Category: Family Movies & Television

Vatican’s Monsignor Vigano Thinks Movies Can Be ‘Sacred Art’

Monsignor Dario Edoardo Vigano has been in Mexico participating in the 20th-anniversary celebrations of the Chair of Sacred Art at Monterrey University — and he dedicated the commemoration to the art of the moving image.

The anniversary events began on Tuesday, Feb. 13, with Msgr. Vigano — the Prefect of the Vatican’s Secretariat of Communications — set to give three talks: “Searching God in the Folds of the Visible”; “The Face of Jesus in Cinema: History, Model Narratives, Intersemiotic Questions”; and “Sacred Art in the Cinema: New Language and Unedited Methods to Tell Stories in the Center of Audiovisual Production of the Holy See.”

Catchy.

(BTW, not entirely sure what “Intersemiotic Questions” are, but scholar Roman Jakobson translated “Intersemiotic Translation” as “Translation from one linguistic system to another which means the transference of meaning from a verbal to a non-verbal system or from one medium to another.” Your guess is as good as mine.)

In an interview conducted with ZENIT prior to leaving for Mexico, Msgr. Vigano shared some thoughts on the value of movies.

Here are some excerpts.

On honoring the movies:

[Cinema is a] dynamic art, projected towards the future, which involves all the phases of age, from children to adults; it captures the emotions, it tells stories taken from our life and, above all, it’s the factory of dreams. To speak of dreams doesn’t mean to make reference to the superficial part of existence, to the ephemeral, rather to that part of us that is always ready to receive novelties and projects, to be moved, to combine sentiments and rationality. The cinema has all this and does it . . . with art.

His favorite films (with a definite lack of mainstream Hollywood movies):

I cannot but mention “The Gospel According to Matthew” of Pier Paolo Pasolini, a milestone in the history of cinema and of the cinema that addresses the biblical text and the subject of the sacred; “Diary of a Country Priest” of Robert Bresson; “Dialogues of the Carmelites”  of Raymond Leopold Bruckberger and Philippe Agostini; “The Seventh Seal” of Ingmar Bergman; “Au Hasard Balthazar” of Robert Bresson. I add a more recent one (1994) “Before the Rain” of Milcho Manchevski. I’ll stop here , because the list risks being too long and losing its efficacy.

On religious movies:

If religious subjects are treated, the cinema can become an instrument of evangelization, not of proselytism, but an occasion to lay in people’s heart the healthy restlessness of the search for meaning, of the presence of others and of the Other.

On Jesus’ omnipresence:

Francois Mauriac wrote in his “Life of Jesus”:  “. . . and when, some weeks later, Jesus is removed from the group of the disciples, goes up and is dissolved in light, it’s not a definitive departure. He is already hidden, at the turn of the road that goes from Jerusalem to Damascus, and spies Saul, his beloved persecutor. Henceforth, in each man’s destiny, there will be this God lurking, ‘ . . . also in the cinema.

Back in 1995, on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of cinema, the Vatican compiled this list of great movies. It does include some mainstream films, such as the 1959 “Ben-Hur,” “A Man for All Seasons” (1966), “The Mission (1986), “Chariots of Fire” (1981), “Gandhi” (1982), “It’s a Wonderful Life” (1946), “Citizen Kane” (1941), Disney’s “Fantasia” (1940), “2001: A Space Odyssey” (1968) and “The Wizard of Oz” (1939).

Last December, Vulture.com compiled a list of movies that got, if not a papal imprimatur, at least got a quasi-papal endorsement, from the pope screening the film or meeting one-on-one with the filmmakers (or, at minimum, a kind word from L’Osservatore Romano, the semiofficial Vatican newspaper).

Among the post-1995 releases on that unofficial list are Martin Scorsese’s “Silence” (2016), “Spotlight” (2015), the new “Ben-Hur” (2016) and “The Passion of the Christ” (2004).

Image: Wikimedia Commons

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DeVon Franklin’s Charming Christmas Movie ‘The Star’ Goes Digital

Proving that a faith-based — yet funny — animated Christmas film can also succeed at the box office, producer DeVon Franklin and Sony’s “The Star” has earned $40.8M domestically, and a total of $61.8M worldwide. Now you can own it with the click of a mouse.

“The Star” retells the story of the Nativity in computer animation, with Zach Levi as the voice of Joseph; Gina Rodriguez as Mary; Steven Yuen as their faithful donkey, Bo; and Oprah Winfrey, Tracy Morgan and Tyler Perry as the Wise Men’s camels.

Other voice talent includes Patrica Heaton (Edith the cow); Anthony Anderson (Zach the goat); Kris Kristofferson (old donkey); Ving Rhames (Thaddeus the dog); Kelly Clarkson (Leah the horse); Kristen Chenoweth (Abby the pygmy gerboa); and Christopher Plummer (King Herod).

Click HERE to go to the Voices From Hollywood playlist on our YouTube channel, which features video interviews with Heaton, Levi, Rodriguez and Catholic director Timothy Reckart.

The DVD and Blu-Ray versions come out on Feb. 20, but as of this week, “The Star” is available for digital download/streaming.

Click HERE for more information. According to the Website, the movie is on iTunes, Amazon Prime Video, Google Play, Microsoft, PlayStation Store, Verizon Fios, Xfinity. Movies Anywhere and Vudu.

Digital extras include sing-alongs with music from the movie, and lyric videos from Mariah Carey, Fifth Harmony, A Great Big World, Kelsea Ballerini and Kirk Franklin.

Here’s Franklin to tell you all about it …

Image: Courtesy Sony Pictures Animation

Learn more about Family Theater Productions’ upcoming, new and vintage productions as well as our Hollywood Outreach Programs; and, of course, you’ll find us on Facebook.

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‘Downton Abbey’ Star Hugh Bonneville Tracks Jesus’ Last Days

Hugh Bonneville

File under things you didn’t know: Hugh Bonneville, Lord Grantham from PBS’ “Downton Abbey,” has a theology degree from Corpus Christi College at Cambridge — but he still wants a closer look at the final days of Christ in Jerusalem.

Starting March 1 on PBS stations (check local listings for time and channel in your area), Bonneville is the host of “Jesus: Countdown to Calvary.” The one-hour documentary pairs him with historians and spiritual leaders (including Dominican Father Gregory Tatum) to explore the religious, political and social environment into which Jesus plunged on Palm Sunday, ending with the Crucifixion the following Friday.

It covers much of the same ground as a number of other documentaries on the subject — in particular last year’s “The Real Jesus of Nazareth,” with actor Robert Powell (star of 1977’s “Jesus of Nazareth”) on Smithsonian Channel. Both feature British actors in blue shirts and occasionally hats, walking through modern Jerusalem and the surrounding countryside, discussing the life of Christ. Both also feature University of Edinburgh scholar Dr. Helen Bond.

Robert Powell, Dr. Helen Bond

Nothing new is uncovered or revealed in “Jesus Countdown to Calvary,” but it is nice to see the addition of Father Tatum to the secular scholars, giving a spiritual perspective to the historical events.

Generally, the documentary is respectful and reasonably accurate, but other than the addition of the “Downton Abbey” star, it’s pretty standard fare.

It does steer away from history and into speculation on the topic of Judas, especially with the addition of an interview with Israeli novelist, journalist and intellectual Amos Oz. His novel “Judas” offers an alternative to the general view of Judas as a betrayer.

From a review of the book in the U.K. Guardian:

The Judas that takes shape is a spy, sent by the Jewish authorities, to infiltrate the inner circle of Jesus, a preacher in distant Galilee who has attracted an enthusiastic following with his miracles and his reinterpretation of what it means to follow God. But Judas goes native, and becomes the most ardent believer in Jesus’s divinity, more so than the man himself. It is, therefore, Judas who encourages Jesus to take his message to Jerusalem, and Judas who presses the chief priest to have Jesus crucified, believing he will rise from the dead on the cross. When Jesus doesn’t, Judas recognises himself as potentially the first and the last Christian and, in despair, takes his own life by hanging himself from a tree.

This was treachery in a good cause. It is not a new idea. As early as the 14th century, Saint Vincent Ferrer, a celebrated Dominican preacher close to the papacy, was pointing out that if Jesus was truly God’s son, come to Earth to redeem humankind, then his betrayal had to be part of God’s plan. Judas was therefore doing God’s business, not the devil’s.

Since we have nothing but the Gospels to tell us about Judas — and those don’t clearly delineate his motivations– there is room in the story for imagination. When Oz is interviewed, though, he opines that “the Gospels, especially the story of the betrayal, the story of Judas, they were written in a cold-blooded intention to incite anti-Jewish feelings.”

Unfortunately, that assertion is left unchallenged in the documentary, even by Bonneville. It’s a shame that the producers couldn’t have returned to, for example, Father Tatum, for a response. It’s an unfortunate moment in an otherwise balanced presentation.

You might wonder, why do this again? Is it just a ploy to capitalize on the Easter season? Maybe, indeed, probably, but that doesn’t mean shows like this are without value.

To be honest, a lot more people than we’d like to admit are unfamiliar with the Passion narrative, so getting it one hour — without a great deal of supernatural overtones — could be useful for introducing the bones of the story to the unchurched.

JESUS: COUNTDOWN TO CALVARY is a co-production of RTÉ (Raidió Teilifís Éireann, from Ireland), APT (American Public Television) and European producer ARTE.

Image: Courtesy American Public Television; Smithsonian Channel

Learn more about Family Theater Productions’ upcoming, new and vintage productions as well as our Hollywood Outreach Programs; and, of course, you’ll find us on Facebook.

Visit our YouTube and Ustream Channels for our contemporary and classic productions.

Roma Downey Goes Digital With “Sincere” Faith & Family Saga

Roma Downey has teamed with producer Will Packer to bring author Karen Kingsbury’s faith-based saga “The Baxter Family” to her LightWorkers Media streaming platform.

The 20-plus-book series tells the story of John and Elizabeth Baxter, and their six adult children, as they find strength in faith and family to face life’s challenges. It’s sold over 20M copies worldwide.

In a 2016 story on Deadline.com, Kingsbury said:

Working with Roma Downey to see the Baxter Family become a TV series is the most exciting thing to happen in my entire career. In her capable and talented hands, we all believe the Baxter Family will become a longstanding beloved series that will run for many years to come. My 25 million readers have been begging to see the Baxter Family on TV, and now their dreams will come true.

The first season of the series, to be called “The Baxters,” will feature 12 episodes of 11 minutes each, and be available on the LightWorkers.com digital platform.

From Variety:

“We explored many avenues for this show,” Downey told Variety. “We believe digital is the way to bring it to life.”

Downey said the Lightworkers platform was the right venue to tell the story in which the family’s abiding faith and spiritual themes do not have to be watered down in a generic fashion.

“By making it ourselves it gives us a creative freedom we wouldn’t have elsewhere,” Downey said. “These characters are sincere in their faith, and that sets them apart from other stories.”

Packer also emphasized that he’s not looking to make just feelgood faith-friendly content:

“There’s a void right now,” Packer said. “A lot of what is circulating out there right now feels watered down. People want content that is rooted in truth. We’ll have endings that are not always happy.” Packer added that the production is an opportunity to “take some chances with new voices” on the writing staff.

Downey and Packer are hoping to start production this summer.

Image: Courtesy LightWorkers

Learn more about Family Theater Productions’ upcoming, new and vintage productions as well as our Hollywood Outreach Programs; and, of course, you’ll find us on Facebook.

Visit our YouTube and Ustream Channels for our contemporary and classic productions.

‘This Is Us’ Star Chrissy Metz to Star in DeVon Franklin’s Faith-Based ‘The Impossible’

Amid news that the Sunday, Feb. 4, post-Super Bowl episode of NBC’s family drama “This Is Us” will finally reveal how father Jack Pearson (Milo Ventimiglia) died, Chrissy Metz, who plays his daughter, Kate, has landed a heart-tugging role of her own.

The 37-year-old actress — fresh off a SAG Awards win for ensemble cast in a drama — will star in “The Impossible,” from Fox 2000 and “Miracles from Heaven” and “The Star” executive producer DeVon Franklin. To be directed by Roxann Dawson, it’s based on “The Impossible: The Miraculous Story of a Mother’s Faith and Her Child’s Resurrection,” written by Joyce Smith, based on a true story from her life.

From Deadline.com:

Metz will star as Joyce, whose 14-year-old son fell through a frozen lake in Missouri one winter and was proclaimed lifeless. Through prayer and faith, Joyce sat by her son’s bedside until his heart started beating again.

Seven Pounds scribe Grant Nieporte adapted the screenplay. Marisa Paiva will oversee production for the studio as filming is slated to being filming will begin in March in Winnipeg.

Congrats, Chrissy!

Image: Wikimedia Commons

Learn more about Family Theater Productions’ upcoming, new and vintage productions as well as our Hollywood Outreach Programs; and, of course, you’ll find us on Facebook.

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Jim Caviezel: The Full ‘Paul’ Trailer, and Returning to Play Christ

In a previous post, we looked at Jim Caviezel’s role as Luke in the upcoming March 28 movie “Paul, Apostle of Christ,” but now he’s also confirmed he’s reprising the role of Jesus in director Mel Gibson’s sequel to “The Passion of the Christ.”

As reported in USA Today on Jan. 29:

Caviezel, 49, confirmed he will reprise his role as Jesus in the planned film about the resurrection of Christ. “There are things that I cannot say that will shock the audience,” he says. “It’s great. Stay tuned.”

Gibson and his star have been tight-lipped on details of how the new film will move forward. But the actor says he’s been inspired in his talks with Gibson by the direction the project is taking.

“I won’t tell you how he’s going to go about it,” Caviezel says. “But I’ll tell you this much, the film he’s going to do is going to be the biggest film in history. It’s that good.”

From the Hollywood Reporter:

Jim Caviezel is poised to reprise his role as Jesus Christ in the upcoming sequel to Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ.

ICM Partners, which represents Caviezel, confirmed on Tuesday that the actor is in negotiations with Gibson, who would presumably produce, direct or both.

The Hollywood Reporter first reported 20 months ago that a sequel was in the works, but it wasn’t known until Tuesday whether Gibson was interested in again casting Caviezel as Jesus. The actor, 49, first played thirty-something-year-old Jesus 14 years ago.

The full-length trailer for “Paul, Apostle of Christ” has been released. It will also be seen when Family Theater Productions features a Q&A with filmmakers Andrew Hyatt and T.J. Berden in our Hollywood offices on Feb. 7.

Here’s the full trailer:

And a couple of other videos about the movie:

Image: Sony Affirm; ODB Films.

Learn more about Family Theater Productions’ upcoming, new and vintage productions as well as our Hollywood Outreach Programs; and, of course, you’ll find us on Facebook.

Visit our YouTube and Ustream Channels for our contemporary and classic productions.