The director of “The Last Summit,” the documentary about the life of the Spanish priest and mountaineer, Fr. Pablo Dominguez, gave an interview to CNA’s sister news agency, ACI Prensa, in which he reflected on the reasons for the success of his movie. He confirmed that negotiations are under way for the film to be screened in Latin America, the Caribbean and the United States.
For Cotelo, the overwhelming response of the film's numerous viewers –many of whom are reporting how the movie caused them to have a conversion- “owes itself to the magnetism God has on any person.”
“If Fr. Pablo’s story is attractive,” the filmmaker said, “it's because the love of his life also is. The protagonist in Fr. Pablo’s story, and of the movie, is God. Among all the famous actors and actresses in the world, there isn’t a protagonist more attractive and attracting than God.”
The complete text of the interview can be found below:
ACI: How did the idea of filming “The Last Summit” come about?
Cotelo: Initially, it (the idea) came up against my will. At first, I resisted getting to know Fr. Pablo, but I met him at the insistence of a friend. I found him to be a joker, but also a profound, kind and caring man who immediately put himself in my service. Two weeks later, I found out that he had died. Then I began to find various coincidences between his life and mine. He was born in the same neighborhood as I was, but three days before me. We shared a love for the mountains. I think we were also united in the desire to present the love of God to ever kind of person or group in a friendly, attractive, simple, kind and optimistic manner. Because there is no other way of presenting the Gospel. And, bit by bit, as I found out more about him, I realized that the story of his life should be shared because it would be stimulating to anyone.
ACI: What is it about the life of Fr. Pablo Dominguez that attracts the attention of the public?
Cotelo: The marvelous efficiency that a coherent Christian can have. Above all, it emphasized his contagious joy and his contagious love for God and for mankind. Fr. Pablo is a tangible model, flesh and blood, who can be imitated. He is a model that shows you don’t have to do great things for your life to be fulfilling, and for the lives of those around you to be as well. The viewer sees all of this and is moved when they leave the theater, not just by what they have learned about Fr. Pablo’s life, but also by what they have discovered their life could be. The conversions of so many people who have seen this movie can only be explained in this way.
ACI: The movie was a box office success. To what do you attribute this?
Cotelo: There are a number of factors. In the first place, the personality of Fr. Pablo is itself very attractive. We all like to be acquainted with, and be around, good people, and Fr. Pablo is one such person. Because of this, the movie about his life attracts so many people, in the same way that his Masses were overflowing with people who wanted to hear him and to see him celebrate Mass. In the second place, the film’s success is a result of the people who leave the theater after seeing the movie and recommend it to others with enthusiasm. There is no better publicity than a living person you know who recommends something. The success doesn’t owe itself to “inert” publicity, nor to a strategic plan but rather to the live promotion that viewers have given it, in person or by means of the internet with their contacts, acquaintances, friends, and family. And thirdly, I would say that above all, it is because of the magnetism that God has to any person. If Fr. Pablo is attractive, it is because the love of his life also is. The protagonist of Fr. Pablo’s life, and also of the movie, is God. Among all the famous actors and actresses in the world, there isn’t a protagonist more attractive than God.
ACI: What is the importance of spreading an authentic priestly life, especially for the situation the Church is living in today?
Cotelo: The situation that the Church is living in today is identical to that which the first Christians lived. There is an insatiable desire for God in all people, and many try to satisfy it with substitutes that, sooner or later, leave them with a new appetite. There are plenty of vendors who act without remorse promising happiness with false products: health, money, professional success, travel, or a bigger bra size. Priests, today and always, can facilitate for people the access to the only thing that can calm the human heart: the unconditional love God has for every person … The authentic priestly life is the most transcendent mission that a person can have entrusted to them in their life: to bring God’s peace and love, the only guarantee of complete happiness, to people’s hearts. This mission will never expire, nor must it be reinvented every time the social circumstances change. That is why I don’t believe we need to lose a lot of time analyzing the “social situation.” Rather, we must put our hands to work loving those who need it, as Fr. Pablo did.
ACI: What are the principle problems you encountered in filming the movie?
Cotelo: I would be lying if I talked about external problems, because there were none. Not one. The only real problem was my own unwillingness to get to work on this film. After that, everything was easy. There wasn’t a day in which we didn’t learn, enjoy ourselves, and get excited about the amount of precious things that happen to us without us looking for them. This film has been the greatest gift for us, and for many people.
ACI: Bishop José Ignacio Munilla of San Sebastian said in an interview that the movie had the audacity to break myths and molds. Do you think this is the case?
Cotelo: We have broken myths and molds created by narrow mindsets, but without any audacity on our part. We have simply done it without being valiant about it. We have broken the myth that a documentary has to be boring or directed to a specific audience. We have broken the mold that pretends to encapsulate all priests as retrograde and unkind people or pedophiles … But in reality, the person who breaks the mold is the one who attempts to reduce reality to topics. We haven’t invented anything new. Rather, we have told the truth: that the world is full of people who are good, marvelous, exemplary, and who aren’t noticed by the media. Among them, many are priests. But it is enough to go out into the street with open eyes, free of prejudices, to encounter so many beautiful stories that no one tells. A simple example: one person kisses another. This ought to be noticed. But the news always tells us that someone has attacked someone else.
ACI: You have been told about young viewers who, thanks to the movie, have decided to pursue a vocation as a priest. Can you give us some details?
Cotelo: That pertains to the personal lives of those people, and for that reason, I shouldn’t make those details public, although they have had the generosity to share it with us. I will simply say that we receive many messages daily, handwritten letters, telephone calls, from people who share with us the intimate way that the movie has encouraged them to live a life that is more generous with God and with those around them. We give thanks to God each day for using our work to wake so many sleeping people.
ACI: Many people are asking if the film will be shown in Latin America. Do you intend to do so?
Cotelo: Of course. Right now we are working on closing the distribution agreements with the countries around the world from which we’ve received requests. It’s going very rapidly. We have to organize it, counting on the help of people who work to bring knowledge of the film to light in each country. We’ve already started working in Colombia, Mexico, Chile, Argentina, the Dominican Republic and the United States.
ACI: After this success, do you have plans for another film?
Cotelo: Yes, we have a number of projects which are very close to our hearts that were halted when Fr. Pablo crossed paths with us. Now, we will return to them, one by one. The object isn’t to produce a lot of films, rather that each of them will be able to touch people’s hearts, inviting them to personal reflection, to discover the beauty of God, of those around them and of the world. This means we must work without rushing, giving priority to creativity over quantity.