Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of May 28, 2007
God's hand touched actor, film
That film – Bella – won Toronto Film Festival's People's Choice Award
By DEBORAH GYAPONG
"This guy's the Brad Pitt of Mexico."
- Leo Severino
"It broke my heart," the actor told the annual Rose Dinner in Ottawa May 10, following the annual March for Life in Ottawa.
"I realized I had offended God."
He said he spent "many months in tears."
Deeply influenced by Scott and Kimberly Hahn's Rome Sweet Home, Verastegui sold his possessions, wondering if God was calling him to be a priest, perhaps in the jungles of South America. His spiritual advisor, however, told him: "Hollywood is a bigger jungle."
He vowed to refuse parts unless they affirmed life and human dignity. For three years he went without work because all the parts offered him involved the "same negative stereotypes."
"We are not called to be successful, we are called to be faithful," Verastegui said.
"I wasn't born to be famous, or rich, I was born to know and love and serve our Lord Jesus Christ."
Then in 2004, he met movie producer Leo Severino while attending daily Mass.
Severino, who also spoke at the dinner, returned to the Catholic faith in 1999 through reading Christian apologetics. He began attending daily Mass, but he found most of the other churchgoers were "grey hairs cramming for their final exam."
Younger Christians like himself were scarce in the mostly anti-religious world of Hollywood.
Then one day he noticed another young man who was standing next to a life-sized statue of Jesus, his hand on the Sacred Heart, his head bowed in prayer.
Severino soon discovered, "This guy's the Brad Pitt of Mexico."
"Art and morality go hand in hand."
- Eduardo Verastegui
Not long after their meeting, Verastegui and Severino co-founded Metanoia films with some like-minded people who had also gained their movie-making and acting chops in Hollywood.
They intend to produce movies that could change lives and hearts. Bella is Metanoia's first.
Set for release in selected U.S. cities in August, Bella won the coveted People's Choice Award at the Toronto Film Festival last fall. This festival rivals Cannes in size and star power.
The award began opening doors for the film, though Metanoia still needs to find a distributor for wide release.
Severino said the media, especially film and television, are "shaping our culture." He noted how the movie Million Dollar Baby promoted euthanasia and Cider House Rules glorified abortion. Natural Born Killers influenced the Virginia Tech shooter, he said.
"Art and morality go hand in hand," he said, urging the many young people present to guard their eyes and ears and their innocence.
"God does not use evil means," he said.
Rose Dinner attendees were invited to screen Bella. Many leapt to their feet, tears in their eyes, as the credits rolled.
The lean script co-written by director and Metanoia co-founder Alejandro Monteverde contains nothing overtly religious or preachy. With strong performances from Verastegui and female lead Tammy Blanchard, the movie affirms life and family in ways Metanoia Films hopes will appeal to a general audience.
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