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EPISODE#214
OC CATHOLIC RADIO: A FILM CALLED “DIVIDED HEARTS OF AMERICA”

On this episode, host Rick Howick welcomes Jason Scott Jones to the program.

Jason is the president and founder of a couple of very unique organizations: including HERO and ‘Movie to Movement.’ His primary reason for being with us today is to share about a new film project called “Divided Hearts of America.”

Jason has a very interesting background, to say the least. A former atheist who is now Catholic, the singular issue of abortion is what helped bring him to the Christian faith.

Listen and SHARE this powerful podcast with a friend!

 

 

 

Originally broadcast on 10/24/20

HOMELESS, POOR GET STAR TREATMENT AT VATICAN MOVIE PREMIERE

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The usual fanfare that comes with the world premiere of a movie is pretty standard: the lights and cameras, the celebrities walking down the red carpet and screaming fans trying to catch a glimpse of their favorite actors.

At the Vatican, however, a movie premiere is not your typical star-studded event.

The world premiere of “Call Me Francesco,” the first movie based on the life of Pope Francis, took place in the Vatican audience hall Dec. 1 and those considered celebrities in the eyes of the pope were in attendance.

“To this exceptional premiere, the Holy Father wished to invite the poor, the homeless, refugees and the people most in need, together with the volunteers, religious and lay people, who work daily in charity,” a statement from the papal almoner’s office said.

Parishes and charitable associations in Rome were given 7,000 tickets for the poor to attend the premiere at the Vatican. The night also included a concert featuring the Pontifical Swiss Guard’s musical band. The papal almoner’s office said that many of the Swiss Guards offered to play during their free time as a gift to the homeless.

The poor were also offered a brown-bag dinner “donated especially for the occasion by several benefactors.”

Directed by Italian filmmaker Daniele Luchetti, “Call Me Francesco” details the life of Jorge Mario Bergoglio, from his humble beginnings in Buenos Aires, Argentina, to his election to the papacy in 2013.

At the premiere, Luchetti expressed his hope that the movie would be “an emotional moment” in following “the footsteps of a man we admire.” While all the details of the pope’s life are not known, the Italian director said he was optimistic that the film would explain “how he came to be and for what reasons.”

For Argentine actor Rodrigo de la Serna, portraying the young Jorge Mario Bergoglio on the silver screen was a dream come true. “It’s crazy, I never imagined in my life to be here at the Vatican, much less portraying Jorge Mario Bergoglio. It’s a dream!” de la Serna told Catholic News Service. Seeing how well the movie was received by the 7,000 guests, he said, was “something that I will never forget.”

David, one of the thousands of homeless people attending the premiere said that it was “truly emotional” to the see the path followed by Pope Francis. “His way of being close to the poor, close to people in need and the endless struggle against evil” was particularly moving, he told CNS.

Of the many groups at the premiere, one stood out in the crowd, holding a large colorful banner with the words, “Thank you, Pope Francis!” The banner belonged to a group of refugees from Eritrea who were invited to attend.

A young refugee who wished to remain anonymous told CNS that he was happy to see the film and that the pope’s life showed that prayer can be a powerful solution, even in the most difficult circumstances.

“Some of us will continue to other countries, others will stay here in Italy. We are refugees,” he said. Pope Francis’ story, he continued, gave him hope that “everything will be all right for us.”

 

‘MY ALL AMERICAN’

NEW YORK (CNS) — No one in “My All American” (Clarius) actually says, “Go out and win one for the Gipper.” Neither will audiences hear the words pluck or moxie used.

Though the film avoids such outright boosterism, the term “legend” is thrown around quite a bit. And, in all honesty, not without reason.

This biopic is another chapter in the ongoing secular hagiography of Freddie Steinmark. At 5-foot-9 and 154 pounds, Steinmark was an undersized — and therefore unlikely — football star. Yet he managed to gain lasting fame as the starting safety for the undefeated 1969 University of Texas Longhorns.

That year’s consensus national champions, based on wire-service polls of sportswriters and coaches, the Longhorns memorably defeated Notre Dame in the Cotton Bowl on New Year’s Day 1970. But Steinmark was not on the field.

His final game was the Longhorns’ last regular-season match. Dubbed “The Game of the Century,” that contest ended with a 15-14 victory over the Longhorns’ archrivals from the University of Arkansas.

Soon afterward, Steinmark’s left leg was amputated at the hip in an effort to stem the spread of an aggressive bone cancer. His sideline appearance on crutches to cheer his teammates on at the Cotton Bowl ranks, not surprisingly, as a celebrated moment in the annals of college sports.

Steinmark died in 1971 after penning a memoir. He’s memorialized on the scoreboard at the university’s football stadium. And his short life has so far generated two biographies, including Jim Dent’s “Courage Beyond the Game: The Freddie Steinmark Story,” on which the film is based.

Burnishing his allure for sports fans of faith, Steinmark was a devout Catholic known for praying the rosary daily — twice on game days. He was close to Father Fred Bomar, and spent his last months in the rectory of the priest’s parish, St. Peter the Apostle in Austin (Father Bomar died in 2010).

That part of his life isn’t here, however. Instead, the movie focuses on the bond between Freddie (Finn Wittrock) and Longhorns coach Darrell Royal (Aaron Eckhart).

A high school star from Colorado, Freddie epitomized the stoicism athletes of his era were meant to embody. Their code required them to “shake off” even serious injuries while giving 110 percent for gruff-yet-lovable coaches and the good of the team — no matter what.

Thus Freddie played his final game in considerable pain, and was found afterward to have the fatal tumor that had been growing on his thigh throughout his last season.

Courage in the face of poignant challenges can make for fine entertainment. Indeed, the fact-based sports tragedy constitutes a storied mass-media tradition, one that reaches back to the 1971 ABC movie of the week “Brian’s Song” (briefly released the same year as a feature film), 1973’s “Bang the Drum Slowly” and, ultimately, to the great-granddaddy of the genre, “Knute Rockne, All American,” from 1940.

Director and screenwriter Angelo Pizzo, moreover, has two classic sports dramas to his credit: 1986’s “Hoosiers” (long-shot high school upstarts win Indiana basketball title) and “Rudy” from 1993 (pint-sized Notre Dame football player achieves a single, against-the-odds game appearance).

By contrast to the narrative surge that carried those films into the end zone, though, with “My All American,” Pizzo bogs down in maudlin sentiment. As a result, Freddie comes off as a bland and enigmatic figure.

If nothing else, Freddie understands his destiny from the start. As instilled in him by his ex-athlete father, “Big Fred” (Michael Reilly Burke), and devoted mother, Gloria (Robin Tunney), his fate clearly awaits on the gridiron.

High school flirtation with girlfriend Linda Wheeler (Sarah Bolger) moves swiftly into a chaste and supportive college relationship. “You don’t need to like football to like Freddie,” one of her friends advises Linda. “You just need a pulse.”

Steinmark dreams of playing at Notre Dame or the University of Colorado, but eventually gets a scholarship offer from Royal, which then makes him long to defeat the Fighting Irish.

Christian faith is downplayed in favor of characters who speak of fulfilling their lives. Though Freddie is shown in prayer at moments of crisis — after his roommate’s brother is killed in Vietnam and after his own diagnosis — the depth of his apparently signal religious commitment is not plumbed.

The film contains a single instance each of crude and crass language. The Catholic News Service classification is A-II — adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG — parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.

 

Jensen is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.

 

FILM OFFERS ‘RENEWED UNDERSTANDING’ OF MARY’S IMPORTANCE TO CHURCH

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (CNS) — A film director raised in Longmont is taking on Mary’s story with a new film in production in Hollywood.

“She was the first one to say ‘Yes’ to Christ, to take on this whole idea of being the Mother of all of us. It’s all about that encounter, that first time you met Christ. It’s different for everybody,” said Andrew Hyatt, writer and director.

“A lot of this film is a reflection on this moment, how that has carried out to help us all to remember that moment, why did we end up here as Catholics doing what we’re doing,” he told The Colorado Catholic Herald, newspaper of the Colorado Springs Diocese. “We made a choice to say ‘Yes’ to Christ, just like Mary did.”

The film, “Full of Grace,” wrapped production Nov. 7. It is a film Hyatt says gets back to the roots and simplicity of the Church, referring to Pope Francis’ words of getting back to the basics. It also gets back to the roots of Hollywood and filmmaking.

“Ours is the first biblical-era film to shoot in Southern California since ‘The Ten Commandments,’” Hyatt said.

Outside da Box, in association with Justin Bell Productions and ReKon Productions, started filming “Full of Grace” Oct. 27. The film uses authentic casting, with many Middle Eastern actors in its principal character roles.

“It’s a really intimate reflection on Mary a good decade or so after Jesus’ death and resurrection,” said Eric Groth, executive producer for Outside da Box, a not-for-profit film company of 12 years based outside of Chicago. The company has filmed at least 120 short movies for religious education across the country.

While Scripture did not detail many of the final years of Mary’s life, the film seeks to fill in the gaps by imagining what likely would have been her associations prior to her assumption into heaven. It is, filmmakers said, an exploration of the years after Christ’s resurrection and follows the life of his mother, Mary of Nazareth, in her final earthly hours.

In a statement, the film company described it this way: “The followers of Jesus, his disciples, have spent a decade traveling the world telling everyone about what happened to their lives after meeting Christ. Challenged by life and circumstances, they have returned to say their final goodbyes to a woman who would be revered as the mother of God. Mary challenges and encourages these men to see reality in a dramatic new way.”

“In the film we wanted to tell a beautiful story where we can continue to reflect on her role in the church, and on her as the Blessed Mother,” Groth said. After Jesus had died and rose, he said, “the apostles wanted to stay connected to her. We really wanted to continue on that story and imagine what it would have been like for Mary to be reminding the apostles of their first call.”

“She’s one of the most well-known, remarkable women in history,” Hyatt said. “No one’s ever talked about her last days on earth. It’s kind of this beautiful, reflective way of looking back on her life, on her imparting wisdom to a few of the apostles who show up to say their goodbyes. It’s going to be something very new. We hope that people receive it well.”

Hyatt, who went to Regis Jesuit High School in the Denver suburb of Aurora, has been in the film industry for nearly 14 years. He attended film school in Los Angeles and worked in film development for nine years with Mpower Pictures, founded by Steve McEveety of “The Passion of the Christ” and “Braveheart” fame.

Hyatt was reminded by his wife that he went to the West Coast to write and he should give that a shot again, he said.

“I’m Catholic and very much committed to my faith, but my stuff tends to be psychological thrillers. Some films are dark, but there’s a certain truth to them that comes to be,” he said. Hyatt was approached by Outside da Box for this film.

“Then we said, ‘Let’s make something beautiful, and artistic and done in a very different way.’ It just happens to be a Bible story,” Hyatt said. “We were very clear with financiers. We said, ‘If we’re going to do this, we’re going to tell a story that’s never been told, we’re going to do something unique. It is going to feel like an art house film.’ The financier and producer signed off.”

Where many biblical-era films shoot in other countries, the producers opted to use local crews and talent to depict the first-century world. It’s a way to recapture the spirit of old Hollywood, Hyatt said.

The film was shot in locations such as Los Angeles’ Bronson Caves, of “Batman” fame, and Malibu Creek State Park, the backdrop of “M*A*S*H” and other film productions.

“I hope our audiences sees it’s an artistic film and has a renewed love for the Lord and a renewed understanding of how important Mary’s role is in the church, how important she can be on a personal level,” Hyatt said. “Also an understanding of the human experience of the apostles and how they pursued that.

“We want to explore from a human level, and as we tell stories about this and about these other saints that these people weren’t born with a halo on themselves. These people were called and had to live that out … in the culture they lived in.”

 

Basquez writes for The Colorado Catholic Herald, newspaper of the Diocese of Colorado Springs.