“I think her faith played an enormous role. It was the sole motivating factor in everything that she did,” Fitzgerald commented. “She made an impact where she could … She believed in justice. She believed in charity, obviously. I think she did this because she believed it was right, and she believed that it was necessary. And it was her calling in life.”
A different view of the Wild West
The longtime leading actress and director Robin Wright is set to direct and executive produce the project, the Colorado Springs Gazette reported. Regina Corrado, the only woman to write for the HBO series “Deadwood,” is a part of the project, as is novelist and screenplay writer Francesca Marciano.
The series promises regular depictions of other characters who played a role in 1870s Trinidad: Dolores Baca, the matriarch of a founding family of Trinidad; Royal Red Bransford, a boarding house operator who is sister to Oglala Sioux chief Red Cloud; and Cathay Williams, a Black woman who posed as a man to serve as a Buffalo Soldier in the U.S. Army. Historical figures with a role in later episodes include Billy the Kid, Chief Ouray of the Uncompahgre Ute tribe and his wife Chipeta; Archbishop Jean-Baptiste Lamy of Santa Fe; and Bishop Joseph Machebeuf, who would become the first Catholic bishop of Denver.
Fitzgerald said the Western genre of cinema has been “very male-dominated” and too often tells the same story.
“This character of Sister Blandina and the other many extraordinary women who were around at the same time in Trinidad act as a counterbalance to a mythologized vision of our history that isn’t true,” he said.
“Women had an enormous influence,” he said. “The Sisters of Charity haven’t gotten the credit they deserve. They provided social services that didn’t exist in the Colorado of the time: hospitals and schools. They had an enormous impact on the world, a civilizing impact.”
He characterized Trinidad as “a microcosm of the world today.” It was “messy, politically divided, a true cultural melting pot” where Spanish was spoken as regularly as English.
$10 million to $15 million still needed
Brendan Fitzgerald is working on the film with his father, Michael. Both Fitzgeralds live in Taos, New Mexico, and have friends in Trinidad, about 80 miles northeast. Michael’s parents were well-known Catholic intellectuals and served as the literary executors for the famous fiction writer Flannery O’Connor.
Michael Fitzgerald began his film career writing the 1979 film adaptation of Flannery O’Connor’s novel “Wise Blood.” He has produced two other westerns and has worked on movies with well-known actors including Raul Julia, Sean Penn, Jack Nicholson, John Malkovich, and Tommy Lee Jones.
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He is a producer for the “Trinidad” series. He told CNA he found this part of history “underrepresented” and hopes that telling the story of the city and its people, a focus on “real Colorado history,” will help balance other depictions of the American West.
While the conventions and mythology of the Western and the Wild West are “well ensconced in the American psyche,” the filmmakers hope the series in development will “tell it the way it was.”
“It was a vastly different thing from what people imagine,” Michael Fitzgerald said.
Producers need another $10 million to $15 million to complete the “Trinidad” project.
“I can say with some confidence that the state of Colorado is very much behind this project,” Michael Fitzgerald said.
Among the backers of the series is Trinidad native Jay Cimino, president and CEO of Phil Long Automotive Group. Cimino is the grandson of Italian immigrants. He was taught by the Sisters of Charity and attended Holy Trinity High School, which was founded by the sisters.