(The Vatican invitation we needed to enter the Hall)
In early November I was honored to be invited to the premiere screening of The Nativity Story at the Vatican on November 26th. I left Los Angeles on Friday, November 24th. I stayed at the Hotel Locarno (where some of the New Line staff stayed as well) just off the Piazza del Popolo, near the Spanish Steps. On Sunday the 26th some of our sisters stopped by to visit (and pick up copies of the two tie-in books Pauline Books & Media published to go with the film: The Nativity Story: Contemplating Mary’s Journey’s of Faith (written by eleven amazing women) and The Nativity Story: A Film Study Guide for Catholics that I had brought with me for our international book store located near the Vatican on Via del Mascherino/Borgo Angelico.)
Left to right
(Mike Rich, screenwriter; Wyck Godfrey, TempleHill Entertainment, producer; Shohreh Aghdashloo, Oscar nominee, (Elizabeth); Hiam Abbass, (Anna); Oscar Isaac (Joseph);
Catherine Hardwicke, director; Marty Bowen, TempleHill Entertainment, producer;
Alessandro Guiggioli, (Antipas, Herod’s son); Fardia Ouchani (Ruth, one of Mary’s neighbor’s in Nazareth); Zinedine Soualem, (Aaron, a father whose daughter is taken away when he cannot pay his taxes and Hiam Abbass’s husband in real life. Photo by Sr. Rose)
Around 4:30pm I joined the cast, producers, etc., and their families at their hotel and we all went via limos to the Vatican’s Paul VI Audience Hall. The New Line people had only been notified a couple of hours earlier that the Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, would be attending and so all the access information was changed. By the time we got to the Hall, it was dark outside and the enthusiastic audience of about 7,000 people was already in their seats (which are made of wood and not all that comfy.) Archbishop John P. Foley, President of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, was the host for the evening and welcomed everyone so warmly, speaking in Italian and in English, and introducing the director, Catherine Hardwicke. Gigi Proietti, a prolific star of Italian film and television read Chapters 1 & 2 of both the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, after which the film began (in Italian with English subtitles.)
(Left to right, Grace Rich, Mike Rich’s wife, Mr. and Mrs. Hardwicke, director Catherine Harwicke’s parents, and Mike and Grace Rich’s two daughters enter the Paul VI Audience Hall on Sunday, Nov 26th; photo by Sr. Rose)
At the moment when Jesus was born and placed in Mary’s arms, the crowd went wild. One of the producers told me after that he thought, “Oh, no! They think it’s the end of the film!” but I assured him that it was because (to me anyway), the Italians “own” the nativity scene; after all, St. Francis of Assisi created the first crèche’ in 1223 in Grecio. The applause at the end was huge. I think Oscar Isaac who played Joseph was the star of the evening if you go by the reaction of the crowd as the stars exited the hall afterwards. I hope everyone who has ever asked for an authentic biblical film will go to see The Nativity Story now, during Advent, (otherwise, I never want to hear a complaint about Hollywood again, folks.)
On the way home I got stuck in Paris overnight (at a hotel near the airport) because of a delay thatseparated me and my luggage). The highlight of that little sidetrip however was that I ran into the actress who played “Ruth” in the film, Fardia Ouchani at the airport and encountered another desperate American who was delayed, the screenwriter Scott Bugsby (The Rainbow Warrior). We were able to commiserate as we waited to get our tickets changed….
It was a lovely event and I am praying the film will do very well.
(For my feature article on the making of The Nativity Story, visit www.americancatholic.org/messenger)
(Selena Liu, (waving) one of the contributors to The Nativity Story: Contemplating Mary’s Journeys of Faith, who made a special trip just for the Vatican screening.
This was taken as people were leaving the hall. Photo by Sr. Rose)