By Francesca Pollio Fenton
A new movie weaves together the lives of two women experiencing self-doubt, but, in the end, both women meet the challenge of their vocations despite their personal struggles.
“Mother Teresa and Me” tells the story of Kavita, a young woman who finds herself with an unexpected pregnancy. Battling whether or not to get an abortion, she returns to her hometown in India where her now very old nanny shares the story of Mother Teresa’s first days working in the streets of Calcutta. Learning how Mother Teresa faced many doubts after no longer being able to hear the voice of Jesus, Kavita is inspired.
The film premieres at a special event in New York on Sept. 5 on the International Day of Charity, which was established by the United Nations to commemorate the anniversary of the passing of St. Teresa of Calcutta. On Oct. 5, the movie will be released in 800 theaters across the U.S.
Thierry Cagianut, the executive producer of the film, spoke with CNA about the movie and what he hopes people will take away from it.
“‘Mother Teresa and Me’ is an attempt to inspire people around the world to follow the example of Mother Teresa and through small acts of kindness make a better world,” he said.
He explained that the filmmakers decided to take on the difficult endeavor of showing the time in Mother Teresa’s life when she experienced darkness and a spiritual crisis similar to what saints like John of the Cross and Teresa of Ávila experienced.
By portraying this side of the popular saint, the filmmakers hoped to make her more “relatable.”
“When you see the struggle she was in and how she persevered then suddenly she becomes much more human, because she’s also a woman with a lot of suffering and that makes her relatable,” Cagianut explained.
In an effort to accomplish this, they introduced the story of Kavita because “we thought it might be more accessible, more interesting, to discover Mother Teresa through the eyes of a young mother and woman living today.”
Kavita is not only dealing with an unexpected pregnancy and being left abandoned by the baby’s father, but she is also battling her parents who want her to get married according to Indian tradition.
As the movie goes on, “the influence of Mother Teresa changes her life.”
In the same way Kavita is left forever changed by Mother Teresa, Cagianut hopes the audience will have the same experience.
“We hope that people seeing the movie might get affected by Mother Teresa and discover that they should also do little acts of kindness and be more compassionate and have more open eyes and be less about themselves,” he said.
Cagianut called Mother Teresa “an extremely strong character who we can only emulate and can only give us courage in our own travail in everyday life.”
As they began to make the movie, those involved thought it should be made “in the spirit of Mother Teresa” and that the proceeds from the film should go back in their entirety to the poor. Therefore, the Zariya Foundation (Zariya means “source” in Urdu) was created to accomplish this mission.
The Zariya Foundation aims to alleviate the suffering of the poor, abandoned, sick, and dying and uplift the standards of health and education for the youth around the world, according to its website. The foundation was founded by Jacqueline Fritschi-Cornaz, the actress who plays Mother Teresa in the film, and her husband, Richard.
The film was entirely financed by donations, allowing all proceeds to be distributed to the poor instead of having to repay outstanding costs with the money generated by ticket sales.
“From the first dollar — basically the money that comes in from ticket sales can go to the poor,” Cagianut said.
He explained the name Zariya was chosen because Mother Teresa herself was a source “of great love and compassion and the film will be a source, a well that will not go dry, where we will be able to alleviate poverty through people watching it.”
Cagianut hopes the movie reaches the “Kavitas of the world” and that they will be “moved” after watching the film, adding that they made the movie hoping that people will realize “you don’t need to start a foundation and give tons of money — most of the time little gestures, a little bit of time, attention that you give to someone … that makes a better world.”
Watch the trailer for “Mother Teresa and Me” below.