A man is in church, praying. His words ring loudly in his head.
God, what have I done?
The woman is in church, doing the same.
I can’t forgive Mark, I just want to forget about him.
This pivotal scene, shot inside Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church in La Habra, comes near the end of a short film, “Our Rose Garden,” that is racking up awards on the faith and independent film circuit.
An examination of love, fidelity and the power of forgiveness, the 26-minute film depicts the stories of two married couples, one struggling with infidelity and the other fighting mental illness.
A husband-and-wife team who live in Orange made “Our Rose Garden.”
Ligia Maria Storrs Rojas and her husband, Justin Storrs, are passionate about making films to help people—Catholics and otherwise—be the best versions of themselves and to better understand God’s love.
“I’m a storyteller,” said Maria Storrs, who grew up in Colombia and met her husband, who is from Vermont, on CatholicMatch.com. They will celebrate their fourth anniversary this December and have two young children, a 2-year-old daughter and a 14-month-old son.
Maria Storrs has been passionate about filmmaking since her teens.
“I prayed to God to help me tell stories to understand His love,” said Maria, who comes from a family of farmers.
Maria got her husband interested in filmmaking after they met. Justin Storrs, 41, co-wrote the screenplay of “Our Rose Garden.” Maria directed the film. The couple financed the movie themselves, with some donations.
Both are lifelong Catholics who attend Christ Cathedral in Garden Grove and St. Cecilia in Tustin.
Maria, 37, served as a Catholic missionary for eight years in Europe, an experience she says fueled her desire to tells stories via film even more.
“God created every soul for something,” she said, “and he created mine to tell stories.”
The making of “Our Rose Garden,” shot entirely in Orange County with L.A.-based actors, took three years. The short film, which features an original track of salsa music, made its worldwide premier in early May in Orlando, Fla., where it won Honorable Mention for Best Short Film at the International Christian Film and Music Festival.
Most recently, “Our Rose Garden” was named Best Faith Film at the Long Beach Indie International Film Festival 2018.
The inspiration for “Our Rose Garden” came from couples the Storrs know.
Justin Storrs, who works full time as a financial wellness expert, said the aim of the movie is to underscore the importance of working through issues with the person with which we choose to spend the rest of our lives.
“Forgiveness is not only something you do for the other person, but you also do it for yourself,” said Maria, who lived in Italy for eight years before moving to Los Angeles in 2012. “That allows you to become a better version of yourself.”
Said Justin: “Love is a decision we all make, a choice. Too often, people become prisoners of how they’re feeling at the moment.”
His point: It may take a long time to get over being badly hurt by someone, but couples who stick things out of love for each other tend to have stronger marriages years later.
Maria and Justin currently are working on a feature film, “All Things Are Possible,” which tells three intertwined stories featuring characters that share a passion for cooking.
One plot focuses on two immigrant sisters from El Salvador; the other is about an expecting mother whose baby has Down syndrome; and the third story revolves around a man with Down syndrome who is looking for a job to support his family.
The Storrs have completed a first draft of the script and are looking for financing.
Based on the accolades “Our Rose Garden” is getting, that goal may not be too far off for Storrs Production, the name of their film production company.
Maria has a master’s degree in Film and Television Writing and Production from the Catholic University of Milan. She also completed a certificate in cinematography at UCLA Extension, and has been trained in the story-editing department at the Italian production company Lux Vide.
Maria has two favorite Bible passages that reflect her passion for storytelling and acting.
One reflects her philosophy of allowing yourself to be led by the Holy Spirit, who often surprises you, as Maria sees it:
“The wind blows where it pleases; you can hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
Another passage, she said, has taught her about acting – that what comes out from the inside is what counts:
Nothing outside a person can defile them by going into them. Rather, it is what comes out of a person that defiles them.”
(Mark 7: 15)
For more information about “Our Rose Garden,” visit storrsproductions.com/ourrosegarden.