National Catholic Reporter
The Independent Newsweekly
Issue Date:  March 26, 2004

'Thérèse' film has trouble finding niche

Catholic News Service

Absent the star power of Mel Gibson, who directed, produced and cowrote “The Passion of the Christ,” other privately funded Christian films are struggling to get into theaters. One such movie is “Thérèse,” the story of St. Thérèse of Lisieux, also known as the Little Flower, who lived a short life in a French Carmelite monastery doing little things with great love.

“Thérèse” had been scheduled for release last autumn, but it’s been postponed until October to drum up public and monetary support.

“ ‘Thérèse’ is a different kind of film, filled with the innocence of simplicity and reveals the incredibly rich interior life of the human soul,” said director Leonardo Defilippis, whose nonprofit firm, St. Luke’s Production Co., produced the film.

Although the 19th-century period production garnered a standing ovation from Catholic dignitaries associated with mission work at a private Vatican screening last May, it has not yet created a stir among the public.

“There have been difficulties,” said Defilippis. He estimates the company still needs $2 million to open in select theaters. “This movie is a total work of charity. It has been done the ‘Little Way’ with all these little people scattered all over the world, trusting in this project.”

“Thérèse” is relying heavily on publicity from a Web site,, and efforts from grass-roots religious volunteers to push the film into theaters.

Although St. Thérèse is a popular saint, St. Luke’s Production Co. would need another miracle to drum up just a fraction of the attention “The Passion of the Christ” has achieved.

“Our movie, I have heard someone say, is like opening up a door and looking into a very private world. It’s like looking into someone’s soul,” he said. St. Thérèse’s adventures were mental, emotional and spiritual so “how do you go inside a young woman’s heart and mind? That’s the challenge. St. Thérèse is like the Blessed Mother, very hidden in the Gospel; there is not the drama of the Crucifixion.”

St. Thérèse of Lisieux “was not a Joan of Arc, not a Mother Teresa, she did not do dramatic things,” said Defilippis. Yet the saint’s Little Way resonates with many people including Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, who took her religious name in honor of the Little Flower and borrowed the saint’s philosophy, “Do small things with great love.”

“A lot of us haven’t done anything so dramatic that it will appear in the press and that’s OK,” said Defilippis. “You don’t need to climb Mount Tabor or save a multitude. If you have love, help your mother, a stranger, you have given a great gift.”

The director is hopeful that “The Passion of the Christ” will create a media path so other Catholic and Christian movie producers can follow in the wake of its success.

National Catholic Reporter, March 26, 2004

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