Ha Jolly Ha

Friday, May 18, 2007

Bella the Movie

At the end of April, I attended a pre-screening of the movie Bella, an overtly pro-life movie, made with an impossibly low budget and filmed in a ridiculous 23 (or was it 22?) days. And it might just do some good. In fact, it's already won the Toronto Film Festival and, since his involvement with the film, the star has already saved two babies from state-approved murder (one was baptized and has since gone to meet Our Lord).

Also present at the screening were the film producer, Leo Severino(a darn witty speaker) and the aforementioned star, Eduardo Verstegui , who was every bit as good-looking as one might expect. More importantly, however, they were pious and orthodox Catholics, with radical trust in Divine Providence and their favorite patron, Our Lady of Guadalupe. They want the film to succeed, but they don't care for success at the price of purity or truth. They believe that Our Lady is blessing their work and I think they might be right.

Filmed in New York City, the events of one day comprise the main storyline. After a tragic incident in his past, a famous Mexican soccer player, Jos, struggles as a cook in his brother's restaurant. When his brother unwittingly fires a pregnant employee, Nina, Jos spends the day with her, rescuing her from despair and demonstrating the dignity of human life by his disinterested assistance and care. A few light-hearted scenes of Mexican family life punctuate the drama. One powerful scene actually takes place in an abortion clinic and is filmed with such subtle artistry that one hopes even the frosty hearts of liberal, feminist viewers must recognize abortion for what it truly is: a violence against women, as well as innocent life. It also impressed me that the film cast a critical gaze upon the selfishness of modern business practices. If we want to restore a regard for human life, we must raze all the skulking haunts of that individualism which is at the heart of the Culture of Death.

After such a glowing recommendation, a few caveats are in order. Despite a very worthy message, I thought a few aspects of the film weakened it's overall effectiveness. At the beginning of the movie, it was unclear whether or not Jos had romantic feelings toward Nina. Eventually, it becomes evident that his solicitude is purely fraternal, and that seems fitting. However, her attitude toward their relationship remains more ambiguous. For that reason, in a few scenes, their interaction struck me as inappropriate or incongruous with their relationship as revealed in the end of the film. After he spends the day counseling her, securing her a new job and welcoming her into his family life, they lie on the beach stargazing together. At one point, he falls asleep and she draws up against him. The film implies they spend the night there on the beach. In the first place, a woman in her position is very vulnerable emotionally, so a truly noble man, not interested in a romantic relationship with her, would offer more guarded attentions. Furthermore, whether Jos' interest was romantic or not, common decency and concern for Nina's character should have prevented him from staying out all night with a young lady, particularly one whose unwedded pregnancy already fell as a shadow upon her purity.

That said, and a few other nit-picky criticisms aside(like the revealing shirt Nina wears for the latter portion of the film), if it ever reaches the public, Bella has great potential for opening minds and changing hearts. The producer and star impressed me very much with their Catholic perspective and their spiritual focus. I attribute any deficiencies in the film to the time limitations their budget imposed and to unformed sensibilities(Eduardo is a recent convert, famous in Mexico as a former soap opera star and popular "boy band" performer).


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