Titled La Notte di San Lorenzo in Italian, The Night of the Shooting Stars takes place in the fictional Tuscan town of San Marino, based on the real town of San Miniato, where the filmmakers were born and lived during World War II.
The film is told in flashback by a mother (Cecilia) of her experiences as a 6-year-old caught in the middle of war. The story is set on the night of August 10, 1944, the feast of San Lorenzo, the day when Italians all over the country escape to the countryside hoping to witness shooting stars, or the “tears of San Lorenzo,” so they can make wishes and have their dreams come true. Knowing the American Army is approaching to liberate the town, the village’s Fascist sympathizers turn on their neighbors, many of whom are lifelong friends or relatives, unleashing unspeakable terror. For anyone who wants to understand the complexity and raw emotion of the Italian war experience, there are few better ways to get a glimpse than through the eyes of the Tavianis.
Italians still celebrate August 10th by looking up the skies for shooting stars. The medieval town of San Miniato, not far from Pisa, is well worth a visit. One of the town’s landmarks, a tower built by Frederick II in the 13th century, was destroyed during World War II but rebuilt in the late 1950s. The town is most famous for its annual white truffle festival which takes place during the last three weeks in November.