A movie in which the sword-fighting hero dallies with the ladies and acquires great power before receiving a grave battle wound and new lease on life could only be the stuff of a modern-day imagination. Or it could be “Ignacio: Sinner Yet Called,” a feature film about the 16th-century Spaniard who journeyed from soldier and sinner to spiritual teacher and sainthood.
The Philippines-based film producers of “Ignacio” are trying to get the movie funded – now.
A recent crowd-funding IndieGoGo campaign fell short of the $140,000 goal – it raised only $6,312 – but the film’s creators at Jesuit Communications (JesCom) Philippines are unyielding: They’re launching another crowd-funding campaign soon.
JesCom Philippines’ primary goal? To reach young people with St. Ignatius’ life-affirming story. The only way to do that? By using a Hollywood tactic: Make a movie.
JesCom Philippines produces TV and feature-length films to evangelize and educate. “Ignacio,” which the team hopes to bring to market next summer, is its most ambitious venture, says the Rev. Emmanuel Alfonso, SJ, executive director of JesCom Philippines.
“Young people now are very creative and are very visual. If you want to talk to them, you must engage them in media,” Alfonso says in a 6-minute promotional video posted at Vimeo, the video-sharing website (and embedded above). “We simply want to reach out to the youth [who are] the hope and the future of this world and be part of their formation.”
St. Ignatius, canonized by Pope Gregory XV in 1622, is credited with bringing the practice of discernment to the Catholic faith, Alfonso said in an interview from his Quezon City, Philippines, office. JesCom’s mission – in the Philippines and elsewhere – is to encourage people to live closer to God. Sharing St. Ignatius’ story helps do that, he said.
“There’s an art, or science, to decision-making for us Christians,” said Alfonso. “That’s what St. Ignatius popularized.”
St. Ignatius wrote the “Spiritual Exercises,” a thin volume of meditations and exercises for following Jesus’ teachings that’s still used in Catholic retreat settings today. He founded the Society of Jesus, known as the Jesuit order.
“You know the book ‘The Purpose Driven Life’ by Rick Warren? Ignatius wrote something like that during his time, but of course it was shorter and drier,” said a smiling Alfonso in a recent video phone interview.
No movies about St. Ignatius have been made since the black-and-white Spanish film, “El Capitan de Loyola,” in the 1940s. And of course, Francis’ status as the first Jesuit pope has brought quizzical attention to the order, said Alfonso, who believes the movie will see its premiere next summer.
If JesCom Philippines can get the movie made, it’ll likely be successful – at least within its own Catholic ranks, according to Phil Contrino, chief analyst at BoxOffice.com, which tracks movie sales and data.
“Every population section wants something that speaks to them,” said Contrino, noting filmmakers such as JesCom Philippines can make more movies with less funding because they cater to a captive audience.
“You don’t have to spend a lot of money on these movies,” Contrino said. “You just have to target the churches” to market it.
JesCom Philippines’ entire “Ignacio” budget is $675,000. They’re asking anyone who has ties to the Jesuit order – or who feels strongly about having St. Ignatius’ life shared in movie form – to help fund the project.
As JesCom Philippines continues its movie-funding efforts, they’ll need to talk up their movie on social media and work the grassroots nature of its campaign, according to Contrino.
“You just got to get out there and talk with as many people as you can, and encourage others to promote your movie,” he said. “To get donations, it’s a pure numbers game.”
St. Ignatius’ 16th century story remains relevant for our time, according to Chris Lowney, author of “Heroic Leadership” (Loyola Press, 2005), which looks at leadership from a Jesuit perspective, and “Pope Francis: Why He Leads the Way He Leads” (Loyola Press, 2013).
“We live in a world that’s drastically more complex and faster-changing than his world was … but one highly relevant thing he offers us is an approach to decision-making,” said Lowney, who noted that many people – especially teenagers – make big life decisions impulsively.
“How do you make choices in life? What things do you weigh? How do you quiet yourself and bring everything into play instead of making knee-jerk decisions?” he asked.
St. Ignatius’ “Spiritual Exercises” taught this. And without discernment, “we just don’t know how to make good life choices.”
The “Ignacio” script is written and most of the characters have been cast with Spanish actors. The Philippine production crew, led by film director Paolo Dy, has scouted production sites in Spain. They now await funding to finish the project.
“It’s a very ambitious project with a very wide scope,” Dy said in the promotional video.
But Alfonso insisted the movie will get made because it needs to be made.
“Especially now that the world has become very materialistic and secular, with people given to addictions, we need movies such as this,” he said. “The story of Ignatius can be a light – a guide to a healthier life.”
Jennifer Forker, MDiv, also writes for The Associated Press.