November 16, 2008

WHAT A LIFE IS:

The Beauty of "Bella" | An Interview with Tim Drake, author of Behind Bella (Ignatius Insight, November 10, 2008)

Tim Drake: The first story I ever wrote on Bella was shortly after it won the Toronto International Film Festival's "People's Choice Award" back in 2006. The National Catholic Register had asked me to take a look at this little film and what it was about and what it was doing because it was certainly a surprise win, and a life-affirming film. So that was my first connection with the film.

I talked to one of the producers and financiers of the film, Sean Wolfington, about a lot of the background of what went into the film and how it had come together, which was an amazing story. That story then led to about four or five more stories that I wrote for the Register as the film was trying to find a distributor, as it found a distributor, and then opened in theaters in the fall of 2007.

In January (of 2008), Ignatius Press contacted me, knowing that the DVD of the film was coming out, and they had talked to the director, the producer, and the lead actor, Eduardo, and they had come up with a behind-the-scenes book, a coffee-table book for the movie, but also a book that would look at some of the results of the impact of the film, of how it had changed people's lives. They contacted me because they were familiar with the articles I had written and asked if I had an interest in the book, and I said, "Yes, I would."

I set to work on the project and discovered that while I knew some of the stories, I didn't know all of them. And the more I heard these stories, the more I was amazed at how the film came together and how these principal people involved got connected with one another. But also the impact the film had on them, and the impact the film had on the primary actors, and the impact the film had on those who saw it. So the book tells a beautiful story, with beautiful pictures. And that's how it came to be.

Ignatius Insight: Looking through the book, it seems that it is a story, in part, of how art changes lives, not just the finished film, but the actual making of the work of art. You mentioned various things that happened and came together in the making of the film that had a providential quality to them. What were some of those?

Tim Drake: One was how the producer, Leo Severino, came to meet the actor, Eduardo Ver‡stegui. Eduardo, of course, had been known as a popular soap opera actor who was living the playboy lifestyle. Through a language coach, who was helping him to learn English, he had a reversion back to the Catholic faith, and he started attending daily Mass. It was at daily Mass that Leo first spied Eduardo, who was standing by a statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, with his hand on the Heart and his head bent over in prayer. And Leo made the mental note that here was a young and handsome man who was a daily Mass-goer and who he should talk to. But he didn't talk to Eduardo at that time because Eduardo was in prayer.

Some weeks went by and Leo saw him again at Mass and he planned on talking to him after Mass. But after Mass a woman began talking to Leo before he could get to Eduardo—she was asking for some restaurant recommendations—and so he was delayed in leaving the church. But as he left the church, there was Eduardo again praying by the statue; he was praying for direction in his life, praying for direction in filmmaking and his career. Again, Leo didn't want to interrupt him, so he went outside. As it happened, the woman who had talked to him had parked behind Leo's car so closely that he couldn't get out, so he was delayed in leaving. He had to get back to work, so he went out a different way, and as he was leaving the parking lot, Eduardo walked in front of him. So he rolled down his widow and started up a conversation. They actually spoke in Spanish with one another, and that was really the initial connection for those two.

Another incident that most people don't know about involved the lead actress, Tammy Blanchard, who played Nina. She wasn't the first choice for Alejandro Monteverde, the director, but she really felt that the part was written for her because she had grown up in a family that had struggles similar to those portrayed in the film, and so she felt the role was meant for her. So she really advocated to Alejandro for the role, and I think she filled that role well. But what's amazing is that after the film she became pregnant and she said that before the film she wouldn't have known what to do—she couldn't see herself as a mother, thinking it was pointless to have children. After making the film and interacting with the young girl who was Bella in the film, she realized what a life was, and so she ended up giving birth to Ava Jean, her daughter. So that is, I think, another very providential story from the film.



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Posted by Orrin Judd at November 16, 2008 6:49 AM
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