November 18, 2016

Movie-making friars re-create message of Our Lady of Fatima

Franciscan of the Immaculate Brother Gabriel Cortes adjusts the veil of Marianne Cloutier, who is playing the part of Jacinta Marto, one of three shepherd children Our Lady of Fatima appeared to in Fatima, Portugal, in 1917. Watching from the left is Maria Siefker, who plays Lúcia dos Santos, and Marianne’s older sister, Maude Cloutier. (Photo by Katie Breidenbach)

Franciscan of the Immaculate Brother Gabriel Cortes adjusts the veil of Marianne Cloutier, who is playing the part of Jacinta Marto, one of three shepherd children Our Lady of Fatima appeared to in Fatima, Portugal, in 1917. Watching from the left is Maria Siefker, who plays Lúcia dos Santos, and Marianne’s older sister, Maude Cloutier. (Photo by Katie Breidenbach)

By Katie Breidenbach (Special to The Criterion)

MONROE COUNTY—A small helicopter-like drone follows three children dressed in the garb of the early 1900s as they run through a field on the outskirts of Bloomington. Adding to the incongruity of the spectacle, a gray-habited friar holds the drone’s remote control.

The friar behind the drone is Brother Didacus Maria Cortes of the Franciscans of the Immaculate. He and his fellow friar, Brother Gabriel Cortes, are using the latest video technology to re-create a story that is a century old.

“We’re heading into the 100-year anniversary of Our Lady of Fatima,” Brother Didacus explained, “and right now there are so many wars going on. And the answer to these wars is to go back to the message of Our Lady of Fatima.”

The friars who made the film live and minister from a friary adjacent to the Our Lady of the Redeemer Retreat Center in Monroe County.

In 1917, as World War I raged across Europe, the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to three shepherd children in Fatima, Portugal. She instructed them, and the world, to pray and make sacrifices for the conversion of sinners and the end of the war. During the preceding year, to prepare Lúcia dos Santos and her cousins, Jacinta and Francisco Marto for this message, an angel calling himself “the Angel of Peace” appeared to the children three times and taught them how to pray.

The friars are re-creating these three angelic visits, with the accompanying call to prayer and penance, for a 15-minute film.

“Part of the charism of our order, the Franciscans of the Immaculate, is to make use and to harness the media to convey and to explain the mysteries of the faith,” related Brother Gabriel.

The two friars, who are actually brothers by blood as well as vocation, have regularly produced short videos for their website, www.AirMaria.com. Their vision for this production, however, required seven days of filming using gear that would impress any movie guru: a professional-grade photography drone, 4K video cameras, a video slider, a camera “jib” (or crane, in layman’s terms) and a blue screen. To reproduce the Angel of Peace, Brothers Didacus and Gabriel plan to create an angel entirely through computer generated imagery, or CGI.

“We have the latest technology at our disposal,” Brother Gabriel said. “So we can make use of CGI to try and replicate, to some extent, the miraculous.”

The brothers are collaborating with Susan Mackewich, a Catholic filmmaker based in New York City. She and her husband Brian own BAM Media Services Inc., and have been making movies for more than three decades.

“We’re hoping the film will be an inspiration to young people to think about Fatima and the miraculous things they can do every day,” Mackewich told The Criterion. “The little sacrifices that these children did helped to bring an end to the first World War. If anyone can bring around God’s heart, it can be children.”

The three young shepherds are being portrayed by members of local Catholic families, all making their on-screen debuts.

The two youngest, Ollie Hill, a member of St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Bedford, and Marianne Cloutier, a member of St. John the Apostle Parish in Bloomington, are both 8 years old and play Francisco and Jacinta Marto. They describe the experience as “painful.” The scenes require them to lay prostrate for long periods of time, and to kneel on stony ground. Often, the action has to be repeated a dozen times for the camera to capture the perfect take.

“At first, my knees were kind of hurting, because the stones made marks on them,” explained St. John the Apostle parishioner Maria Siefker, 11, who plays Lúcia dos Santos. “But of course, Lúcia and Francisco and Jacinta did a lot more.”

Many other Bloomington residents also rallied to support the production. Upon learning that the sprawling grounds of the local quarry, Bloomington Crushed Stone, was strikingly similar to Portugal, the management, Rogers Group, Inc., gave the friars free use of the space and rearranged 24-ton scenery at no charge. A local store, Thompson Furniture, Inc., allowed the brothers to use a full-sized van for a week to transport equipment.

The families of the actors remained on set for most of the seven days of filming to help assemble and arrange gear.

Mackewich hopes that the support surrounding the short film is a sign of what is to come. She wants the friars to create a feature-length movie about Fatima’s Marian apparitions.

“My hope is that someone will be inspired to ask the friars to complete the entire feature, so that we can show the apparitions of Our Lady,” Mackewich said.

Brothers Didacus and Gabriel successfully captured all the live-action footage in Monroe County recently. Next, the film will be sent to professional studios for editing, animation and sound design. The friars hope to have the final product posted to their website, AirMaria.com, by Christmas.
 

(Katie Breidenbach is a freelance writer in Bloomington. To see a behind-the-scenes video and other photos that accompany this story, go to www.thinginapot.com/friars-fatima.)

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