A new movie based on the real-life story of a 15-year-old boy who became a source of joy to those around him – despite dying from cancer – recently debuted at the Vatican.
The film “Cambio de Planes,” directed by Mexico native Paco Arango, was released in the country on Oct. 26 and, following its success, premiered Monday at the Vatican.
“It has received acclaim for conveying a very positive, hopeful and conscience-raising message, appropriate for all audiences and for those who believe in God,” reported the Archdiocese of Mexico City's News Service.
The movie, which means “change of plans” in Spanish, recounts the experience of its director with children suffering from cancer at the Niño Jesús Hospital of Madrid, which he first visited years ago.
There he met 15-year-old Antonio, “who shared with his powerful faith in God, inspiring him to direct this fascinating movie that – in his own words – can do much good.”
The movie was originally titled “Maktub” in Spain, which means “it is written,” or “destined,” in Arabic.
The film's producer said if the film is successful in its limited release, it will be shown on a greater number of screens throughout Mexico.
Earlier in May, Paco Arango granted an interview with the Archdiocese of Madrid’s magazine, Alfa y Omega, in which he recounted the origins of the film.
“Sometime in 2000 or 2001, I would have lunch with a priest on the first Tuesday of every month, and I asked him to help me find something I could donate my time to, not just my money.
After thinking about it, I contacted a foundation that works with the Niño Jesús (Baby Jesus) Hospital and began to help out there as a volunteer.”
“When I saw the first child vomit, instead of feeling like leaving, I was drawn to his bedside like a magnet. I began to go from room to room, and I discovered there was a whole new world there,” Arango said.
“All of that began taking over my life little by little. By the second year, I was going there every day, even on weekends.”
After volunteering for several years, the filmmaker decided to begin his own organization, the Aladina Foundation, in 2006. Various experiences led him to believe he should continue his service at the hospital, including one time when he attended a U2 concert in Madrid in which the band’s lead singer, Bono, dedicated a song to the Niño Jesús Hospital.
“At that second, the entire stadium began to shout, ‘Niño Jesús, Niño Jesús!.' It was a sign for me. God was telling me not to leave the hospital,” Arango remembered.
Recalling the inspiration for the the film, Arango said he met Antonio four years ago.
“He was a child who seemed to have overcome cancer,” he said. “The Foundation was in full swing, and so I decided to make a movie inspired by him about my experiences in the hospital, a place where one might want to curse God, but where I discovered what charity and love is, and where I learned what life is all about. So I filmed Maktub.”
“When I wrote the script, it seemed Antonio was going to survive,” Arango said. However, “In the end, Antonio died of a virus. He composed a song that was prophetic, in which he described himself as the voice of children with cancer and in which he shared his faith in God.”
Arango said now numerous universities, schools and parishes call him to arrange a screening of the film, because it reaches the deepest places of the heart.
“It is a film that opens us to love,” he said. “I have discovered a responsibility as a filmmaker that I did not see before. Much good can be done with a film.”