Spanish filmmaker Juan Manuel Cotelo released a new movie featuring radical conversion stories of gang members turned priests and prostitutes leaving their former lives to follow Christ.
“What prescription can you give me that is more effective than allowing oneself to be conquered by the love of God?” Cotelo told CNA on Nov. 9.
“I am convinced that there never has nor ever will be anyone who has put the prescriptions of Jesus Christ into practice and has not been healed of all their wounds. No one.”
Known for his smash hit documentary “La Ultima Cima” (The Last Summit), Cotelo's new movie “Te Puede Pasar a Ti” (It Could Happen to You) will be released on Nov. 11 and will be available online and in stores worldwide.
Conversion stories include a former Colombian gang member who joined the priesthood, a divorced Masonic woman who attacked the Church and is now a devout Catholic, and the testimony of a Mexican gay prostitute who discovered that the love of God was greater than his sufferings.
In an interview with CNA, Cotelo said that God gives men and women purpose in life and that no one can find happiness by running away from him.
The full interview with Cotelo follows:
CNA: How did the idea for this project come about?
Without any thought beforehand, without any planning, and from a series of accidental encounters with people who told me how their lives were changed after discovering the love God had for them. I did not seek out any of the people in the film; they all showed up in my life, one after the other.
I asked the first one if I could interview him, without knowing what I would do later with the footage. But I came across one convert after another after another…and even now people continue to tell me their conversion stories, all of which are fascinating.
CNA: Were you inspired by a particular person or thing to do this?
I wasn’t inspired by anything, because there is no contribution of my own to their stories. Everything is focused down to meeting them, asking them questions and listening. I didn’t have to make up or add anything, except to create a friendly format in which to frame the narration of each story.
Within that format I have included actors, experts and other elements which are there to provide dynamism to the narrative, but in terms of content, my contribution is very easy and simple. I turn the camera on and ask them about everything, unafraid of the truth, beginning with my own doubts and those of my friends who don’t share the faith. The force of their answers lies in that they don’t give theoretical lessons, but rather they speak from the experience of their own relationships with God.
CNA: Why the choice to produce material that deals with religion or faith in a world where that doesn’t seem to matter?
That question should be asked of the person who says the world doesn’t care about religion or faith. I am convinced that there is no other issue that matters more to the world than religion and faith.
There isn’t another…or can you tell me what does? What other thing has the real and proven capacity to heal the wounds of any person? What prescription can you give me that is more effective than allowing oneself to be conquered by the love of God? I am convinced that there never has nor ever will be anyone who has put the prescriptions of Jesus Christ into practice and has not been healed of all their wounds. No one.
There has never been nor will there ever be anyone who accepts the will of God and is unhappy.
I believe with all my strength in the efficacy of the love of God, in his real, concrete and constant action with each one of us. If we don’t believe it, it is because we have not put it to the test, because we have reduced religion to the practice of a series of rites without surrendering our hearts to God. The prescription of the Our Father prayer works: treating God as a good and close father, as someone who deserves our respect and affection, who we pray to, thank and honor. Life is completely changed if we live with God, in God and for God.
With the same conviction, I hold that a person who runs from the love of God will never find happiness. He’s like a tree trying to run from its roots and refusing to grow towards the sky. The only thing he’ll end up with is constant tension and, finally, his own suicide.
CNA: Did you meet any other person you were not able to include in the film because of time constraints?
There are hundreds of cases, because the action of God remains alive and constant, today and always. Our intention is to tell an unlimited number of them in future installments. Any viewer will be able to see that he or she is also love by God and was born for something great.
CNA: Do you know of any case of someone finding their faith again after seeing the movie? What do you hope it will do for people?
The first ones to see these conversion stories were a group of 60 college students, of which 42 declared beforehand in writing that they were agnostics, atheists or indifferent about the faith. After seeing it, 59 of them thanked me in writing as well, and asked me to know more about the faith.
I was surprised that they were all interested in knowing more about the life of prayer, the sacraments, the forgiveness of God and forgiving others…They didn’t care about the more superficial aspect of religion that is often portrayed in the media. I think we are going to see more of these kinds of reactions. It’s as if there was a “taboo” issue in religious news: talking directly about God and his concrete and present-day action.
We talk about God as if He were a philosophical concept, and energetic idea, a ethereal force, but it is rare to read or hear God talked about as He is: a person, a will, a living being, the most living, real, close and concrete being that exists.
We have turned God into an interesting and empty concept…into somebody who created us, came and then left! But God is not a concept nor is He far away. He is our Father, Creator, Friend, Brother, Servant. When we treat Him with the realistic perspective of who He really is and who we are, everything changes.
CNA: Of all the stories in the film, which one touched you most and why?
They all have touched me for a very simple reason: I felt and continue to feel profound envy for each one of these converts, like anyone who envies somebody in love. When you talk to somebody who has discovered the essence of life, the love that God has for us and that we should give to everyone as well, what you feel is envy. Envy for any one of them and for all of them, without calling any particular one better or worse than the others. God loves everyone the same and He doesn’t put us into categories.
The love of God is contagious and has a force that goes beyond the small limits of our intelligence. Nobody falls in love with God with his head. But you do fall in love with the heart, with a certainty greater than that which can be gained by any means of measuring or by any rational argument.
We love God like we love our parents, friends, siblings, spouses, children…Trust in God allows us to soar in a life that is full of arguments to just keep quiet and stay on the ground. God elevates us beyond our possibilities. There is an abyss between living alone and allowing ourselves to be led by God. It is so appealing to meet someone who has discovered this!
CNA: Is producing this kind of material profitable? If not, why do it?
I am not able to find material more profitable than this. Can anybody suggest content that has greater profitability? When you see that what you have produced has the real ability to heal any wound a person has, to resuscitate people who are walking through life like zombies…what greater profitability could you want? I can’t find it anymore. Are you going to have me trade that for a handful of dollars, no matter how big? No, please, don’t fool me by offering me something as small as money.
Money is simply a means that can be put to the service of something greater. We don’t work to make money, like so many other companies do, but rather we put our money, cameras, the time God has given us, our intelligence and creativity to the service of God and people.
We spend everything, including money in service to God. We began this company without a single penny in our pockets and it will continue to survive without a single penny in our pockets, because everything we get is invested directly into working for God and for people. The day we start seeking or accumulating economic wealth is the day this company will die. It wasn’t created for that.
CNA: When, where and how is this film going to be distributed?
On Nov. 11 it will be available to everyone on our website: http://www.infinitomasuno.org/. But it can also be purchased in many stores in Spain, and soon in stores around the world in response to requests we have already received.
CNA: Are you working on any other projects to promote the faith?
Yes, there are a number of different projects: three full-length fictional films based on real events, a documentary on the actions of the Virgin Mary in today’s world, a theatrical play, two books, formation seminars…There are so many beautiful stories to tell and so many people who have never heard the truth about God. There is no time to lose or a lack of ideas.