In this month's faith & family media news, the story of an Italian nun hits American theaters; the MovieGuide Awards announces hosts; and an acclaimed faith-centric film gets a prequel series.
Cabrini Lands on International Women's Day
On March 8, International Women's Day, Angel Studios, the distributor behind The Chosen, His Only Son, The Shift and Sound of Freedom, releases Cabrini, the new film from Sound of Freedom director Alejandro Monteverde. Here's how Angel describes it:
From Alejandro Monteverde, award-winning director of 𝘚𝘰𝘶𝘯𝘥 𝘰𝘧 𝘍𝘳𝘦𝘦𝘥𝘰𝘮, comes the powerful epic of Francesca Cabrini, an Italian immigrant who arrives in New York City in 1889 and is greeted by disease, crime, and impoverished children. Cabrini sets off on a daring mission to convince the hostile mayor to secure housing and healthcare for society's most vulnerable. With broken English and poor health, Cabrini builds an empire of hope unlike anything the world had ever seen
What that synopsis doesn't mention is that Cabrini (played by Italian actress Cristiana Dell'Anna) was a Catholic religious sister and founder of the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
She came to the U.S. from Italy. In the face of religious and ethnic bigotry, she founded orphanages, hospitals and more -- and eventually became a naturalized American.
In 1946, almost 30 years after her death in 1917, at the age of 67, Mother Cabrini, as she was popularly known, became the first U.S. citizen to be canonized a saint.
Lush and operatic, Cabrini implies the saint's deep faith rather than leaning heavily into it. Monteverde, who co-created the story with writer Rod Barr, expands more upon themes of the hostility to immigrants, specifically Italians, and to Mother Cabrini as a woman in a man's world.
The institutional Church isn't exactly Mother Cabrini's stalwart champion in this story, but neither is it her chief opposition. Mother Cabrini was small and sickly, but she was a force of nature. Few appreciated her determination and ability when first encountering her ... let alone in Gilded Age New York City.
Click here to learn more and find showtimes/tickets in your area.
MovieGuide Awards Come to Great American Family Channel
The 31st Annual MovieGuide Awards Gala takes place Friday, Feb. 9, at the Avalon Theatre in Hollywood. The event then airs on Thursday, March 7, exclusively on Great American Family, the up-and-coming rival to Hallmark Channel (and founded by former Hallmark chief Bill Abbott).
Former Hallmark, and current GAF, stars Danica McKellar and Trevor Donovan have been named as hosts for the event, which honors values-driven and family-friendly TV and movies.
The event will honor the Best 2023 Movies for Mature Audiences, the Epiphany Prizes for the Most Inspiring Movie and Television Program, The Faith & Freedom Awards for Movies and Television, and the Grace Awards for Most Inspiring Performance in Movies and Television. The ceremony will be broadcast on Great American Family later this spring.
“Last year we saw a lot of strong and inspiring films and TV on the big screen and in the comfort of your living room, and we are excited to celebrate various bodies of work and talent,” says Robby Baehr, Movieguide CEO. “To then be able to have the Awards Show broadcast on Great American Family is icing on the cake. We all share aligned visions to inspire and bring home to viewers, so this partnership is a perfect synergy.”
The Deadline link also includes all the nominees, but here are the hopefuls for the Epiphany Prizes for the Most Inspiring Movie and Television Program:
EPIPHANY PRIZE MOVIES
- AFTER DEATH
- BIG GEORGE FOREMAN
- JESUS REVOLUTION
- JOURNEY TO BETHLEHEM
- ON A WING AND A PRAYER
EPIPHANY PRIZE TELEVISION
- A CHRISTMAS BLESSING
- DIVINE INFLUENCER
- MURF THE SURF: JEWELS, JESUS AND MAYHEM IN THE USA: Episodes 1.1-1.4
- A PARIS CHRISTMAS WALTZ
- A THOUSAND TOMORROWS: Episode 1.3
The Book of Eli Gets a Prequel With John Boyega
British actor John Boyega -- born in London to Nigerian immigrants, including a father who was a Pentecostal preacher -- has signed on to be star and executive producer of The Book of Eli, a TV-series prequel to the 2010 film of the same name.
The original starred Denzel Washington as Eli, a man wandering a post-nuclear-apocalypse landscape, protecting a sacred book with the power to save mankind (hint: it's a Bible, but exactly not a standard-issue one).
From an exclusive report in Deadline.com:
Boyega will play younger version of Washington’s Eli in the project, which hails from the movie’s writer, Gary Whitta, creator/writer/executive producer of the potential series, and its directors, the Hughes brothers, who executive produce. The film’s producer Alcon Entertainment is the studio on the TV project, which is about to be taken out to select premium buyers, I hear.
There aren't many more details about the project, but Deadline hears that it is set 30 years before the film, which would put it around the time of the apocalyptic nuclear event.
Boyega first gained prominence in America in 2015, for his role as Finn in Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens, and its sequels, The Last Jedi (2017) and The Rise of Skywalker (2019). He's also appeared in The Woman King (2022) and the sci-fi/comedy/mystery Netflix film They Cloned Tyrone (2023).
Boyega has apparently also kept the faith he was raised in. From Jamaica-Gleaner.com:
Boyega – whose father, Samson Adegboyega, is a Pentecostal minister – says his belief in Jesus has meant he’s been able to avoid the pitfalls of celebrity.
Speaking to Radio Times magazine, he said: “I don’t drink. I was just raised by parents who never drank. It’s harder if you’re a big party person before you’re famous because when the fame comes, you don’t want to let go of that.”
The Pacific Rim: Uprising star has also used his faith to help him navigate his way through his movie career.
He claimed that his religion has been the key to keeping him humble and as the person his friends and family know and love.
Boyega added: “I come from a family that has strong faith ... You realise this life is fleeting and inner peace is the most important thing, and my path is definitely prayer and I meditate as well. Money and fame aren’t that powerful to me to change my personality.”
If you'd like to see the R-rated (for violence and language) original of The Book of Eli, it's available to stream on AMC+, or rent/buy on Amazon Prime Video. Here's a peek:
Image: (L-R) David Morse, Cristiana Dell'Anna in Cabrini/Angel Studios
Kate O’Hare, a longtime entertainment journalist, is Social Media Content Manager at Family Theater Productions.