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New Film About Mother Cabrini ‘transformative,’ Director Says

Articles | January 29, 2024 | by Catholics for Catholics

By Francesca Pollio Fenton at Catholic News Agency

CNA Staff, Jan 28, 2024 / 06:00 am

Alejandro Monteverde, the director of last summer’s blockbuster “Sound of Freedom,” is back at it again — this time telling the inspiring story of the work Mother Cabrini undertook to protect impoverished children in New York City.

Monteverde’s new film, “Cabrini,” tells the true story of Francesca Cabrini — also known as St. Frances Xavier Cabrini — and will be released by Angel Studios on International Women’s Day, March 8. 

Cabrini” takes place in 1889 when hostility toward Italian immigrants ran high in New York. As an Italian immigrant, Cabrini was greeted by not only hostility but also crime, disease, and dangerous living conditions, especially for orphaned children. She and her religious sisters — of the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus — set out on the dangerous mission to provide housing and education for society’s most vulnerable.

Monteverde spoke with CNA about the impact that directing this movie had on him and why he felt it was important to share Cabrini’s powerful story.

The filmmaker admitted that he was not interested in making the movie when he was first contacted about it by his mentor, Eustace Wolfington, the executive producer of the film. 

“Before I read the script, I was already in my head saying, ‘I’m not going to do this movie,’” he shared. “I’m a practicing Catholic but I like to make movies that are very entertaining, and in my head I was like, ‘How could you make an entertaining movie about a nun?’” 

However, while reading the script, he said a line that Cabrini says spoke to him “very directly: “You can serve your witness. Or you can serve your purpose. You can’t serve both.” 

“Right there, she got me,” Monteverde said. “I was like, ‘Wow, this is a woman that speaks with conviction. With power.’”

Monteverde added: “I kept reading and realized that this was a universal story about a woman who happens to be a nun, who happens to be a saint, but what she was fighting for is something that can unite the entire world.”

"Cabrini" tells the true story of Francesca Cabrini, also known as St. Frances Xavier Cabrini, and will be released by Angel Studios on International Women’s Day, March 8, 2024. Credit: Angel Studios
“Cabrini” tells the true story of Francesca Cabrini, also known as St. Frances Xavier Cabrini, and will be released by Angel Studios on International Women’s Day, March 8, 2024. Credit: Angel Studios

The movie has a very pro-woman theme throughout its entirety. Monteverde explained that he wanted to “celebrate the power of a woman in the most iconic way, [and] what better way than the life of a saint because she will be celebrating the power of the true woman — the woman that lives for others, that cares for those who have no dignity.”

He explained that when many think of the word “power” they think of either being financially or politically powerful. However, for him, he said, he thinks of his mother. 

“She was an incredible mother to me and that requires great power,” he said. “For those who are mothers understand — motherhood is a powerful calling.”

Monteverde also pointed out the fact that Cabrini was the first woman to lead a mission overseas, one in which no men were involved.  

“So she found herself as an immigrant in a country that was completely controlled at that time by men,” he said. “So I knew that was going to be one of the biggest giants she was going to face. She was going to have to fight men as a woman, but not fight for herself.”

“That’s the beauty of the film. It was not a battle that she wanted to enrich herself. It was a battle to enrich others, but most importantly to enrich those [whom] I call the forgotten ones. And we have a lot of forgotten ones today,” Monteverde said.

The film’s release date happens to fall on International Women’s Day, March 8. The film was set to come out earlier, but the success of “Sound of Freedom” caused the release date of “Cabrini” to be pushed back. 

“I do think there was divine orchestration,” Monteverde told CNA. “Albert Einstein, in one of his last quotes, said, ‘God hides in the coincidences.’ So, it was a great coincidence that we were able to jump on that boat.”

Another “big connection” to “Cabrini” for the filmmaker was the fact that he too came to the U.S. as an immigrant — from Mexico.

“I also came here with nothing. I didn’t speak English. I didn’t have any money. I started, the typical cliche, I started washing dishes because you don’t need to speak English to wash a dish,” he shared. “I went to school, I educated myself, and it was a journey.”

Monteverde emphasized that “this movie is not about immigration because that’s political; this movie is about caring for the immigrant. And that’s a big difference.”

The film has already been screened several times and Monteverde shared that audiences have left with a “desire to fight whatever fight that they are currently going through.”

“I have heard so many people that leave inspired to go back and face things that they could have already given up,” he added.

“Movies don’t change the world, [but] movies can transform. This is a transformative film in many ways. It transforms people and the people are the ones that change the world.”

For the original Catholic News Agency article click here.


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