FATIMA, starring Joaquim de Almeida, Goran Visnjic, Stephanie Gil, Alejandra Howard, Jorge Lamelas, Lúcia Moniz, Marco D’Almeida, Joana Ribeiro, Carla Chambel, Elmano Sancho, Joāo D’Ávila, Iris Cayatte, Joāo Arrais, Simāo Cayatte with Sónia Braga, Harvey Keitel and directed by Marco Pontecorvo, is an uplifting story of faith that restores hope for the Catholic people of Portugal during a historic time period.
FATIMA, set in Fatima, Portugal circa 1917 surrounds Lucia dos Santos, a 10-year-old shepherd, and her two younger cousins, Francisco and Jacinta Marto, as they see apparitions of the Virgin Mary. Their reports of seeing the Virgin become controversial as the Catholic Church officials and the secular government don’t believe their word to be true. The church not only questions their visions but also goes as far as trying to convince the children to recant their story. However, Lucia, Francisco, and Jacinta stick to their truth as they continue to receive messages from the Virgin Mary. Heartbreak ensues when Lucia’s very own mother, Maria Rosa refuses to believe her. Maria struggles to believe her daughter’s revelations as her son still has not returned to safety from the ongoing war that has caused countless casualties to their community. Maria places her fear and frustrations on Lucia and quickly becomes desperate for hope that her son is still alive.
Lucia Moniz, who plays the distraught mother, discusses why it was so difficult for her character to believe her daughter. She says that claiming to have seen the Virgin is a sin. She believes God will punish them by not bringing her son back to them. She elaborates by saying her overall image in the town is hindered when her daughter starts to speak out about what she saw.
“She was a very well known person in the village. She was probably the only woman in the village who could read and write so she was a big inspiration for the community and looked up to and then suddenly this happens and what are people going to think about me? I have a crazy daughter,” said Moniz. “Automatically she is full of things to worry about and this struggling about her son… She automatically thinks more of her self than actually, what is her daughter going through?”
She says how Maria Rosa judges her daughter and tells her to ‘stop lying’ versus trying to understand her, leading them to an intense scene where Maria slaps Lucia. Moniz reveals this was the very first scene she and Stephanie Gil had together. Gil talks about the experience fondly saying that they used a specialist on set to learn how to perfect the emotional scene which then led the pair to get close in real life, shortly after.
“I feel like that scene is really what made us connect,” said Gil. “It started off really emotional… and I was supporting her… But in real life, Lucia is a wonderful person and a wonderful actress… We ate together, we spent time together, she’s great.”
As time goes on in the film and the children’s faith continues to remain strong, they inspire tens of thousands of religious pilgrims to flock to the site in hopes of witnessing what became known as The Miracle Of The Sun.
Director, Marco Pontecorvo, outdid himself in one of the last scenes of the film as he visually captures the symbolism behind the sun finally shining down on the town of Fatima after months of gloom. The hundreds of pilgrims all look in the same direction for the first time in the film, representing hope being restored. However, this moment was not an easy undertaking. The cast describes the complexity of shooting while trying to simulate rain turning to sunshine, with hundreds of extras on set.
“They weren’t easy. There were so many people on the set everyday, then we had to have rain because before the sun, there was rain and we all were wet… Then it was sunny, we were hot as hell,” said Joaquim de Almeida. “That ‘miracle’ by itself could have been a film… I’m telling you, it wasn’t easy.”
Despite any filming challenges, Goran Visnjic speaks fondly of Pontecorvo and his creativity throughout the process, looking back. He opens up about the importance of releasing a film that invokes a feeling of faith and positivity during our current COVID-19, global pandemic crisis.
“I really hope audiences are going to realize in the end, that the message they receive from the Virgin Mary is a message of love and ya know, tolerance… To be more respectful toward other people, other creatures, and everything… It’s as simple as that.”
Picturehouse will release FATIMA in theaters and on-demand on August 28th, 2020.