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'FREE': A Retreat Experience Watching the Documentary About Monks and Nuns

, | October 30, 2023 | By

Cinema can, at times, offer pure entertainment, an escape from our normal lives through story, action, adventure, romance, or drama.

Great films offer even more. They draw us into the experience of people, places, and situations that are not part of our usual lives. The journey through sound and image leads us to a different place from where we began.

What Is FREE About?

Coming this week is the Spanish documentary film, FREE (LIBRES), releasing November 2, as a Fathom Event in theaters around the country. It offers an experience of contemplative life.

Director Santos Blancos gained unprecedented access to daily lives and personal interviews with vowed monks and nuns, members of cloistered monasteries.

They live and work in settings set apart for silence, prayer, work, and study, amid a community of others. This is not exactly a common lifestyle choice in the world today.

Ancient Wisdom on the Nature of Freedom

However, as subjects speak of their past lives, call to religious life, desire for God, doubts, and community life, a universal wisdom emerges that touches the heart, even of those living active lives very much “in the world.”

Moreover, the lives of the monks and nuns reveal an interior freedom, that many folks long for today.

The Effect of Watching a Film About Contemplative Life

The film invites viewers to watch with full attention, to take in the contemplative flow of images, interspersed with dialogue. The film felt like a faith retreat.

As the end credits rolled, the audience in the screening room remained silent, needing time to emerge from the film, as though walking down the long exit drive to a cloistered monastery.

FREE was produced in Spanish, with English subtitles. At times, I was torn between focusing on the rich visuals and the text on screen.

Hence the need to really give the film full attention, the kind of attention that comes easier in a theater.

Find out if FREE is screening near you and get tickets here.


Image: Courtesy Bosco Films

Father David L. Guffey, C.S.C., is the National Director and Head of Production for Family Theater Productions.

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