We're still waiting for the big-budget Hollywood rendition of Our Lady of Guadalupe, but it remains one of the most amazing stories in Christendom.
Arrayed in the dress of an Aztec princess, the Virgin Mary appeared more than once to 57-year-old Juan Diego, a simple farmer and laborer in Mexico, starting on the morning of Dec. 9, 1531, on the site of a former Aztec temple. She urged him to tell his bishop that a shrine be built on the site.
The bishop was understandably skeptical and asked for a sign. A relative’s illness derailed Juan Diego’s plans, but Mary found him again. This time, she sent him in search of blooming roses, out of season in December. But he found them, gathered them into his rough cloak, his tilma, woven from cactus fibers.
Reaching the bishop, Juan Diego opened the tilma and let the roses spill out. To everyone’s astonishment, this also revealed the image in the photo above and at right, which was imprinted directly on the tilma. In 2002, Saint Pope John Paul II canonized Juan Diego, making him the first Catholic indigenous saint from the Americas.
Although a bunch of showbiz A-listers haven’t yet tackled this story (it ends with increasing faith instead of doubt and apostasy, so that may explain why they’re not interested), it may yet wind up on the big screen.
In 2017, famed screenwriter Joe Esterhaus (Basic Instinct, Jagged Edge) sold an original screenplay about Our Lady of Guadalupe to Roma Downey and Mark Burnett's LightWorkers Media.
The thought about writing a screenplay about Our Lady of Guadalupe came to him 14 years ago during what he calls his life-changing “Christian conversion.” The screenwriter would later write a book entitled Crossbearer to share his story about that moment sitting on the curb in his cul-de-sac in 2001, at his wits end after battling cancer and addiction. A man who was once the highest-paid screenwriter in Hollywood with a wild lifestyle was now feeling defeated, and found himself begging God for help. That’s when something other-worldly happened.
When he regained his health, Eszterhas traveled to Mexico City to do research and to pray to Our Lady of Guadalupe to help him become a messenger for God. The end result is the spec script that Lightworkers just picked up.
Eszterhas told Deadline that his wife, Naomi, inspired to write the script about the Blessed Mother as she herself, felt a closeness to her.
While we're waiting to see if this comes to fruition, there are other versions of the story, both scripted and documentary.
Here’s a sampling:
“Guadalupe” (2006): As described at the IMDB:
Jose Maria and his sister Mercedes are archaeologists who have been given a grant to study the story of Our Lady of Guadalupe, whom Juan Diego, an ordinary man living near the hill of Tepeyac, witnessed in December 1531.
A commenter noted:
A troubled family in Spain, an American archaeologist and others are drawn to Mexico by the story of the Virgin of Guadalupe. These 20th century ‘pilgrims’ are drawn together and helped in much the same way the Virgin of Guadalupe drew the Spanish and the Mexica together in the 16th century to form a new race, the Mexicans, A gentle dramatization of St. Juan Diego’s vision of the Virgin Mary on Tepayac Hill in 1531 is interwoven with the modern action and is appropriately spoken in Nahuatl.
Click here to learn more.
“The Blood & the Rose” (2013): From the IMDB:
The Blood and the Rose is the story of damnation and salvation, and of a divine miracle of unity and devotion that brought hope and transformed a continent. The Virgin of Guadalupe appeared to Juan Diego. He was an ordinary man who was an extraordinary messenger of faith. A people were converted and our world was changed. This eternal struggle is the battle for our souls.
Catholic star Eduardo Verastegui narrates this documentary. Here’s the description from the official site:
A feature-length theatrical documentary shot on location in Mexico and Spain, The Blood & The Rose offers riveting interviews with top experts in the fields of science, history and theology, exploring the mystery of St. Juan Diego’s Tilma and the miraculous image that it bears. More than just a story about a distant event, The Blood & The Rose is an invitation and a calling to emulate St. Juan Diego in our own day, carrying the message of the Virgin of Guadalupe – Patroness of the Americas and Patroness of Life – into the culture in which we live.
The DVD can also be bought from Ignatius Press.
“Guadalupe: The Miracle and the Message” (2015): A TV special produced by the Knights of Columbus. From the press release:
“The message of Our Lady of Guadalupe helped to build bridges between cultures and worlds and began the transformation of our continent into a Christian continent of hope,” said Supreme Knight Carl Anderson, executive producer of the film. “The apparition helped to unite the entire continent in a way that didn’t exist before. Through her intercession, then and now, those throughout this hemisphere have found a deep and shared sense of faith, hope and identity.”
The image itself has long been puzzling to the scientific community, since it has been shown to exist without having been painted, has survived despite extreme age, adverse conditions and a bombing. The image also exhibits features reminiscent of photographs, such as reflections in the image’s eyes, even though it appeared hundreds of years before photography.
Guadalupe: The Miracle and the Message brings this remarkable history to life through modern reenactments and 3D animations, which allow viewers an unprecedented glimpse into the intricacies of the centuries-old wonder, and interviews with leading theologians, historians and scientists.
The film also dispels popular myths, including that the image’s impact does not extend past Mexico’s border.
Click here to buy the film.
As a bonus, check out “For Greater Glory,” a 2012 feature film, starring Andy Garcia, set during the Cristero War (1926-1929), in which the Catholics of Mexico fought back against their repressive atheistic government. The rebels frequently fought under flags featuring the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
Kate O’Hare, a longtime entertainment journalist, is Social Media Manager at Family Theater Productions.