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This month's theme: Movies

David Bernabo: Pittsburgh Filmmaker

by Fran Joyce

photo: Garret Jonesoo


What's Cooking?
Thai Gourmet

Dr. Mindy Fullilove
chapter 4 of Food Systems

Farm-raised trout

Ken Regal, Chapter 4












Independent filmmakers see the world with all its beauty and its challenges. They have the ability to make us laugh or make us feel vulnerable and exposed. They capture the resilience of the human spirit or the despair of the disenfranchised while somehow maintaining a balance of reality and hopefulness. It’s not an easy job; it’s more of a calling.

David Bernabo is a filmmaker, musician, dancer, visual artist, and writer. He grew up in Greenfield, attended Franklin Park schools, and graduated with a finance degree from Carnegie Mellon University. In 2001, he started making short films in college which allowed him to utilize and further develop his many talents. He was part writer, choreographer, performer, producer, director, musician, and marketer.

After graduation, he went to work for Highmark, working his way up from an analyst to a manager. He and his wife live in Bloomfield.

For Bernabo, starting a traditional career did not mean the end of his artistic pursuits. He currently performs and composes for the band Host Skull, dances and composes for Maree ReMalia|merrygogo and his own variable dance company, MODULES. He also performs in the improvised music trio, How Things Are Made.

Bernabo is the Arts and Culture editor of The Glassblock, a Pittsburgh web magazine and editor of Recital, a place for musicians to discuss music. He curates and produces work for the Ongoing Box imprint and co-curates the Lightlab Performance Series with choreographer Taylor Knight.
His recent projects include an art exhibit at SPACE Gallery with Blaine Siegel, and a recent evening-length dance work at New Hazlett Theater for seven movers and one musician called “The Reduction.”

In 2013, Bernabo began work on a four-film documentary series called FOOD SYSTEMS which was released in four parts from 2014 to 2016. In Part 1, Bernabo explores the evolving Pittsburgh restaurant scene from the late 70’s to the present day. He focuses on high-end restaurants like La Normande which imported many foods from France and moves to Big Burrito and the chefs who started there before opening their own restaurants using locally sourced agriculture.


..............Avenue B at Churchview Farm ....................Opening of Chapter 4

In Part 2, Bernabo visits three local farms to share their dining experiences. Part 3 examines the local farming community. Why is the farm to table movement important? How is our food raised, transported and delivered? Will fracking have current or future impacts on the quality and safety of our food? In Part 4, Bernabo examines the tough questions of systematic control, racism, and food access. Has systemic racism impacted food choices in neighborhoods impacted by urban renewal? Does gentrification alter the culture that binds neighborhoods together? If large corporations control the supply of seeds to farmers how does that impact productivity, supply and demand, and affordability of foods?

In 2015, Bernabo contributed his talents to the music video, “Yes, I Can go to School,” to help raise awareness and funding to improve sanitation facilities for girls in many schools in India. Lack of proper bathroom facilities impacts the dignity, general health, sexual health and even the safety of women and causes an increase in girl child drop-outs from schools. It also affects the attendance of female teachers. Improving sanitation facilities in schools will contribute greatly towards increasing female literacy. I encourage you to watch this video on YouTube and go to to help with this project.

He recently completed filming in Italy for The Vacation, an exploration of Florence, Bologna, and several towns in Tuscany. This film will premiere in the fall.

Bernabo’s current project, In a Dark Wood, features a concerto by composer Mathew Rosenblum in memory of his Ukrainian grandmother. Bernabo films the process of Rosenblum composing the piece, along with footage of Rosenblum’s concerto being rehearsed in New York and performed in Boston. The concerto incorporates recordings of a lament sung by Rosenblum’s grandmother that recounts the story of their family fleeing their hometown ahead of a large massacre.

According to Bernabo, “Tax credits help support non-native movie productions in Pittsburgh which makes filming here an attractive option. Because I live here and generally focus my work on Pittsburgh themes, there are some added bonuses; I can minimize travel expenses, and I am connected to a network of talented individuals. There is also a growing audience for the work being created or at least there are efforts to increase the audiences for local movie projects. Along with these positives, the costs to film here for independent filmmakers are rising. NEA grants, either direct or filtered through institutions, have helped to fund my friend’s projects. If the federal government votes to cut the NEA and NEH, it will result in lost funding for arts in the city, decreasing opportunities to make and promote our work.”

For more information about David Bernabo, visit his website, His work is available on Vimeo and YouTube.




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