.- Oscar-nominated film director Roland Joffe describes himself as a âwobbly agnostic.â âThereâs easy atheism, thereâs easy agnosticism, and thereâs easy faith,â he explained during a Sept. 9 phone interview with The Southern Cross. âBecause I have a curious mind, Iâve never been able to take â¦ a totally easy path.â
Still, Joffe admits that he finds âimmense beautyâ and âimmense truthsâ in religion. He also sees no conflict between his agnosticism and his latest film project, âThere Be Dragons.â
The film is based on the life of St. Josemaria Escriva de Balaguer, a Spanish priest who founded the lay Catholic movement known as Opus Dei. The film will be released in theaters in Spring 2011.
âJust because Iâm agnostic, I would be a fool if I dismissed somebody because he was a saint,â Joffe said. He added that he actually finds himself steered in the opposite direction, convinced that âthings of great interest to every human beingâ are bound to be discovered in the life of âa hero of the Church.â
Written and directed by Joffe, âThere Be Dragonsâ is not the first time the British filmmaker has explored religious territory. His 1986 directorial effort, âThe Mission,â starred Robert De Niro and Jeremy Irons as Jesuits in 18th-century Latin America.
Nine years after its release, âThe Missionâ was included in a Vatican-compiled list of 45 âgreat films.â The film also won the Golden Palm at the Cannes Film Festival and earned Joffe his second Academy Award nomination for best director. He had previously been nominated two years earlier for 1984âs âThe Killing Fields.â
Joffeâs latest film, âThere Be Dragons,â is set during the Spanish Civil War of the mid- to late 1930s, a period the director describes as âthe seminal moment in Josemariaâs life.â Joffe said the film expresses the Spanish saintâs deeply held belief that God can be found in everyday life â even during a civil war â and that everyone can be a saint.
âThere Be Dragonsâ is not intended to be the cinematic equivalent of a âposterâ or âuserâs manualâ for Opus Dei, Joffe said. But viewers also should not expect a retread of the lurid conspiracy theories propagated by âThe Da Vinci Codeâ and its film adaptation.
âI think Dan Brown (the author of âThe Da Vinci Codeâ) misused Opus Dei â¦ in a rather unpardonable way,â Joffe said. âI hope, in some ways, this movie will set the balance straight, but thatâs not the objective of the movie. I just think itâs maybe a byproduct.â
While âThere Be Dragonsâ would seem to have built-in appeal for Catholic viewers, Joffe believes that it will speak to a much larger audience, including those who do not believe in God or subscribe to any particular faith. He revealed that an atheist character, who figures prominently in the film, is shown to experience âa profoundly religious moment.â
âI think thereâs going to be much to find, because thereâs all of life expressed in this movie,â Joffe said. âI think Catholics and other religious people, and agnostics and atheists alike will find the human experience there, very clearly and rather beautifully expressed by the actors.â
Printed with permission from the Southern Cross, newspaper for the Diocese of San Diego.