Category: News & Trends

‘Paul, Apostle of Christ’: Herald of the Better Christian/Catholic Film

The new movie about St. Paul from ODB Films, the filmmakers who brought you Full of Grace, comes to theaters on March 23, just in time for Palm Sunday on the 25th. Let me answer the big questions right away:

Is it good? Yes.

Is it biblical? Sort of.

It’s historical and extra-biblical, meaning it takes historical events and passages from the Bible that we know occurred. Then, the movie depicts them, along with scenes and events created by the filmmakers that are not in Sacred Scripture but could have happened.

Is it heretical? No.

Not to my understanding, and not to any of the priests and theologians whom I have asked about the movie. Now, if you are one of those people who feels that depicting anything from the Bible that is not explicitly in the Bible, you will have problems with the film. But, to paraphrase St. John the Apostle, if everything that Christ did was written down, there would not be enough books in the world to record it.

How is the message and the portrayal of faith? The message is powerful, and faith is portrayed as meaningful and positive, but also real.

Which means some people doubt, some struggle, some even fall away. Even Paul questions. But – spoiler alert – the ending message of faith, hope and love is all the more powerful for it. For those who are offended by saints depicted as actual human beings, be warned. However, Paul in the New Testament writes about the good he wants to do but does not do, and the bad he does not want to do but does anyway.

Should I see it?  YES.

It is a striking, contemplative look at one of the most influential people in all of Christianity.

Paul, Apostle of Christ, however, is significant for another reason as well: I believe it embodies the next step of faith–based films, and this is a good thing!

I say this because, while still being low-budget (especially by Hollywood standards), it is a professional-looking movie, with real, recognizable actors: Jim Caviezel (Passion of the Christ, Person of Interest), James Faulkner (Downton Abbey, Game of Thrones) and Olivier Martinez (Revenge & S.W.A.T.). It also delivers a powerful story with quality writing, AND it still manages to deliver a message rather than just showing a sermon on screen.

Have you ever felt in the past that saying you liked Christian films was like confessing to a guilty pleasure? When someone, especially a non-believer, asked if you liked certain famous, faith-based movies, did you feel like you needed to justify yourself if you said “yes”?

For example, you would admit the acting isn’t great, the writing is heavy-handed, and the production value was just above amateur – but hey, the message was fantastic! Well, I think that day is disappearing, where audiences are no longer turning out like they used to just because a film mentions Jesus and stars Kirk Cameron or Kevin Sorbo. (God bless you, Kirk and Kevin, for being trailblazers in this field!)

Critics and fans have been asking, when will faith-based films be … well, good. In all honesty, there have been such high-budgeted fair which often featured a known star or two. These are films like Risen and Miracles from Heaven, and they did deliver a higher-quality experience However, the budgets were much, much bigger, therefore much riskier and that gave rise to the question– if a film like Moonlight could be made for $2 million and be Academy Award-worthy (it won the best picture Oscar in 2017), why couldn’t faith films be the same?

And, where were the Catholics in all this Christian content?

Well, we find our answer in Paul, Apostle of Christ. Made for a slightly larger budget than God’s Not Dead 2 and War Room ($3 million apiece, per and for a bit less than recent release I Can Only Imagine, here is a modestly priced movie, made by Catholics, that still delivers in quality on every level.

Now, to be clear, this film is more of a chamber piece, literally, where Paul spends most of the story in a chamber, his prison cell. However, a chamber piece usually means a film that largely shows people talking in rooms. There are no car (or chariot) chases or harrowing escapes, and this film does not focus on some of the more action-packed moments of St. Paul’s life.

Instead, it shows Paul as an old man, who is a prisoner of Nero and awaits the eventual day of his execution. It opens with the Gospel writer, St. Luke, arriving in Rome to find the Christian community there. He wants to connect with Paul to guide him in helping the faithful, who are now facing intense persecution under the emperor.

Despite the lack of big action scenes, the film still manages to touch the heart by asking, arguing and addressing some of the big issues that Christian faced back then and still struggle with today. For example, what it does it mean to believe when the powers of the world seem stacked against you? Also, how do you find hope and love in a world so ruled by fear and hate? More importantly, if you can find these graces, how do you live them?

Paul, Apostle of Christ brings that drama to the big screen in a subtle but beautiful and effective way.

I would recommend going to the theaters to have this film help you start your Holy Week.

Image: ODB Films/Sony Affirm

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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‘Paul: Apostle of Christ’ Star Jim Caviezel Talks Christian Persecution

Yesterday (March 20), at the Dallas premiere of “Paul: Apostle of Christ,” The Hill reporter Rick Manning caught up with Jim Caviezel, who plays the Apostle Luke in the new movie, hitting theaters on Friday, March 23.

Faith marketer Matthew Faraci shot this Facebook Live video of Manning asking Caviezel about the persecution of Chrtistians, and got this stunning answer. Click here for the original Facebook video (which is going viral), and below — with permission from both Manning and Faraci — is what happened:

Click here for more information on “Paul: Apostle of Christ” — which is excellent, BTW — and buy tickets.

Image: ODB Films/Sony Affirm

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.

Faith on Ice: Catholics and the Winter Olympics

Sports can provide a great platform to talk about faith. We saw shout-outs to Christ from Philadelphia Eagles Coach Doug Pederson, QB Nick Foles and tight end Zach Ertz after their Feb. 4 Super Bowl victory. Now, the Church is getting a boost from the 2018 Winter Olympics, currently taking place in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

Here are a few of the Catholic athletes who’ve made a mark on Olympic ice, now and in the past:

Hannah and Marissa Brandt:

These Minnesota sisters are graduates of Catholic institutions St. Odilia School in Shoreview and Hill-Murray High School in Maplewood, and are hockey standouts for two different teams. Hannah is a foreward for the U.S. women’s Olympic team; and Marissa — who was adopted from South Korea as a baby — plays for the combined Korean women’s hockey team, under her birth name, Park-Yoon Jung.

Yuna Kim:

The 27-year-old South Korean gold medal-winning figure skater, now retired, was the final torch-bearer and lit the official Olympic torch at the Pyeongchang Opening Ceremony on Feb. 9.

From Catholic News Agency:

After making the sign of the cross as she stepped onto the ice to win gold in the 2010 Vancouver Games with a record-breaking score, Kim teamed up with Korean bishops for a national rosary campaign. Kim was seen wearing a rosary ring, which her fans had previously mistaken for an engagement ring, during her silver-medal performance at the 2014 Sochi Games.

The Olympian converted to the Catholic faith alongside her mother in 2008 after they came in contact with local nuns and Catholic organizations through her personal physician – also a Catholic – who was treating her for knee injuries.

At her baptism, Kim took the name “Stella” after Mary, Star of the Sea, and told a diocesan paper that during the baptismal rite she “felt an enormous consolation in my heart” and promised God to continue to “pray always,” especially before competitions.

Kim has also been active in using her position as an opportunity for charitable works, volunteering and donating funds to Catholic Hospitals, universities, and other charitable organizations, and working alongside the Catholic bishops in Korea as a spokeswoman for Catholic charities in Seoul.

Kirstin Holum (a k a Sister Catherine of the Franciscan Sisters of the Renewal):

Kim isn’t the only Olympic athlete to let her Catholic faith lead the way after the Games. At the age of 17, Kirstin Holum competed for the U.S. in speedskating in Nagano, Japan, in 1998. Her mother, Dianne, was an Olympic gold-medalist in 1972 and coached American Eric Heiden to five gold medals at the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, N.Y.

But Holum never returned to the Olympic ice. She did a stint in art school in Chicago, then gave her life over to the Lord. She’s currently based at St. Clare’s Convent in the U.K. city of Leeds.

From USA Today:

At first she rarely spoke about her former life as a speedskater and many of the sisters in her convent did not know she had once been to the Olympics. However, after publication of a feature article during the 2010 Vancouver Games, her story became widely known in the Catholic community and she continues to receive regular invitations to speak publicly, including a speech in front of 10,000 people at a religious meeting in London.

“What has opened up especially in the last eight years is the chance to look back at so many of the beautiful things about skating and the Olympics,” Holum told USA TODAY Sports in a phone conversation while she was on a brief trip to the U.S. “I don’t have a normal story of coming into the convent. It is quite unique. To have the opportunity to look back and have thanks, and to share that with people I come into contact with, is a blessing.”

Without TV in the convent, Sister Catherine may not be able to watch the Pyeongchang Games, but you know she is praying for all to do their best and give glory to God.

Curt Tomasevicz:

As a bobsledder, Tomasevicz won Olympic gold and bronze, but the now-retired 37-year-old weighed from his native Nebraska how his faith kept him on an even keel after his athletic career.

He told the National Catholic Register:

If I weren’t Catholic, I think my life would be the equivalent of a bobsled crash. Being Catholic allows me to get my priorities straight and know that, despite what most people will tell you, athletic competitions are fleeting and you should not measure your self-worth through them. There’s lots of pressure to do well, and pressure to do well badly, so to speak — meaning that winning is held up as the only thing and that a little cheating is understandable.

Competition is fun, but only in the context of following the rules. Taking given parameters and making the most of them can be a multifaceted, engaging adventure. That’s at the heart of one of the classes I teach to undergrads now. It’s an intro to engineering course involving sports — the tools we use in competition (bobsleds, rackets, bats, gloves and so on) and the biomechanics of competition (which postures, strides, timings and angles result in best runs, passes, pitches and so on).

He’s still single, but said:

I do want to be a husband and father, but that took a back seat to bobsledding for a decade. I’m still involved somewhat in the sport, but nothing like I used to be, which means that marriage is far more likely. Yet marriage is a marathon rather than a sprint, so I’m not rushing into it. The Diocese of Lincoln is one of the best in the nation, but even if I don’t find a wife here, there is one out there, if marriage is indeed what God wants for me.

Vatican City even sent a delegation to the Games, attending the Opening Ceremonies and observing a meeting of the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

From the U.K. Catholic Herald:

The Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano reported Friday that Monsignor Melchor Sanchez De Toca Y Alameda of the Pontifical Council for Culture will lead the delegation to the session, a series of meetings where Olympic policies are decided.

In the spirit of friendship, Sanchez will present International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach and Korean athletes with jerseys from the Vatican Athletics squad, which is made up of Vatican employees.

Even “without the possibility of direct participation in the Olympics by Vatican athletes,” L’Osservatore adds that relations with the IOC are ongoing and will continue with the Summer Youth Olympics in October in Buenos Aires — Pope Francis’s hometown.

Work hard, train hard … pray hard!

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.

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

The ‘Right Priest’ Who Saved Mickey Rourke Dies at 69

Father Peter Colapietro, the New York priest credited by actor Mickey Rourke with saving his life, has died at 69.

In 1994, furious upon hearing that his then-drug-addicted wife had been raped, Rourke grabbed a gun and went in search of revenge. Instead, he felt an urge to enter the Church of Holy Cross in New York City’s Times Square. There, the pastor saw him.

From a 2009 story in Our Sunday Visitor:

“I reached a place in my life where living was living hard. I was at a crossroads. Because I was raised Catholic, I had issues with the dark side of life I was drifting in,” Rourke said. “I didn’t know this man, Father Peter. I just walked in his church one day, walked in the right door and met the right priest.”

Father Colapietro managed to talk Rourke out of his plan. “He took away my gun and had me leave the note with St. Jude, the patron saint of impossible causes. And he said that part of my life could be over now and I still had the opportunity to do things over again.”

Ever since, Rourke and Father Colapietro stayed friends, with the priest hearing Rourke’s confessions, and the two sharing Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner.

Said Father Colapietro to OSV:

He definitely is a man of faith and believes in God’s presence in the world.

Yesterday, the New York Times reported that Father Colapietro had passed away from emphysema. He’d been living at a rehab facility in the Bronx and died at Montefiore Medical Center.

Father Colapietro worked in two other Manhattan churches aside from Holy Cross. He spent two years at the Church of St. Monica on East 79th Street; in 2015, he was assigned to St. Malachy, known as the Actors Chapel, on West 49th Street. From the St. Malachy website:

It is with heavy hearts that we must announce the passing or our beloved pastor, Rev. Peter M. Colapietro. Funeral arrangements have been made at
St. Monica’s at 413 East 79th Street

Wake hours will be from 3:00-8:00 pm on Friday, February 9th. The Funeral Service is scheduled 11:00 am on Saturday, February 10th.

As Fr. Pete served at several parishes in Manhattan, the funeral is being held at St. Monica’s according to his request in order to best accommodate the mourners.

Standing 6 feet tall and over 200 pounds, Father Colapietro cut a distinctive figure. According to the Times, he described himself as “just a regular, run-of-of-the-mill priest.” But, having served as chaplain for the New York’s Sanitation Department, the Manhattan Restaurant and Liquor Dealers’ Association, the Metro-North Railroad and the Uniformed Firefighters Association, he was friend and spiritual support to the city’s working class.

Born and raised in the Castle Hill section of the Bronx, Colapietro started — but didn’t finish — his priestly career at St. Joseph’s Seminar and College in Yonkers, N.Y. After stints as a construction worker, longshoreman, fisherman and bouncer, he found his way back to the priesthood.

He was also a man who understood his neighborhood. From the Times:

Father Colapietro was forgiving of the gritty world that surrounded him, as when a 200-pound statue of Christ was stolen from Holy Cross. It was returned a week later, and the police dusted the statue for fingerprints.

Father Colapietro said the church would not seek to press charges, even if the police tracked down a suspect. He said the statue had merely been “borrowed,” not stolen.

Image: Courtesy Facebook page for St. Malachy/Actors’ Chapel

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.

Golden Globe Awards: A Few Things to Remember

The Golden Globe Awards nominations came out today. Some folks are cheering; some are cranky; many are both.

Some films and TV shows got lots of love from the voters in the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, some got bits, others got none.

In the current climate of scandal in Hollywood, how are we to think about nominations? Among the films and TV shows getting nods are those that celebrate objectively sinful behavior; among those snubbed are ones with uplifting or positive themes (but we are happy to see NBC’s family-centric drama “This Is Us” getting several nods).

Unless recent trends take a 180-degree turn, the Golden Globes broadcast, airing Jan. 7 on NBC, with host Seth Myers, will be rife with political references and jokes, generally at the expense of one side of the aisle.

So, what are Catholics to do?

Here are some helpful things to remember:

People in the entertainment industry (and the journalists that cover it) are not a representative demographic sampling of the general American populace — politically, ideologically, socially or religiously. While that has always been true to an extent, it has become much more publicly obvious in recent decades.

Long ago, Hollywood felt obligated to reflect the likes and interests of the general American public — and to appear to be in agreement with it on major issues — but now it feels more obligated to represent its own interests. The people still speak at the box office, but theirs is not the only voice.

Some entertainment is produced to answer a need and want from the public — hence the popularity of Hallmark’s feel-good Christmas movies, for example — and some is produced based on concepts that have a proven track record (like comic books, young-adult books, video games or bestselling novels).

Other movies and TV shows represent either the passions and interests of those making them, or are designed to appeal to a very specific audience. Among these people, such projects may be considered the highest form of art and tremendously compelling, while to the general public, they may be unappealing, bewildering or even appalling.

If, say, faithful Catholics overwhelmingly ran studios and TV networks, were top agents and screenwriters, financiers and producers, then the landscape would be dramatically different.

That’s emphatically not the case.

People in Hollywood generally tell stories for two reasons (or some combination of the two reasons): to make money, or to satisfy a longing of their hearts.

As a radio friend of mine is wont to say, that which gets rewarded gets repeated. If content that Catholics and other Christians don’t find appealing still makes lots of money, more will get made. If good things come out — like “The Star,” for example — and they don’t make lots of money, more may not be made, at least by major studios.

But if Christians have a longing in their hearts to tell a story that reflects their sensibilities, many will find a way. The same is true of other folks whose hearts and sensibilities tend in very different directions.

And many of these other folks are also awards voters. Like anyone else, they vote for what they like and ignore what they don’t. If they don’t like the same things as you, well, that’s life.

So, to expect awards shows to honor only movies we love and find worthy is to be perpetually disappointed. To expect Hollywood folks to not expound upon their beliefs at awards shows is just as futile.

In the end, our power lies in choice: to see a movie or TV show or not, and to watch an awards show, or not.

Whether Hollywood responds to those choices and makes some changes … well, I’m hopeful but not optimistic.

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.

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