Mary’s Land spreads across Ireland with Catholic message, writes Chai Brady
Although box office success seems to be the driving factor behind many of today’s high-grossing films, one man would be happy if his creation touched just one person’s life.
Being cynical about the film industry isn’t hard. As sequel after questionable sequel appears on Irish screens, it’s difficult to believe their production is anything other than shameless money-grubbing.
Juan Manuel Cotelo says the film he spent three years of his life on, as a director, actor and producer, is a success if it provokes one person to have a personal meeting with God.
The Spanish filmmaker has toured all over the world with his film Mary’s Land, and Ireland became the 30th country this month.
With the help of an Irish UCD student the film has been screened in cinemas across Ireland.
Speaking to The Irish Catholic, Mr Cotelo said: “In my case, success is doing the film, that’s where my responsibility finishes, I know I have to do it so I do it. Then what happens afterwards, it depends on every viewer and God himself.”
“After 30 countries I know He has success, He has success not the film. Success is not numbers.”
The film follows Mr Cotelo, who plays the ‘Devil’s Advocate’, a character who is given a mission to find Mary (the Virgin Mary) and to discover the truth about God. It doubles as a documentary, as he interviews people who he believes will help him find Mary.
Interviewees include those who claim to have seen apparitions of Mary in Medjugorje – a commission established by the now-retired Pope Benedict XVI is still investigating the legitimacy of these visions – and others who say they’ve experienced miracles.
“It’s about searching for the truth with no fear of finding the truth,” Mr Cotelo said, “So if you find that this is all a fairy tale: no problem. If you find that it’s not a fairy tale, that it’s true, that we have been created and can talk to God, that we are his children and so on and so forth – do not mind the truth.”
The film was shot in 12 countries with the final scenes being in Medjugorje, it cost €1 million to create and distribute.
Mr Cotelo himself was raised a Catholic, and has worked in the film industry for 30 years, but said it was a split second decision when he endeavoured to create Mary’s Land.
“I realised the beauty of my Faith and God and everything when I was 40, and it was such a big impact, I decided I have to think about this, because nobody speaks about this.
“So that was the turning point in my life.”
When asked about his opinion on the decline in Catholicism in Ireland, particularly among young people, he said: “The challenge is not them, the challenge is me; the challenge is my transformation.”
“Probabaly, one of the main forces (for the decline) is that we Christians haven’t been real Christians, we haven’t done our homework properly. We have put the Sacraments inside, we have prayed less, we have lived a kind of cultural religion, social religion, intellectual religion, but not a personal relationship with God.”
However, the film is for everyone regardless of faith or belief the director said, adding that it can inspire anyone.
“It’s artificial to say: ‘This is for believers and this is for non-believers’ or ‘this is for people who suffer and people who don’t suffer’. Who doesn’t suffer? And who can say I’m a believer I have no doubts?”
Mary’s Land should be viewed as a tool, he said, the film itself is not important at all, but perhaps God will use the tool to touch one heart, “that is the important thing”.
Catholic UCD student Ruth Brennan was responsible for bringing the film to the Savoy Cinema in Dublin on Friday October 29, and then to IMC Galway, IMC Ballina and IMC Athlone on November 3, saying that it was her intention to bring it nationwide.
She said: “I wanted this film to be screened in Ireland because it is clear to me that God is very present in, and working through, this film.”
After a personal prayer to God she listened to a friend who was inspired by Mary’s Land after viewing it in a cinema in Germany (it was screened in 200 cinemas in Germany over a 10-month period) and decided to facilitate it being brought to Ireland and contacted Mr Cotelo.
“The film has deeply touched the hearts of thousands of people in other countries and has brought people closer to God through personal prayer and the sacraments.”
When asked about her own experience being a practicing Catholic student in Ireland, she said other students are generally respectful as well as curious about her Faith, saying: “At many large social events or similar settings, it often appears as though being Catholic is irrational, foolish and perhaps crazy, but on a personal level, at a one to one level, or in smaller groups, this is not the case – in fact young people in Ireland are very open to the truth.”
Currently Mr Cotelo has finished shooting another film called The Greatest Gift, which is now in the editing stage, and should be finished in the next six months. The film is about forgiveness, which he says is “a weapon that can bring an end to any war”.