On April 24, the movie Fatima will open on 1,000 screens in the U.S. It is about the remarkable set of appearances of the Blessed Mother to three young shepherd children in Fatima, Portugal, in 1917. “This movie was made to cross into the mainstream media,” producer Natasha Howes told me in an interview. “It’s beautiful, and everyone should go to see it. Expect greatness.”
It’s hard to believe such praise when said by someone who actually produced the movie, so I was cautious. After all, not all Christian movies have been… well, you know. I knew it had an A-list cast and that Italian composer Paolo Buonvino created the entire score, including “Gratia Plena” (Full of Grace), the end-credit song performed by superstar tenor Andrea Bocelli. And the story itself is a compelling message that our world so desperately needs. I was happy, after previewing the movie, to see that Howe was indeed telling the truth: It is a beautiful movie.
The apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima have generated more devotion than any other Church-approved Marian apparition. The messages were about making reparation for sin, hell being a real place where sinners go, and praying the Rosary every day for peace. Fatima tells the story through the eyes of Lúcia Santos, who was the eldest of the children at 10 years old. Francisco and Jacinta Martos, her two young cousins, were 8 and 7.
One of the key messages was a call to pray for peace. At the time, World War I was raging, and people were killing one another in numbers that were previously unheard of. The children conveyed the Blessed Mother’s message to turn from evil and come back to God to heal their land. It’s a message that still applies today,
The children’s revelations drew in crowds of believers but angered both Church and government officials, who tried to force them to recant their story. At the last apparition on Oct. 13, an estimated crowd of 70,000 came out in the pouring rain and witnessed the “miracle of the sun.” It was widely reported with photos and eyewitness reports by the newspapers of the time.
The original Fatima movie, The Miracle of Our Lady of Fatima, was made in 1952 . The 13th Day version was released in 2009, and also produced by Howe. This new movie, according to her, is unique in that it is told largely from the children’s point of view and looks at the relationship between Lúcia and her mother. “There is the benefit of Lúcia’s perspective as an adult,” Howe said. “We used her memoirs. She was the core messenger and last remaining seer.” The movie also occasionally flashes ahead to Sr. Lúcia’s perspective in 1989 as a cloistered Carmelite nun, when author and religious skeptic Professor Nichols visits and questions her.
“Throughout, we come to understand the human story behind the story of Fatima and understand Lúcia’s family relationships and how the pilgrims disrupted their family life,” Howe said. “And we don’t have floating Mary’s. Instead, she appears as a very beautiful, gentle, maternal woman from heaven, so we can identify how these children fell in love with this experience.” Howe noted that the idea of mortification and what it means to suffer is also portrayed.
Although Jacinta and Franciso were canonized in 2017 and the cause for canonization for Lúcia was opened that same year, Howe explained that they wanted to portray the children as children. “We have a tendency to immortalize the lives of the saints rather than focus on their human traits,” she said. “They were ordinary humans like you and me, even though they had some beautiful, saintly characteristics.”
The movie has been endorsed by the Shrine of Our Lady of the Rosary of Fatima, which also served as a resource during the making of it. Providentially, according to Howe, Fatima is coming out at the same time that the International World Apostolate of Fatima has launched a prayer campaign to collect a spiritual bouquet of 5 million Rosaries to offer to Our Lady at the Fatima Shrine.
“We have a symbiotic relationship,” Howe said. “We are supporting one another.” They both have the same mission to spread the Fatima message, especially asking people to pray the Rosary daily. “The film is about the peace plan from heaven,” she said. “It is a way to make a difference in the world and hopefully reach a broad mainstream audience.”