This 400 year-old saint's story won big at a Rome film festival

Movie theater Credit Unsplash CNA Unplash.

When EWTN director James Kelty produced a film about the first Native American saint Kateri Tekakwitha, he didn't know that it would be recognized at one of the largest Catholic film festivals in the world.

The 2015 film "Kateri" was awarded the Capax Dei Foundation Award at the seventh-annual Mirabile Dictus film festival in Rome, Italy last week.

"I am very grateful to have received the Capax Dei award – it means 'space for God.' I think that says it all," Kelty told CNA.

"It's a recognition of all our work, and we knew it was a success, but it's nice to get an acknowledgment. And this is for all the people who worked so hard on the film."

The movie follows the story of Kateri Tekakwitha, a 17th century Mohawk native living in Canada who converted to the Catholic faith through the example of Jesuit missionaries.

"Kateri is the story of a woman of great force and power. Although she only lived 24 years, her life was so impactful with those she lived with, that by the time she died she was already a legend," Kelty said.

"We thought that Kateri would be a wonderful subject," he said, adding that her life beautifully illustrated the work of the early Catholic Church in North America.

"Kateri" took about two years to produce, which included research, writing, location scouting, filming and post-production. EWTN started the project in 2013 and it officially aired in 2015.

It was among over a thousand other films from all over the world entered at Mirabile Dictus. The festival's founder Liana Marabini was particularly touched by Kateri's story and called the film a beautiful expression of the Catholic faith.

"I was really impressed by the beauty of the script and the fact that Kateri was explained with all her story – she's very inspiring through her faith and her strength," Marabini told CNA.

"It has a very high technical quality and beautiful performing of the actors and beautiful places," she said.

According to Marabini, "Mirabile Dictus" is an expression from the bible that means "beautiful to say." She founded the international film festival in 2010 under the Pontifical Council for Culture as an outlet for Catholic filmmakers to unite faith and beauty.

"A film has something to say for our faith in order to improve our lives. The purpose of the festival is to improve people's lives through evangelization," Marabini said.

She said "Kateri" was given the Capax Dei Foundation Award for it's reflection on evangelization, and because it "answers the need of beauty in the faith."

Kelty hopes the film will inspire young women and parents through Kateri's universal journey of heroism and adversity.

"Kateri is someone who had to find her identity in a very complex society and changing world, and that's what women today have to do," he noted.

"And I hope it's going to appeal to people who enjoy a good, historical epic story and I think we've got one here."

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