living Legend”, won five World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) titles and sold out Madison Square Garden a record 188 times, one that still stands to this day. His historic career and record-breaking achievements as a pro wrestler easily landed him in the WWE’s Hall of Fame.
“Bruno Sammartino” follows the professional wrestler, one of former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s idols and inspirations, during his youth in Nazi-occupied Italy during World War II — as Sammartino’s mother struggled to keep them both alive — as well as his long, influential and prolific wrestling career.
Many current and former wrestlers were interviewed for the film, including current star wrestlers John Cena and The Miz (Michael Gregory Mizanin) and old-school wrestler Stan Hansen.
“I’ve learned so much over the years from all of my research,” Patrick said.
Conducting research and turning it into a creative work has been a massive part of her life, including during her time at CSUN. It was through personal interest and research that she came across Sammartino’s inspirational journey, and decided to document his life.
“Bruno was incredible when he was a youth,” Patrick said. From a young age Sammartino wanted to work to be something great, he recognized early on the sacrifices and actions his mother took on to keep them alive. He wanted to give back to his mother, an action that led him into a rising industry with a need for a legend.
“They wanted someone who was a hero,” said Patrick. “A real flesh and blood hero.”
Schwarzenegger — a former Mr. Olympian bodybuilder and prolific actor who made an appearance in the documentary — was a life-long friend of Sammartino. He passed away at the age of 82 in April 2018 in Pittsburgh.
“I think it’s great he has put effort into our film,” Patrick said of Schwarzenegger. “He loved this guy.
“Arnold always saw what a gentlemen Bruno was,” she added.
Patrick is passionate about environmental issues and social justice, so documenting Sammartino and his family’s wartime struggles felt timely, she said. The Sammartino family spent 14 months hiding from the Nazi’s and the SS, nearly dying several times before being caught. They were only saved from execution when two freedom fighters saved their lives.
“‘Everything I do, I’m going to do it like my mom’s watching,’ he lived like that,” Patrick said. “He loved his wife, kids, family and friends. He was so charming.”
Patrick credited her CSUN film training in the Department of Cinema and Television Arts for getting her to where she is today. Her senior film “Street 16” debuted at CSUN’s 15th Annual “Student Film Showcase” in 2005 at the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.
“CSUN actually helps the students make a real film,” said Patrick. “I won an award to be able to start the production of the film.”
CSUN students and anyone affiliated with the university can print a copy of the linked movie flyer or show a screenshot of it at the door to gain free entrance.
“It’s what I can do to give back to CSUN,” said Patrick. “They’ve been great to me.”
Screenings of “Bruno Sammartino” are scheduled to take place at 1:50 p.m., 4:30 p.m., 7:20 p.m. and 10 p.m. starting Friday, Nov. 29 and running through Dec. 6 at the Laemmle Monica Film Center. On Nov. 29, Patrick will hold two Q&As, one after the 4 p.m. screening and one after the 7 p.m. screening. For more information, visit https://www.laemmle.com/film/bruno-sammartino or call the Laemmle at (310) 478-3836.