Love and Mercy – Faustina, a docudrama about the Divine Mercy and Saint Faustina Kowalska, will open for a single day only in more than 700 U.S. theaters nationwide on Monday, October 28th.
The Divine Mercy is based on the writings of St. Faustina (1905-38), a Polish nun canonized by Pope St. John Paul II in 2000, whose 600-page diary detailed the revelations she had received about God’s mercy. The film views St. Faustina’s revelations from a scientific point of view, and intersperses both testimonies of experts and dramatic recreations of the life of St. Faustina.
Love and Mercy – Faustina is directed by Catholic filmmaker Michal Kondrat, 41, who is from Poland and lives in New York. It is his fourth film; his other films include Dwie Korony [Two Crowns] a Polish movie about the life of St. Maxmilian Kolbe, and the documentary How to Defeat Satan.
He spoke recently with CWR about the film.
CWR: How is the movie put together? It includes dramatic reenactments as well as interviews with experts?
Michal Kondrat: Initially the film was supposed to only be a feature film. Everything changed when experts discovered in Polish and Lithuanian archives important and previously unknown documents. It was then that I decided to make a docudrama.
CWR: Why did you want to tell this story?
Kondrat: Sr. Faustina’s Diary is a book that has been translated into over 100 languages. It contains a message of hope, divine mercy and peace for the world. It proclaims and gives witness to Jesus’ infinite love and mercy for each person. This message touches deeply the human heart and changes the lives of countless people as we have witnessed around the world.
Nineteen years ago, Sr. Faustina and her Diary changed my life. I decided to find the essence of this book and make a film about it. I wished to offer an opportunity to those who do not read books to learn about her and her message. I wanted the film to unveil the data from the scientific research that confirms the reality of Sr. Faustina’s vision of Jesus and of His encounters with her. What’s more, I wished to give witness to the truth, that to those who, like Sr. Faustina, place their trust in Him, He not only fulfills His extraordinary promises, but also radiates His healing and merciful love into the hearts that are open to Him and long for His presence.
CWR: How did you go about the process of researching and writing this film?
Kondrat: It began with the fact that our experts found the long-searched-for letter of Fr. Michal Sopocko, Sr. Faustina’s confessor, who had directed it to the Holy See. Then, we discovered previously unknown facts about the image of Jesus, painted at His request, and in particular the data arrived at by the scientific research that confirms its authenticity and congruence with other sacred images. Another unusual fact that we came across is the painter’s dramatic fate. All this new information helps us to better understand the mission of Sr. Faustina entrusted to her by Jesus. Important as these facts are, by themselves, they would not make a film of value.
CWR: How did you select the actress who plays St. Faustina?
Kondrat: I asked several experts to help me determine the personal characteristics of Sr. Faustina, the main character, and then I did the casting. It was difficult to choose the actress who would portray her role. About 30 actresses took part in the casting. The best turned out to be Kamila Kaminska, who recently has become a well-known actress in Poland.
CWR: When and where did you film Love and Mercy – Faustina? What difficulties did you have?
Kondrat: The documentary parts for Love and Mercy – Faustina were filmed in Poland, Lithuania, and the United States. We also used archival materials from the Second World War, as well as footage of John Paul II’s pastoral visit to Poland in 2002, when he entrusted the world to the Divine Mercy.
Of course, we also had difficulties. I think they always accompany good works. When we recorded Fr. Seraphim Michalenko at the National Shrine of Divine Mercy in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, the quote from the Diary of Sr. Faustina was on the computer screen but disappeared from the teleprompter. Normal attempts to make it appear on the teleprompter failed.
Only when the Provincial of the Marian Fathers, Father Kaz Chwalek, prayed over the computer and blessed it, everything returned to normal. The words from the Diary that disappeared from the teleprompter were: “Let our judgment of souls cease, for God’s mercy upon them is extraordinary.” I saw in this disappearance a powerful message: the hand of the invisible enemy hid these important words of Jesus so that people of our time would not hear and heed His message.
CWR: What response have you had so far from the movie?
Kondrat: Some of the people who saw the movie wrote that it was the most important movie in their lives. Others said that it helped them to make an important decision for their life: to enter into a deeper relationship with Jesus. Reading such responses confirms my conviction that it was worth making it.
CWR: What criticisms have you had?
Kondrat: Many critics rated the film positively. There were also some negative opinions. These came primarily from critics who do not share our faith in God, and so they rated it negatively, considering it unbelievable. I am not concerned about the opinions of such critics, because I make films for the people, not for the critics. On Google, 90% of the people who saw the film rated it positively. In Poland, the film broke the audience record in movie theaters in its category, and cinema rights were sold to more than 30 countries.
CWR: Do you view this movie as an evangelistic work? Do you wish to promote the message of Divine Mercy and lead souls to Christ?
Kondrat: I wish to lead people to Christ. I would like everyone, after watching this film, to be inspired to spread the Good News of God’s mercy and love. I don’t know if this will be the case. Let those who see it decide on their own.
CWR: Who should see this movie?
Kondrat: The film is dedicated to people who want to deepen their faith in God, who wish to experience His consoling love and mercy for them. It is also for those who are going through trials and difficulties in life or who have become lukewarm in their faith or even disillusioned by poor witness of members of the Church. I think that the story of Sr. Faustina and the Lord’s tender relationship with her would be interesting for everyone to see, as well as to see the many people who have been affected by her witness of faith.
CWR: You are an economist and you also worked in radio. How did you get into film making?
Kondrat: I’ve always wanted to be a filmmaker, but my whole family has been involved in business, so that is how I got to study economics. For five years I worked as a director in Polish Public Radio, which employs more than 1,300 people. At the suggestion of an acquaintance, a journalist, I decided to make my first film. It was a documentary shot in Italy with a priest who is one of the most important exorcists in the world. The film won the Grand Prix of the largest Catholic film festival in Europe. It was a sign for me to continue filming.
Love and Mercy – Faustina is my fourth film. My previous film, Two Crowns, about the life of St. Maximilian Kolbe, was shown in theaters in 15 countries. This December, Two Crowns will be available on DVD in the United States.
CWR: Your Catholic faith is important in your life.
Kondrat: Yes. Since I entrusted my life to Jesus several years ago, everything has changed. I am convinced that He loves me and that I am pleasing to Him despite my weaknesses. I trust in Him and I’m not afraid of anything.
CWR: The Church in Poland was once heavily persecuted. How are things there today?
Kondrat: The Church in Poland was badly persecuted by the Nazis and Communists for 33 years, but this period of persecution also strengthened it. In the last 30 years Poland has been a free democratic country. At the present time it also is the fastest developing country in Europe. Our nation’s strength lies in our conservative values and in our faith in God.
CWR: What else would you like to share about Love and Mercy – Faustina?
Kondrat: My wish is that after seeing this film each person would come to know the biggest mystery of our faith: God’s love and mercy given to us in Jesus. Our recourse to Him and His mercy is the last hope for mankind’s salvation.
• Visit the film’s site for more details, to see where the film will be screened, and to order tickets. Here is the film’s trailer:
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